The standard criticisms of Werth — too old, overpaid, never carried a team in Philly, anyway — have faded as he has been one of the NL’s best hitters since the all-star break. “I think he’s a better hitter than he was here,” Manager Davey Johnson said Wednesday afternoon at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park.
In the second half, among hitters with enough at-bats to qualify, only Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera have a higher OPS. Over the full season, Werth is the only hitter among the NL’s top five in average (.320), on-base percentage (.396) and slugging (.523). In 2010, the season most responsible for Werth’s seven-year, $126 million contract, he hit .296/.388/.532.
“I feel like I’ve evolved,” Werth said. “I got through another career-threatening wrist injury. At the same time, I feel like I’ve always been this type of player and capable of putting up these type of numbers. I’ve always thought that, regardless of what the stat sheet says or what the people in the paper write or what the guys on TV say or what the umpires call.”
Werth says his revival should have happened last year. On May 5, 2012, he belted a home run that nearly landed on the left field concourse at Nationals Park. “It was off [Vance] Worley,” Werth said. “Front-hip cutter.” He was starting to feel locked in, his power coming.
The next night, he slid to catch a sinking line drive in right field. His glove caught on the turf, and he knew immediately he had broken his wrist. He missed the next three months.
Werth didn’t play at all in 2006 after he finally found a surgeon who could repair a rare kind of ligament tear in his left wrist. With another injury, he wondered again.
“Until you really get some kind of substantial contract that keeps you in one place for a long time, there’s always doubts,” Werth said. “This game is not easy. There’s always somebody right behind you to take your place.”
A swing adjustment
Werth began this season at a pedestrian rate. He batted .260/.308/.400 through May 2, at which point he landed on the disabled list and missed a month with a strained hamstring. In mid-June, nine games after he returned, his average bottomed out at .244.