Philly’s New Pariah: Jayson Werth

Jayson Werth has eight hits in 44 at-bats in the month of July. Two of those hits went for extra-bases and both were mere doubles. He had another prolonged slump earlier in the season, between May 25 and June 22 in which he accrued a paltry 13 hits in 75 at-bats. Slumps are not fun experiences, not for the player in question nor for the fans watching in the stands, in bars, and at home.

Maybe that’s why Werth has become the new whipping boy in Philadelphia.

It seems like the perfect storm: he is a soon-to-be free agent, he is slumping, and the Phillies are underachieving. He also takes more called strike threes than we would like. Oh, and the team has an exciting young player by the name of Domonic Brown ready to take his spot. With the Nationals having called up Stephen Strasburg and the Braves, Mets, and Marlins receiving significant contributions from Jason Heyward, Ike Davis, and Gaby Sanchez respectively, it must be like, as a kid, watching all your friends get the popular new toy as a Christmas present while you get a pack of tube socks from grandma.

Overall, though, Werth has been about as good offensively as he has been over the previous two and a half years. His .371 wOBA is just a few points behind his .385, .382, and .382 numbers from 2007-09 respectively. It is true, however, that his home runs aren’t at the same level. Werth has 13 round-trippers in 355 plate appearances compared to 36 in 676 PA last year. If you prorate this year’s homers to 676 PA, he comes up short at 25.

Werth has also found himself in a salacious rumor involving the Phillies’ best player Chase Utley and his wife Jennifer. That rumor, though, was subsequently debunked in fine fashion by Max of Fire Eric Bruntlett.

Even some of the Philly scribes have turned against Werth. Beerleaguer quotes Ryan Lawrence using biting sarcasm (hey, that’s my gig!) to insult the Phillies’ right fielder:

[Ryan Madson] stood his ground as a couple of questions were lobbed his way. A few feet away in the close-quarters clubhouse, when Madson’s brief Q&A session ended, Jayson Werth decided to chime in. ‘Nice interview, guys,’ said the starting right fielder, who went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, all looking, Friday.

“Nice game, Jayson,” Lawrence quips.
Elsewhere, John Finger tweeted (in a conversation about Werth’s struggles):
[Werth] doesn’t want to be here & it shows
When I asked this question to my Twitter followers
has Jayson Werth helped or hurt his value as a free agent with his production thus far in 2010?

…these were some of the responses I received:

It’s not the production that’s hurting him. By all accounts, he’s a bad apple. It’s why the Phils are shopping him. (@Beerleaguer)

his production has been poor. I think the pressure of a contract year has gotten to him. Some team will still pay him $15M (@FlyersFanShawn)

Werth has been disgraceful. No it’s not the numbers. His attitude and his overall lack of trying. Not worth what he’ll get. (@GregVince)

Werth’s attitude reminds me of David Bell. He seemed he could have cared less what happened on that field. (@KieranCarobine)

I think you just have to watch how he acts on the field to know Werth is a jackass. (@ballsticksstuff)

I’d say hurt, especially if you were one who considered him a 4/5 yr $60/75 mil player. He’s be overvalued from the jump. And if he stays at or around this level, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Phils offered arb and he took it. (@philsvilleblog)

Is it me or were these complaints never made in the three prior years that Werth has donned Phillies’ red? Wasn’t it just several months ago that Werth was a fan favorite simply because of his facial hair? A Twitter account was even made in its honor!

Werth a “bad apple”? Color me surprised.

If you ask me — and thanks for asking! — I think this is simply stage two of Phillies fans’ grieving with Werth’s imminent departure from Philadelphia for the greener pastures of free agency. The first stage was, of course, denial. We saw that in fine fashion from fans and bloggers who thought the Phillies grew money on trees and would easily budget in a multi-year contract extension for Werth along with extensions for Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Oh, and pick up Jimmy Rollins‘ option, too. And a free agent third baseman. Some relievers. Don’t forget the bench bats.

Stage two is anger, what you are seeing now. Fans accept that Werth is leaving after the season (or even by the end of July) and are simply lashing out at him for perceived shortcomings. He’s not hitting enough. He’s not happy-go-lucky. He needs a shave, damn it! We don’t need him anyway! What’s Dom Brown doing?

You will see stage three — bargaining — soon. It will likely coincide with a hot streak. That is, if he gets on one in time before the trade deadline (or after, if he stays). Fans will put up with his perceived shortcomings as long as he helps the team win games. Those called strike threes and odd routes to fly balls (and an Abreu-esque fear of the fence) are fine as long as they are in proportion with doubles and home runs and Phillies wins.

For now, though, we’re in stage two. Werth will bear the brunt of a mostly irrational backlash that seems commonplace in Philadelphia. Exhibits A and B are Pat Burrell and Donovan McNabb. Each received similar criticisms as Werth. Burrell took too many called strike threes and he was complacent. Donovan McNabb wasn’t clutch and he had a weak stomach and oh my god those darts right into the grass are annoying, never-ending NFC Champsionship Game appearances be damned!

