- Yemen defense ministry rocked by suicide bomber, gunfire
- Hack attack: 2 million Facebook, Twitter passwords stolen
- Mystery deepens over radioactive cobalt-60 stolen in Mexico
- No mas: Principal bans Spanish language in intercom announcement
- Hacking software could put ‘zombie drone army’ in user’s hands
- Support for stricter gun laws drops: poll
- 10 whales dead, 41 others stranded in Everglades
- John Boehner faces bipartisan pressure to allow gay-rights vote
- Martin Bashir resigns from MSNBC over ‘ill-judged’ comments about Sarah Palin
- Rep. Duncan Hunter: While Obama prays for Iranian change, U.S. should ready its nukes
In midst of ‘MVP year,’ Jayson Werth at his best since joining Nationals
PHILADELPHIA — Jayson Werth doesn’t really want to talk about it. He’s coy and evasive, though he smiles when asked.
He doesn’t want to discuss what is going well for him at the plate this season, or when it started to click. He finds new ways to avoid the question each time it is posed. Save for admitting he’s holding his hands higher in his stance, in order for them to be in a better position when he makes contact, he has hardly said a word about it.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he says, on one of the many occasions in the last two months the topic has arisen. “Silence is golden.”
His teammates have no shortage of words for him, though.
“He’s having an MVP year,” said outfielder Bryce Harper.
“Since he came off the disabled list, he’s been the best player in baseball,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “He’s done a lot to get us where we’re at. He’s really carried this team, pretty much.”
“He’s playing unbelievable,” said shortstop Ian Desmond. “This is the Jayson I remember playing against in Philadelphia.”
That last part, the part about this being the Werth that people remember, that may be the most intriguing subplot in the Nationals’ season.
This year has not gone the way the Nationals hoped. While they cling to slim playoff hopes, 6 ½ games back of the second wild card spot with 23 games remaining on the schedule, their record remains far from what they expected when manager Davey Johnson slapped a ‘World Series or bust’ tag on them.
Despite all of that, and outside of the month he missed with a hamstring strain, Werth’s season has been something to marvel at.
As of Thursday morning, he had the fourth-best batting average in the National League at .320. After winning the NL Player of the Month award for July, he played better in August — though Martin Prado took home the monthly honor. Werth will receive MVP votes when it comes time for writers to cast ballots later this month.
“It looks like the guy that was here for a number of years, a big part of our run,” said Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who remains close friends with Werth. “He’s always been a guy that’s been able to get locked and stay there for a while. He’ll go through a span where he’s not even touching the ball — can’t swing, little hesitant — and then he’ll come back, slowly but surely, hit a couple home runs.
“Home runs turn to doubles, singles, home runs, singles and it’s like ‘Man, does he make an out?’ And when he does, he’s hitting bullets. It’s like you have to get him out because he’s not getting himself out. We’ve seen him develop to that when he was here. Seems like he’s finding his stride again.”
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.
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.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
- What will Nationals do this offseason to contend again in 2014?
- As Nationals' manager search begins, Randy Knorr the players' choice
- Davey Johnson's big-league journey ends with Nationals loss
- Team spirit and Holy Spirit — for Nationals religion looms large on and off the field
- Jordan Zimmermann falls short of 20th win as Cardinals prevail again
Latest Blog Entries
- A fond farewell, and a bit of thanks
- Nationals coaches wait in limbo as team searches for next manager
- Davey Johnson won't be in uniform for Nationals in spring training
- Tanner Roark starts season finale with youthful lineup behind him (UPDATED)
- Dan Haren, Nationals top Diamondbacks in season's penultimate game
- Inside China: Nuclear submarines capable of widespread attack on U.S.
- Apple wins facial recognition patent for iPhone 6
- 'Harry Potter' and 'Hunger Games' fans debate over political messages in films
- Democratic infighting erupts with squabble over entitlements
- Young and healthy millennials create risky imbalance by shunning Obamacare
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
- Allen West warns Obamas backdoor gun control is moving forward
- Kill team: Obama war chiefs widen drone death zones
- Susan Rice slams Russia, China on human rights
- U.S. debt jumps a record $328 billion tops $17 trillion for first time
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
A libertarian look at breaking news and political trends by author Tom Mullen.
A stat-head’s outlook, direct from his worn in couch cushion.
Playing Through covers the world of PGA golf, as well as tips your the average golfer to play better.