“I mean, when has he ever swung at a first-pitch fastball?” Johnson said.

Well, we have the answer: Werth swung at 14.6 percent of the first pitches he saw last year, more than only 18 major league hitters. (Ryan Zimmerman actually hacked at the first pitch less frequently – only 11.8 percent of the time, 11th fewest in the majors.) Werth taking the first pitch became a common criticism among fans last year, and Johnson would actually like to see Werth swing more often, too.

“I’d like him to be more aggressive,” Johnson said. “I know he prides himself on seeing a lot of pitches and leading the league in pitches taken. But I like to be aggressive. When they throw you a ball that has a lot of the plate, I like to see that lumber coming through there. He’s been going after it. He’s looked awful good in batting practice. It’s fun.”

Wearing out an opposing team’s starter is one of Werth’s clear strengths. Last year, he saw 4.35 pitches per plate appearance, more than any major league hitter except Curtis Granderson. Since 2008, Werth has averaged 4.43 pitches per plate appearance, which leads the majors. Brett Gardner is second at 4.29, and that is actually a pretty sizable margin.


(Julio Cortez/AP)

The best reason for Werth to swing at the first pitch more often would be to simply let pitchers know he might pounce on a hittable fastball. That would eventually lead to more 1-0 counts, which would let Werth dictate the count and see more pitches, which is what he wants to do in the first place.

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