Jayson Werth Provided Us With Some Theatrics Yesterday, Both On and Off the Field
My favorite type of athlete interviews are the ones where they let their guard down for a moment, allowing us to catch a glimpse of a real person. Too often fans are left with nothing more than cliché responses that don't provide any insight or evoke any emotion. The word "robotic" often comes to mind when watching the usual allotment of post-game interviews.
What Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth gave us last night was anything but robotic.
THOSE PEOPLE CAN KISS MY ASS! pic.twitter.com/DK7OaaSQ2C
— Nate (@BarstoolNate) June 16, 2016
The usual response to a question about criticizers falls something in line with, "I don't pay attention to the negative comments. I just try to give my best everyday and do what I can to help my team win." Yawn.
Werth chose to go in the opposite direction and say what any athlete who has faced their share of negativity has likely always wanted to -- although maybe without referencing their backside.
Let's back up for a moment and provide the context for why Werth was so fired up after yesterdays game against the Chicago Cubs.
In a rubber match game against baseball's best team, the Nationals had Stephen Strasburg on the mound to win the series for them. It was a close game throughout -- the score was 1-1 after the first inning and remained that way until the the bottom of the eighth inning when the Nats took a one run lead on a Stephen Drew pinch-hit home run.
The Cubs took the lead back in the top of the ninth after a two-run homer by Anthony Rizzo, but Washington tied the game in the bottom of the frame, sending the game into extras.
There wasn't any scoring until Chicago plated a run in the top of the 12th. Three batters later the Nats tied the game -- after a hit-by-pitch, a steal, and a single -- and with two outs in a tie game, Werth stepped to the plate and did this:
2 Werth 2 Walk-Offhttps://t.co/EqfOSoVMTv
— #VoteNats (@Nationals) June 16, 2016
Walk-off wins always create more excitement, but in a back-and-forth, extra-inning game between arguably baseball's two best teams, it's easy to see why Werth let his guard down.
He may also have still been riding high after hitting another walk-off earlier in the week.
ICYMI: Yesterday ended with a #CurlyW ... alk-off.https://t.co/kvdcuPKEhT
— #VoteNats (@Nationals) June 13, 2016
This hit came on Sunday and completed a sweep against the Philadelphia Phillies -- Werth's old team. He had previously never even had two walk-offs in an entire season.
Jayson Werth (@Nationals ): 2 walk-off hits this week; he had never had two walk-off hits in the same season
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 16, 2016
Although Werth provided the winning hit twice in a four-day span, his numbers for the season are nothing to get excited about. He's currently slashing .248/.320/.439 with a .327 wOBA and a 103 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). Both totals are better than the current league average -- .316 wOBA and 96 wRC+ -- but not by much.
However, he's recently showed signs of turning things around.
Werth began the season hitting primarily sixth in the order, but was moved to the second slot on May 17 and has hit there every game since except for one. Below is a chart of how he performed through the first 33 games this season hitting lower in the lineup, versus how he's done since.
|Stat||First 33 Games||Next 26 Games|
The difference in Werth's numbers are drastic. He went from being a well-below average player to an outstanding one, and his numbers for the month of June are even more impressive.
Werth owns a .435 wOBA, a 176 wRC+, and a 19.2 walk percentage (BB%) in June, and he has just one less hit this month than he did in all of April, yet in 30 fewer plate appearances.
There is reason for skepticism, though.
Werth has a .358 batting average of balls in play (BABIP) this season when hitting second and just a .235 BABIP when hitting sixth. The things a player can do to help increase their BABIP -- hitting line drives and hitting the ball hard -- are not significantly different for Werth this season depending on his spot in the order.
He's recorded a 17.8 line-drive percentage (LD%) hitting sixth, just slight worse than his 18.6 LD% hitting second, while his hard-hit rate (Hard%) has only increased by 1.6 percent when hitting second versus sixth.
This suggests that Werth's poor start was a bit unlucky and his recent hot streak is partially due to the tides turning for him. That said, he's also changed his approach at the plate and gotten back to his old ways.
Since 2005 -- Werth's first season with 100 or more games played -- his 12.2 walk rate (BB%) ranks ninth-best among hitters with at least 5,000 plate appearances. His current 9.5 BB% is the only time since then he’s been below 10 percent. Looking at the chart comparing his first 33 games to his next 26, you will notice that his BB% jumped exactly six points, and this is no mistake.
Werth saw 4.00 pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) for the month of April, which among hitters with at least 25 plate appearances, ranked tied for 125th. His P/PA has jumped almost a full point to 4.92 for the month of June, and this is the highest total of hitters with at least 25 plate appearances. Werth is back to working counts and his overall play at the plate has improved because of it.
His poor play through the first two months of the season earned him just 0.1 wins above replacement (fWAR), and so far in June alone, he has a 0.6 fWAR, which is tied for 26th best. Still, a 0.7 fWAR through this point of the season puts him on pace for roughly a 2.0 fWAR, which is average for a full-time position player.
Our projections expect Werth to basically maintain his current overall slash for the season, hitting .240/.331/.405 with 11 home runs and a .319 wOBA over the rest of the season. Not much to get excited about there, so we should appreciate Wednesday's interview and performance for what it is: a small window of brilliance.