In midst of ‘MVP year,’ Jayson Werth at his best since joining Nationals

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Werth came off the disabled list on June 4. In the 80 games he has played in since, he has hit .342 with a .425 on-base percentage and .527 slugging percentage. He’s seeing 0.17 fewer pitches per plate appearance, and swinging at the first pitch more (19 percent of the time). He’s hitting .394 with five home runs when he does.

The adjustment of holding his hands higher in his stance was an idea he had to help him generate more power. Right after he did it in July, he hit five home runs in four games.

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Werth’s first season in Washington was abysmal. His second, the most successful in team history, though he missed a lot of it with a broken left wrist. Now, playing every day, producing the way he is, Werth admits he feels as much like himself as he has since he was a member of the Phillies.

“I’d say that’s fair,” Werth said. “Even last year, I was dealing with some circumstances with the wrist. I think right before I did get injured [in 2012], I was starting to get rolling and feel pretty good. But I would say ever since I came back from the DL, I’ve been feeling more like myself and I think the type of player that I knew I was. In the end, that’s what brought me to Washington.”

Said Rollins, “[Early on in D.C.] he was still trying to find out who he was. He was a Phillie. He was a champion as a Phillie. The organization gave him an opportunity to blossom, to become who he is.

“So now it’s like ‘Where’s my home? Who am I?’ [He’s there] but I’m sure his heart was still here in Philadelphia, initially. But you get over that. Like anything, it’s a breakup. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.”

His old teammates can tell how much more comfortable Werth is now with the Nationals, compared to his first year. They see the same ferocious opponent who grinds out at-bats and, as a .360 batting average on balls in play can attest, is hitting the ball hard an awful lot. He has accepted his role as a leader in the Nationals’ clubhouse and thrived in it, rather than having it thrust upon him.

So he’s not much interested in talking about it. Werth is an insightful and analytical player, so there’s no doubt he knows precisely what the “whys” are behind it. He just doesn’t want to publicly delve into them.

“He’s in an awfully good place,” manager Davey Johnson said. “Very seldom does he not have a quality at-bat.”

Might Werth, the manager was asked while sitting in the dugout at Citizens Bank Park this week, be back to being as good as he was when he was with the Phillies?

“I think he’s a better hitter than he was here,” Johnson said. “He had a rough finish in 2011. Aside from injuries, he played awfully well last year. Coming out of injuries this year he’s been good as I’ve ever seen him.”

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