Imagine back in the spring someone had told you the Nationals would be averaging 3.74 runs per game after 107 games. Now imagine that same someone (who would be using a time machine for a very odd purpose) told you to make a list of reasons why it was all about to go so wrong for the Nationals’ offense.
Right near the top of the list, perhaps, would have been Jayson Werth making a harsh entrance into his decline years. Werth was about to turn 34, right at the age ballplayers typically start to lose their best performance. He was one of the toughest outs in the NL down the stretch in 2012, but his age alone made him a candidate to disappoint.
But here the Nationals are, averaging a season-crushing 3.74 runs per game. And here is Werth, the opposite of a disappointment. He is hitting .305/.374/.504 in 305 plate appearances, all in the top 15 among NL hitters with at least 300 plate appearances. With one game before the calendar flips, Werth is hitting .375/.402/.636 in July. We have just finished watching Werth’s best month as a Washington National, even as the offense around him keeps scuffling.
That may be an arbitrary sampling of games, but the point remains. Werth has been hitting the ball with authority, taking walks and generally producing. When healthy, he has been the kind of hitter the Nationals thought they were getting.
Health has been an issue since his rough first year in Washington, but after his rough transition season, whenever Werth has been healthy he’s been excellent. Since the start of 2012, Werth has played in 157 games taken 649 plate appearances – about the playing time of a full season. Over that span, Werth has an 132 OPS+. His last full “season,” then, would rank somewhere between most of his Phillies years and his monster 2010 season.
What led to Werth’s smoldering-hot July? He will not discuss it, either out of superstition or because of fear his explanation will be misunderstood. The key seems to be his stance. Werth is standing more upright, with his front shoulder angled slightly toward the ground. The stance allows him to drive down on the ball, a direct path that also creates backspin, which makes the ball carry farther. Whatever is going on, he can still hit.
He just needs to continue to stay healthy. More frequent injury is part of baseball’s aging process, and injury caused Werth to miss almost all of May. But you can’t blame Werth’s broken wrist last year on anything but bad luck. When healthy, Werth has been one of the Nationals’ bright spots, perhaps their very best hitter. The month of July has reinforced Werth’s ability to resist baseball’s standard aging curve, at least for now and at least in regard to performance.
FROM THE POST
One bad pitch led to Stephen Strasburg’s unraveling and a crushing 5-1 loss to the Tigers.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse was postponed. Drew Storen would have joined the team.
Trenton 11, Harrisburg 3: Justin Bloxom went 3 for 4 with a home run and a double. Robert Gilliam allowed three runs in five innings on six hits and two walks, striking out four.
Salem 6, Potomac 5: Cutter Dykstra went 2 for 3 with a double, a home run and two walks. Greg Holt allowed no runs on one hit and one in three relief innings, striking out five.
Lakewood 3, Hagerstown 2: Narciso Mesa went 3 for 4 with a walk. Wander Ramos went 2 for 5 with a double. Kylin Turnbull allowed three runs in 4 1/3 innings on nine hits and a walk, striking out five.
Lowell 6, Auburn 4: Bryan Lippincott went 4 for 5. Jimmy Yezzo went 1 for 4 with a double.