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Washington Nationals Stat Shot: Revisiting Jayson Werth

Back in April, we asked whether 2012 would be Jayson Werth's breakout year (don't call it a comeback). Six months later, it's time to take another look. Did Werth '12 start to look more like Werth '07-'10?

Dilip Vishwanat - Getty Images

Jayson Werth was putting up a torrid 142 wRC+ after 77 PA in the 2012 season when we took a look at whether this could be the season we see the "real Werth." At the time, we saw a lot of walks, not many strike outs, and only one HR. That 142 wRC+ looked to be propped up by a career-high BABip, too, hinting that he might not be able to keep it up. Overall, we thought that Werth could put something pretty close to his 2008-2010 offensive performance, maybe something like a 125-130 wRC+.

So, what did we actually get? Well, Werth broke his wrist, losing exactly half of the season. Since he came back, he's been on something of a tear, perhaps not showing a lot of power, but certainly getting his hits. His 2012 regular season hitting line was .300/.387/.440, which is a career-high in batting average (although he got close to it in 2007 and 2010). The OBP is a bit above career average, and the SLG a bit below by about the same amount. He only registered 5 dingers this season, with 8 SB, walking 12.2% of the time and striking out 16.6% of the time. That walk rate is around his career average, but the whiff rate is the best in his career--his average is 24.0%!

Overall, Werth up at 129 wRC+. Finally, I got a prediction right! That's a rate of offensive production just a bit under his 2007-2010 plateau, when he recorded wRC+ of 127, 130, 133, and 147. Let's not celebrate too much, yet, though. Busting out the fielding independent offense (FIO) tools, that 127 wRC+ corresponds to a 123 FIO, which is pretty close. FIO doesn't like Werth's lack of power and steals, but it approves of the lower K%. The hiccup comes when we replace Werth's career-high .356 BABip from this season with his career-average .327. His CAB-FIO is only 111, which is about a 10% drop in offense.

So, what do we expect moving forward? Unless you believe that Jayson has come up with some speedier batting approach that results in more hits, his hitting line is due to fall back earthward next season when the BABip regresses. It looks lucky to me--more ground balls and fewer line drives this season than this career average. A bit more worryingly, only 5.3% of his fly balls have gone for HRs this year, which is less than half his career rate of 14.4% HR/FP. It also continues a trend of decreasing HR/FB year over year since 2008. At least part of that drop may be due to the wrist injury, but part of it probably comes from a natural decline in power as hitters age.

Bottom Line: Despite injury, Werth's 2012 offense wasn't much lower than his peak rate of production, at about 30% above league average. His much lower strikeout rate this season has offset some of a lack of power. However, we'd better hope the power comes back next year, because it looks like about 10% of Werth's production came from some luck with hits falling in. Even with the reduced power, we can expect him to be about 10% better than a league-average hitter.