Totally Werth It

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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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

24 Responses to “Totally Werth It”

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  1. big baby says:

    why didn’t you write this 10 days ago? oh because he was hitting .250 and had a sub .800 OPS.

    there has been a ton of this going on around here lately.

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      I didn’t write this 10 days ago because Werth didn’t steal four bases, including home, in a game the night before. Baseball is a streaky game. The same people that claim his numbers were supremely inflated last year are the ones who think his .250 BA and sub-.800 OPS are better indicators than his numbers right now. If you take issue with “a ton of this going on around here lately” then go somewhere else. If you would like to engage in intellectual discourse regarding this post, please stick around.

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    • Mr. Heckles says:

      A ton of what exactly? Not using arbitrary twenty game samples to draw definitive conclusions about a player’s ability?

      Now that you mention it, I have been seeing too much of that going on around here. Shame on you, Mr. Seidman. I expected better.

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      • Ryan B says:

        I think he meant highlighting a player immediately after a week long hot streak pushes up their numbers.

        Or maybe he meant Phillies articles from Seidman, hehe.

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      • Eric Seidman says:

        This isn’t an arbitrary 20-game sample. This is what he has done this season coupled with the talent on display last season to show that Werth is going to easily earn his money. His projections the rest of the year and year-end updated total confirm this. And what definitive conclusions? Saying that his +5 win season wasn’t a fluke? The only thing anywhere near a definitive claim is this:

        “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.”

        And that happens to be true. If Werth fits this bill, which he has over the last 2 years or so, then he is a beast of a player here to stay. I’m not judging him over a small sample – I’m judging him over his Phillies tenure, and especially last season into now, when he has improved against righties/

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      • Teej says:

        Eric, I think Heckles was defending you, with the “arbitrary twenty game sample” being Werth’s slow start this season that big baby referenced.

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    • Teej says:

      I agree. This is ridiculous. Someone needs to start a website where every morning I can wake up and know that they wrote about exactly what I want to read about on that day, and it only involves players on my favorite team or my fantasy team. If someone is willing to do this, I would gladly pay zero dollars.

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  2. joser says:

    Of course Werth did all that in an inning in which the WE was already 89%+ in favor of the Phillies. I’ve sometimes wondered about the relative value of a steal that opens up first base when a good hitter is at the plate. I know work has been done by Tango and other on the run value of a walk, particularly in leveraged situations (with two men on, letting Ibanez get a hit is a lot worse than if the bases were empty). But I’m going back a step: I’m curious about the decision to order the steal (if you assume the manager is making the decision) — factoring in the odds of the player getting caught (and the cost of the out, which in this case would end the inning) as well as the hitting abilities of the next guy in the order if the open base does cause the defending team to IBB. Of course this was a double steal, which makes it even more interesting. How good does the guy after Ibanez have to be for it to be worth it, vs taking your chances and letting Ibanez hit (especially with a fast guy on 2nd already).

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  3. big baby says:

    ryan b. nailed it.

    “some people doubted player X, well i’m here to say there doubts were mislaid.”

    that article works a lot better when it isn’t written every time somebody goes on a hot streak to make their numbers look good.

    i don’t really understand the point of the article. “i wrote he would be good. he is good. i am writing again to say he is good. i only chose to write this article after he went on a massive hot streak. i like pie.”

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    • Mr. Heckles says:

      If your issue is with the timing of the post then there is no issue. Eric is telling you he’s good based on the the last three years, not the last three weeks.

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    • Mr. Heckles says:

      P.S. Nice shot the other day, but did you have to push that kid?

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  4. Jason T says:

    I don’t get it. Are the authors supposed to pick a player’s name out of hat and write about him? I can’t believe the level of critisism leveled around here for something that is not only free, but the greatest source of baseball stats on the internet with awesome writing to boot.

    If you don’t like the writing, quit f***ing reading it. You’ll stop polluting the discussion for the rest of us.

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  5. McExpos says:

    I don’t think the Fangraphs authors write about guys like Werth because the numbers happen to favor their opinion. I think they write about guys like Werth because they’re anticipating the questions that Fangraphs readers will have.

    Jayson Werth stole four bases in a game, including a steal of home. As I am flipping through the box scores and analysis for the day, it sticks out and I remember his name. I wonder to myself, “This Jayson Werth cat, is he for real?” And the very next day, because Mr. Seidman knows I’m not the only one asking this question, there is a post about Werth that goes into detail about his improving skill set.

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    • Joe Trinsey says:

      Beat me to it by a couple minutes there. My thoughts exactly.

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    • Marlowe says:

      Doesn’t this site often work by highlighting players or teams on hot or cold streaks and try to figure out if those streaks are sustainable? Yet it seems like every time, no matter the conclusion, the authors get bashed.

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  6. Joe Trinsey says:

    I think that after the hot streak or a big game is the perfect time to write an article like this. If I’m a Fangraphs reader who primarily follows an AL team, I probably know who Jayson Werth is, but not too much about him. I watch Sportscenter and see the highlight of him stealing home and I’m thinking, “Wow, who is this guy?” and then I read Fangraphs and get a little more info about him.

    This ain’t groundbreaking stuff, but I like the fact that there are 5 or 6 of these random little mini-profiles of players. I’m a Phillies fan, so I know all about Werth, but I really had no idea who Alex Lind was until I read the mini-profile of him that DC wrote the other day.

    Eric, keep up the good work and keep writing about the Phillies!

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  7. Bill says:

    Gee, what a stretch it is to write about a guy who pulls off the rare stealing-around-the-bases feat.

    Also, I thought that the fangraphs guys had been on the Werth bandwagon for a while (

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  8. Dick says:

    Big Baby is a big baby after all. Thanks for spewing a totally worthless opinion whose sole purpose was to inflame and agitate people…Oh please shower me with some more mean-spirited, counter-constructive comments, can’t wait for you to join us again!

    No seriously i want to punch you in the face.

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  9. Rowen says:

    Hey Eric…. In the next-to-last paragraph, I think what you’re saying is that if you were to go back to Werth’s 2006 & 2007 seasons and mix-adjust his splits, in order to see what his numbers would have been (hypothetically) if he had faced a more normal proportion of RHP, then his wOBA would have only dropped by about 10 points. Is that in fact that you were trying to say in that paragraph?

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      Rowen, yeah, pretty much. The ten points was just an arbitrary number but what I meant is that the inflation occurring with Werth isn’t to the tune of a .385 wOBA player vs. a .335 wOBA player but rather something like .385 to .365-.375, still very very solid.

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  10. Ryan M says:

    I’ve been rooting for Werth since his Dodger days. Anyone pause to think how strange of a career this guy had? What would he look like if he had been able to stay at catcher and hit as he has? Most people know how weird it was for Brandon Inge to be able play both catcher and centerfield. Anyone think about Werth doing the same type of thing (minus the faking it at short part)

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  11. BS says:

    Nice analysis on Werth. Now could you do one on Moyer too? Is he totally cooked? Is it retirement time? Or is that HR rate just a fluky stat right now?

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