Jayson Werth's on-base streak ended at 46 games last Friday, tying a franchise record. After an injury-plagued 2015, Werth's 2016 looked to be another down year after the disappointing months of April and May. What changed? Was the streak a fluke, or has Werth truly regained his form? At the beginning of June something changed in his approach at the plate, and it's working.
Part of the on-base streak and his improvement since May is plate discipline. Opposing pitchers tend to attack Werth using the lower-outside portion of the plate. Using BrooksBaseball.net's zone profile, in April and May Werth swung at about 27 percent of pitches in that spot outside the zone. He's only swung at 19 percent of those pitches since June 1st. Early on, Werth also tended to swing at pitches in on his hands toward the middle-inside part of the plate. He swung at 52 percent of those pitches outside the zone in April and May, but that decreased to 33 percent in June/July/August.
If there is one assumption it's safe to make about Jayson Werth, he will have a solid plate appearance. His 12.1 percent walk rate is 10th in the NL among qualified players. He also leads the National League in pitches per PA, with an average of 4.56.
Not only does he see more pitches than anyone else in the league, but Werth is pretty good at getting on base. His .342 OBP is 14th among NL outfielders and 13th among all players right now in their age 34+ season (with 100+ plate appearances).
Another facet of Werth's game is just how good he is at running the bases. He's not a fast base runner, but he is an astute base runner. His career success rate for stolen bases is 86% (127 for 147), which is third on the all-time leader board. Three of his four stolen bases this year are of third base. Three of his four stolen bases also occurred during his on-base streak.
I took a look at Ultimate Base Running, which takes into account individual events like taking the extra base, running first-to-third, and tagging up on fly outs. According to FanGraphs, Werth leads the Nationals in UBR so he is not running into many outs on the bases. Additionally, his Extra Bases Taken (XBT%) is at 43%. With his UBR score at 2.0 and understanding he takes an extra base in 43 percent of available opportunities, he is an above-average base runner this season.
Jayson Werth's offensive value this year may surprise those who don't watch the Nationals every day. Baseball-Reference has his oWAR listed at 1.2 and Offensive Runs Above Replacement Level at 14. He's in his age-37 season and coming back from a year in which pretty well all his offensive categories were below average. Of the stats used above, comparing them to his 2015 season, Jayson Werth is having a very good bounce back year at the plate. His worst offensive stats are still at, essentially, league average. He was 12 points below league average wRC+ in 2015 (88), but this season he is ever-so-slightly above average at 107. Jayson Werth's 2016 is a quietly significant improvement from his 2015 downturn:
|Year||PA||Pitches / PA||AVG||OBP||SB%||XBT%||UBR||wRC+||oWAR|
While he is no longer in his prime, Jayson Werth is defiant at the plate and sneaky good on the bases. Don't overlook his value to the Nationals as they push toward October.
. . .
Audrey Stark is a Contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow her on Twitter @highstarksunday.