The Nationals’ second-half hitters


Denard Span. (Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

Jayson Werth got to talking about baseball and his shoulder on Sunday afternoon when he was asked about teammate Denard Span and his hot hitting. Span is riding a 36-game on-base streak and 14-game hitting streak. During his on-base streak, he is hitting .396 (57 for 144) with a .463 on-base percentage. In fact, since the start of the second half of the season, Span leads the majors with a .447 average. He has also provided exceptional defense in center field and strong baserunning.

Werth took a moment to reflect and then offered an interesting response about hitting and perceptions about it.

“So much emphasis gets put on how you play in the first half,” Werth said. “We play a full season for a reason. You play a 162-game season for a reason. You get judged on half a season a lot, the first couple months, when at the end of the season you look at the whole body of work and then there you have the player. Now there’s so much emphasis put on stuff that really doesn’t matter things get blown out of proportion.

“So with Denard, you look over the course of his career, and look at how his seasons go, you can probably say he’s a second-half player. I think I can be considered a second-half player as well. Look at Adam. He’s never been an all-star. But who cares? What does that even mean? But look at how he plays over a full season.”

So we took a look at the Nationals’ roster and Werth’s observations were spot on. The following are players who have historically been better hitters in the second half of the season, in other words, after the all-star break. It is, admittedly, an arbitrary end point, but there is truth to the fact that that some players are better at certain points of the season. All-star selections only reward the first three-plus months of the season and, for some players, that’s not their best time of the year.

First half Second half
Jayson Werth .264/.353/.445 (.808 OPS) .284/.381/.479 (.860 OPS)
Adam LaRoche .251/.332/.442 (.774 OPS) .285/.350/.514 (.864 OPS)
Denard Span .277/.345/.378 (.724 OPS) .299/.361/.406 (.768 OPS)
Ian Desmond .258/.301/.431 (.731 OPS) .284/.334/.429 (.764 OPS)

(Ryan Zimmerman is also a stronger second-half hitter but was excluded because his return from his hamstring strain may be as late as mid-September. Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon were also omitted because each has a small body of work.)

Throughout his career, Werth’s best month has been August. He has a career .910 OPS in that month over 12 seasons. LaRoche, who is heating up this month, also traditionally heats up over the summer months and peaks in August. Last season, Span had a 29-game hitting streak that ended in mid-September. Span is again showing that once he gets in a comfortable groove at the plate, he can carry it over a long stretch.

“Denard does a great job if you look at how he plays over the course of a full season and he’s a second-half player,” Werth said. “He’s just getting into his groove. You saw it last year and you see it this year. He’s really coming into his own and shown the type of player he is, which is a high quality major league center fielder. Look at the defense, what he does in the leadoff spot. He’s a really good player.”

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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James Wagner · August 11

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