The Phillies didn’t make many big splashes this offseason outside of signing Raul Ibanez, but they did manage to avoid arbitration with every eligible player. Some players even signed extensions buying out more arb-eligible years. One of these players was Jayson Werth, who signed a 2-yr/$10 mil extension on the heels of a +5.3 win season. I chimed in around that time basically stating that he should easily be worth the money. Through his first 30 games this season, Werth has done nothing to dissuade this opinion.
After his performance last night, Werth boasts a .295/.395/.562 line with six home runs, seven stolen bases and a .421 wOBA. Four of those stolen bases took place last night, three of which occurred in the same inning. In the bottom of the seventh, with the Phillies leading 4-2, Werth singled off of Will Ohman with one out. Ohman must have tossed over to first at least six times before striking out Ryan Howard. With two outs, Werth decided to make something happen and stole second base. Ohman then pitched around Jimmy Rollins before putting him on when the count reached 3-1.
Raul Ibanez stepped in and both Rollins and Werth stole. Ibanez then walked. Pedro Feliz came up to the plate with the bases loaded, but after the fifth pitch thrown his way, Werth stole home! And a straight steal of home no less, not a situation in which he took the base when the catcher threw to nab another potential basestealer. Werth’s steal of a home was not as straight, per se, as Jacoby Ellsbury‘s this season when the Red Sox centerfielder actually swiped home plate on a pitch. Werth’s is what gets classified as a delayed steal, wherein the baserunner takes his secondary lead following the delivery of the pitch but steals later than anticipated, catchingeveryone off guard.
Ronald Belisario delivered the 2-2 pitch to Feliz. Russell Martin caught it and lazily threw the ball back to the pitcher, just as every catcher does following every non-wild pitch. This time, however, Werth anticipated the half-hearted throw and bolted for home. Belisario responded as quickly as one could but his throw did not make it to Martin in time. His fourth stolen base of the night, Werth tied a Phillies record for steals in a game that had not been reached since Garry Maddox did so in 1978. And Werth’s three swipes in the same inning tied a franchise record not matched since Pete Rose accomplished the feat in 1980.
Many people clamor on about Werth’s “inability” to hit same-handed pitching, claiming that his numbers in 2006 and 2007 were inflated due to predominantly facing southpaws. This claim does hold some water, as Werth led baseball in home runs against lefties last season and is among the leaders in slash stats against them over the last few seasons. However, even if you add in some plate appearances against righties and assumed he would hit them at around the same rate he had been, his overall numbers do not drop precipitously. It is essentially the difference between a .385 wOBA and a .375 wOBA, if that. So, yes, his numbers have been inflated, but not very inflated and not enough to say he isn’t a truly great player right now.
This season, he has a .276/.378/.526 line against same-handed pitching which becomes more meaningful given his increased ability to hit righthanders down the stretch last season. A well above average fielder in a corner outfield spot who can also play average or better defense in centerfield, who mangles southpaws and is improving against righties, with the power and speed to easily go 20/20 in a season is a beast of a player. Because he didn’t get full playing time until 29 years old and is overshadowed by the likes of Utley, Howard and Rollins, Werth has not really instilled plenty of confidence in fans outside of Philadelphia with regards to an ability to sustain +4 to +5 win performance. After this season, that should all be assuaged.
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