Jayson Werth has seven RBIs this season, which is a dangerous
assessment of Werth without considering the context. Werth has started slow with the Nationals – he’s hitting .227 with a .320 on-base percentage and a .400 slugging percentage, all well below his career averages.
But his RBI total – which ties him for 217th in the majors – still says less about him than the players around him. This year, 80 of Werth’s 125 plate appearances – 64 percent – have occurred with the bases empty. The league average is 56 percent. And remember, at least once a game Werth is guaranteed not to lead off an inning.
“I think Jayson’s mindset, he considers himself both a table-setter and an RBI guy,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “I don’t think he’s letting that seep into his head at all. I don’t think that’s slipped into Jayson’s head.”
On the first day of spring training workouts, Riggleman discussed the importance of the lineup’s top two batters reaching base. It was a main reason he batted Werth second to start the season. Since Ryan Zimmerman went down in the eighth game of the season, Werth has been batting third behind two hitters – usually Danny Espinosa and Rick Ankiel – who have simply failed to reach base.
Nationals leadoff hitters this season have produced a .228 on-base percentage, worst in the majors. Not including Werth’s 38 plate appearances batting second, the Nationals have produced a .217 on-base percentage from the second spot in their lineup, also the lowest in the majors. The Nationals realized they needed to improve in this area, but seemingly did little to address the issue. The slash lines from the Nationals No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the order are just plain ugly:
Batting first: .175/.228/.302
Batting second (Without Werth): .189/.217/.233
But in regard to Werth’s RBI total, the middle number there – OBP – is most important. Werth has had 26 plate appearances with runners in scoring position this year. One-hundred one forty-one major leaguers have had more.
All four of Werth’s homers have come with nobody on base, so four of his seven RBIs have been himself. He’s driven Livan Hernandez once, Danny Espinosa once and Rick Ankiel once.
Of course, part of the onus is on Werth. He’s is 4 for 22 with three walks, a double, seven strikeouts and no homer runs with runners in scoring position, which as a slash line looks like .182/.308/.227. Werth has not produced much when given RBI chances, but he’s given such few opportunities that it is difficult, if not impossible, to draw a distinct conclusion.
With Zimmerman out, it would make for a nice narrative if Werth could carry the Nationals on his shoulders and start scoring runs. But baseball doesn’t work like that. Before Werth can start throwing the Nationals’ offense on his shoulders, the players in front of him need to start getting on base.