Jayson Werth: Middle of the Order Bat

 

Back when Werth signed a seven year $126 million contract to come to Washington, one of the biggest criticisms was that he wasn't a middle of the order bat. That he only succeeded in the Phillies line-up because he had Utley and Howard batting in front of him. In the first year of the contract that appeared to be the case as Werth batted a disappointing .232/.330/.389, and looked more like a bottom of the order bat than anything else. 2012 saw Werth injure his wrist early on, return as the lead-off hitter, and do an excellent job in getting on base, but the power wasn't there as Werth had an ISO of only .140. His lowest since 2005.  

Coming into 2013 it was unknown how Werth's wrist would heal and what kind of player he would be. At the start of the season he was batting second and hit .260/.308/.400 before hitting the DL in early May. It wouldn't be until a month later that Werth returned but since that point he has carried the Nats offense batting .348/.426/.594 and helping the Nationals to average close to 4.5 runs a game. Much higher than the 3.5 they averaged without him in the line-up. 

Werth has been the catalyst for the Nats offense that few ever thought he could be and he is the reason the team is sitting only six games back of the Reds for the second Wild Card than in a much worse position. His NL leading OPS has carried the Nationals and in his quest for a batting title he almost has the Nationals back in the playoff race. It has been an impressive season for Werth, but he is 34 years old and this might be the high point of his career as a National.  

That should be fine though. When Werth was signed he was never thought to have a chance to be the team's best player, and by fWAR he hasn't been this season, but he is currently leading the Nationals in OPS and has been an offensive force while others have had disappointing seasons. In April when Harper hit .344/.430/.720. They were unsustainable numbers but it looked like Harper was going to have a season worthy of MVP talk and would be the big middle of the order bat most thought the Nationals lacked, but then Harper leaped at the wall to catch a Tim Hudson homerun and injured his ribs. Since May 1 Harper missed a month on the DL due to a knee injury and has hit .248/.358/.426. Good numbers for a second year player that is only 20 years old, but not middle of the order numbers.  

Luckily for the Nationals Jayson Werth stepped up. His second half has been nothing but remarkable and he should receive some down the ballot votes for MVP. If the Nationals do turn it on and go on a real special run to close out the season he could receive more than that. Jayson Werth's 2013 has been one of the best season's Nationals fans have witnessed. His single season OPS of .945 is the highest Nationals fans have seen since Nick Johnson post an OPS of .948 in 2006, which happened to be overshadowed by Alfonso Soriano's 40/40 season where he had a .911 OPS.   

With all things considered this might be the single best offensive season Nats fans have seen as the MLB average OPS in 2006 was .768 and it is .716 for 2013. Werth has been a great asset for the Nationals, a true middle of the order bat, and a player that has kept a disappointing season from becoming embarrassing. It is doubtful that Werth can repeat this type of season, but he was never thought to be this type of player in the first place and the wrist injury raised even more questions. Jayson Werth has overcome a lot in his baseball career and if he can get some help from someone like Bryce Harper in 2014 he may not have to be this good. One way or another Nationals fans should appreciate watching Jayson Werth in 2013. He is after all having the finest offensive season of any Washington National and by OPS anyone in the National League.    

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