Injuries have played a significant role in the disappointing 2015 season for the Washington Nationals. The quartet of Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman have combined to play in just 291 games so far this season, or 50.8% of the possible games from those spots in the lineup. Of course, the losses of those bats goes beyond the length of time when they were actually out of the lineup. A few of them had a lot of empty at bats even after their return because they struggled to get their timing back.
When last we wrote about Jayson Werth, he had just been bumped to the leadoff spot prior to a three game set in Colorado. I opined that the move would have made an awful lot of sense with peak Jayson Werth, an on-base machine who works deep counts and has some pop. I did, however, question the logic of the move at the time, though.
Prior to that move, Werth had looked like a shadow of himself in three weeks since his return. He was batting just .164/.227/.269 in his first three weeks since returning from the disabled list. While return from injury and the search for his timing were obvious factors in his struggles, there had to be some concern with a 36-year-old that age related decline may have been partially responsible as well. As Werth is under contract for two more years at $21 million per season, this is something that the Nats certainly wanted to test a bit as we head into the offseason.
Over the past month, Werth has given some indications that he has plenty left in the tank. After Monday's two homer game in Philadelphia, Werth finds himself batting .291/.381/.555 over the past thirty days with 6 HR and 9 doubles. His 12.7% walk rate over that span is right in line with his career numbers. His 18.3% strikeout rate over the past month is right in line with his 2012-2014 production as well. All of this has led to a 155 wRC+ and +0.8 fWAR over the past month for Werth, a massive improvement over his season-long numbers (90 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR).
What's perhaps most important is that we probably shouldn't consider this just one of those ridiculous hot streaks that seemingly every hitter has from time to time. Why not?
|Past 30 Days||126||6||12.7%||18.3%||.264||.321||.291||.381||.555||.400||155||0.8|
The numbers that Werth has been putting up recently aren't really all that different from the numbers that we've seen from him the past couple of years. His walk and strikeout rates are right in line with where they've been in the recent past. His BABIP is actually still down a bit. The one area that we see where Werth has been outperforming expectations over the past month is his Isolated Power. That may seem a bit odd, as we would expect power to be the last thing to come back for Werth, who missed a couple of months with a broken wrist.
Still, it's encouraging to look at Werth's numbers over the past month and see that he's not having a crazy hot streak, but that he's hitting like the Jayson Werth that we saw from 2012-2014. Even though he's at an age where many players show signs of decline, Werth's raw skills look to be fine now that he's finally healthy. As mentioned above, Werth is under contract for two more years at $21 million per season, so the club is going to lean on him quite a bit moving forward.
Does Werth's strong finish mean that the Nats shouldn't insure themselves better against underperformance/injury next season? Absolutely not. They figure to be entering next season with a still inexperienced Michael A. Taylor as their starting center fielder. The other outfield corner will be manned by the likely 2015 NL MVP, Bryce Harper. Unfortunately, the Nats don't have a lot of outfield depth beyond those three projected starters. Werth has been one of the better corner outfielders in the game when healthy (and sharp) the past three seasons, but health is anything but a foregone conclusion for Werth.
He's played in an average of just 107.25 games per season since 2012. Even if he plays each of the remaining games for the Nats this season, that average will still bump to just 112. Werth will fall short of reaching the 100 game plateau for the second time in four seasons. Some of the injuries that Werth has dealt with have been fluky, but it would seem foolish if the Nats head into the 2015-16 offseason thinking that they're going to get a full season out of Jayson Werth next year.
For now, let's enjoy Werth's hot streak, but lament that it didn't begin about two weeks earlier. Let's hope that Mike Rizzo doesn't go into the offseason expecting him to remain healthy and perform like this all season long in 2016, though.