The difficult offensive beginning to his Nationals tenure has not deterred Jayson Werth, at least not outwardly so. It’s clear he is searching at the plate – after Werth went 1 for 5 with a double to shallow right field last night, he’s batting .156/.294/.289 in June.
Still, during a conversation before yesterday’s 11-5 loss to the Angels, Werth maintained faith in himself and his effect on the Nationals. He said he would rest nagging injuries, “after we win the World Series.” He said, “when it turns around, I won’t be the one to sit and tell you I told you so.” And he said that, while he’s not satisfied with his offensive performance, his presence alone has contributed to the Nationals’ recent winning surge
“Every day, I come in here with a good mindset,” Werth said. “I’m excited to play the game. I love my job. I love my teammates. I like this place. It’s going to be good. A lot of things to look forward to when I’m here. The growth I think we’ve seen out of the game on this team from spring training to now has been exceptional. I like to think that just my presence, just me being here, has helped the team. I realize I haven’t done offensively what I’m capable of doing. There’s more to the game than just that. I’m not satisfied by it than any means. But I’m happy with the way things are going and the direction things are going. I feel good about the future.”
A reporter asked Werth for an example of how his presence might help the Nationals. “I just like to think that, just me being here, you know, is enough,” Werth said, with a half-smile. “I don’t even have to take a bat out there.”
The reporter joked that maybe he take a toothpick to the plate instead.
“That’s about how it’s been, right?” said Werth, who has stuck out in 12 of his last 24 at-bats. “But it’s all right. This game is all about guys picking each other up. You don’t need everybody every night. But you do need somebody. I’ve always played my best ball towards the end of the season, not that that’s any excuse. I’m not playing well right now, but I’m confident the numbers will be there at the end, and I’ll make good on what I started out to do.”
Werth is right that he’s been a significantly better hitter after the all-star break than before, but not drastically so – his career slash line in the first half is .258/.350/.466, and in the second half it’s .276/.376/.479.
“The great thing with him is, he never lets it affect anything in here or on the field,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “I think he’s a professional. He’s not going to let it bring anyone else down. He wants to do better. He works too hard not to get better.”
Since Werth’s career renaissance began with the Phillies in 2007, he has never had a month quite as bad as this June. He hit .167/.278/.167 in June 2007, but that was in 30 at-bats, and he was injured and missed all of July. Perhaps it’s instructive that when he returned in August that season, Werth hit .414/.500/.609 in 87 at-bats.
The only month since 2007 in which Werth posted an on-base percentage lower than .300 was May 2008, when he had a .286 OBP. The next month, he got on base at a .393 clip.
“A really good player of our era, he’s playing right now, I’m not going to name him,” Werth said. “I talked to him a couple weeks ago. He said, ‘When it rains, it pours.’ He said, ‘The sun always comes out after it rains.’ It’s just baseball, you know? It’s a humbling game. It’ll put you in your place. It’ll take you to the top of the mountain, show the you the other side. Nothing grows on top of the mountain. It’s time to plant the trees, let it grow, build on it. There’s a lot of season left.”
After most every game, Werth wraps his right shoulder and his left knee in ice. Werth allowed that he is dealing with physical ailments, but nothing out of the ordinary and nothing that effects his play.
“I mean, you have things that will nag you as the season goes on, you get banged up or whatever,” Werth said. “You play with something every year. At least one thing, if not four or five. It’s not hindering my performance or anything like that. I’m running fine. Sometimes, you get dinged, and it doesn’t go away until you rest it. It should be all right by November or December. After we win the World Series, there’ll be some time off there.”
The Nationals, if only by virtue of their 40-40 record, still can’t be dismissed as a playoff contender. While Werth has scuffled, the Nationals have reeled off an 18-9 record since May 31, even after they lost consecutive games last night for the first time since June 9.
“If we win, it’s a lot easier than if we lose,” Werth said. “I don’t like to lose, anyway. If you hit four home runs and your team loses, it really doesn’t matter. If win we and I go 0 for 4, who cares? But it is what it is right now. When it turns around, I won’t be the one to sit here and tell you I told you so.”
For that to happen, Werth is trying a simplified approach at the plate. Werth typically likes to tinker with his stance and his swing, but for now he’s trying not to worry about mechanics at all.
“I’m just trying to see it and hit it,” Werth said. “I hit with Manny Ramirez one time. Actually, I just watched him. I happened to be in the same room at the time. I remember he said, all he was trying to do is see the ball and hit it. And stay on top. And that’s it. Then he went back to hitting. That’s about all he said the whole time.
“It seems like when you’re locked in, it is that easy. But it is that simple – see it and hit it. And when you’re not, it’s a lot of thoughts and technical stuff. It’s one of those things. Get through it, stay positive, come out of it. Sometimes, it’s tough to slow the game down. Sometimes it’s not.”