Since July 1, Werth has hit .365/.450/.600 and invited comparisons to his time in Philadelphia. “He seems like pretty much the same player he was here,” Phillies second baseman Chase Utley said. At 34, he may actually be changing, even improving.
Always patient and selective, Werth has worked more aggression into his approach: He has seen fewer pitches per plate appearance than any season of his career, but he has still tied for the NL lead. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz has seen him hit more balls to the right-center field gap.
“I think he’s more refined as a hitter,” Nationals outfielder Scott Hairston said. “I’ve seen him go 0-2 to 3-2, foul a couple pitches off, and take a nasty slider — shin-high, outside — and shoot it to right field. That’s very difficult, especially for a power hitter like him. He’ll change throughout the at-bat. If it’s a 2-0 count, he takes a big rip. If it’s a 1-2 count, he’ll stay within himself.”
The eight nights of Bale
One night in July, Werth watched “American Psycho,” in which Christian Bale plays a deranged Wall Street executive. The next day, Werth blasted two home runs against Clayton Kershaw. He watched another movie starring Bale the next night. He crushed two more homers the next day.
“It was like eight straight nights of Christian Bale,” Werth said.
On the eighth night, Werth watched “The Machinist.” In that one, Bale plays an industrial worker whose insomnia leads to insanity and emaciation. Werth walked into the clubhouse and saw first baseman Adam LaRoche. “Rochie,” Werth told him, “I watched a movie about you last night.”
“I took an 0-for,” Werth said. “And that was the last time I watched a Christian Bale movie.”
Baseball draws a thin line between superstition and routine. Werth has brushed aside most questions about his scorching streak. After one game, he shared the change in his hand positioning. Later, he offered his revelation about watching Harper to a Yahoo Sports reporter. Mostly, he has kept quiet about his success.
“Sometimes, you can get caught up in psychologically thinking yourself out of streaks,” Hairston said.
The grandson of a 19-year major leaguer and nephew of a 13-year veteran, Werth embraces baseball’s mental grind. He feels better when he hits well, of course, but he focuses more on the competition. “I always have fun coming to the park,” Werth said. “I’ll have fun coming to the park until they rip the jersey off my back, performing or not performing.”