Using Sabermetrics, FanGraphs values Werth’s production this year at about $8 million. That puts him on pace for roughly $14.5 million for the year and he still has plenty of time to boost his value. He was worth $22.6 million and $21.5 million in 2008 and ’09, respectively. He appears to be on track to receive market value in the off-season from some organization. For now, though, appreciate that the Phillies are getting at least $14 million in value out of him while only paying him $7 million. A two-to-one return on investment is damn fine — especially compared to the loss on investment the Phillies are already dealing with in the form of Ryan Howard.

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26 comments

  1. doc

    July 17, 2010 09:31 AM

    My beef with him is that as he has slumped and the team has slumped his behavior and body language have declined. He’s a helluva player I just don’t like him.

  2. Tess

    July 17, 2010 09:40 AM

    Going through these stages now is ridiculous. The trade hasn’t happened yet.

  3. Greg V.

    July 17, 2010 09:55 AM

    Haha. Thanks for the shoutout in your article! Allow me to clear it up a bit because 140 characters is a bit limited for me to say what I wanted to.

    For one, nobody liked Werth more than me during his time in Philly. I found him a clutch player, a geat hitter and despite my recent posts calling him Werthless, I’ll always remember him as the right fielder on a team that won a World Series.

    My recent anger has to do with him not being able to handle adversity. It’s not only hurt his game, or his relationship with the press, or the fans, but I think it’s hurting the team. He looks like a guy who stopped caring. Sure, he could go on a tear and all this could vanish. But it just doesn’t seem likely this season. At least not on this team. I believe he wants and needs a change of scenery and not just to make the team better but to make his game better.

  4. phatti

    July 17, 2010 11:24 AM

    Hey Bill,

    did Ryan Howard kill your dog or something? You can’t even get through an article about Werth without taking a dig at his contract… Especially considering that he’s crushing the ball right now.

    The way it’s going, I think Ryan Howard has a chance at getting the MVP this year (but not necessarily deserving it). If he has a typical second half, he could be looking at a .320 average with 40+ HR and 130+ RBIs. His walk rate will be down but he still have a good OBP with his average so high. If the Phillies make the playoffs, the narrative will be that without Utley and Rollins for much of the season Howard basically carried them to the playoffs.

  5. sean

    July 17, 2010 12:16 PM

    hey phatti,

    so what you are saying is jayson werth is in a slump and ryan howard is not in a slump, so i like hoard because he’s not in a slump. werth’s a streaky player. i’d hardly call 2 games “crushing the ball”

    i don’t know where you get the idea that ryan howard would hit .320 since he’s currently at .297. In order for howard to have a .320 average at the end of the year he’d have to hit over .340 the rest of the year. he has an on base % of .352. to put that in prespective that’s currently the 35th best obp in the nl. his walk rate has declined EVERY year, and i don’t see why we should expect an improvement. If i used ZIPs for howard , he is projected to hit 19 hrs with 63 rbi with a .281 average and end up with 39 hr 134 rbi .291 avg. is that mvp numbers? i don’t know i’d have to know what the competition has

  6. phatti

    July 17, 2010 01:30 PM

    Sean, I’m not saying anything about liking Howard or not liking Werth–I’m saying that Bill takes more shots at Howard than Ryan deserves.

    Howard got a bad contract, and is not one of the top five players in baseball, but he’s an excellent player and a key to the Phils’ success. He very well could justify his contract for this year even using WAR math.

    In his last 7 games (not counting today), Howard’s hitting .321 (OBP is I think .387 because of his HBP) with 5 HR and a triple. I call that crushing the ball.

    In his last three years, Howard’s second half splits are .040/.039/.081 better than his second half splits. Although that does include his terrible first half in 2008, he’s a big second half guy, so .320 is ambitious but not out of the question.

    He also has a legitimate shot at getting 200 H and 400 TB (in part because he’s not walking a lot, I know). Those are the kinds of numbers that impress MVP numbers. As I said, he might not deserve the MVP, but he will certainly get a lot of consideration with those numbers.

  7. Tess

    July 17, 2010 01:31 PM

    From being on Twitter, I feel without a doubt, that Ryan Lawrence has a personality conflict with Jayson Werth. I just wish that reporters were actually objective like they are supposed to be. Or that people like him were banned from the clubhouse.

  8. Bill Baer

    July 17, 2010 01:35 PM

    phatti,

    1) He could double his first-half production in the second-half and still not justify this year’s salary. His contract extension doesn’t kick in until 2012 to make matters worse. He is not going to get better at his age.

    2) 7-game samples are absolutely meaningless. Very generously a player can rack up 35 plate appearances in that time span. That tells us next to nothing.

    3) Do second-half splits have predictive power? I see people cite first- and second-half splits all the time (Dan Haren is another noted second-half performer). But I have yet to see evidence that past half performances project future half performances.

  9. E

    July 17, 2010 02:31 PM

    phatti, right on about not being a top 5 player. *** Howard**

    How about add *not a top 10 1b, and not a top 30 MLB player.

  10. phatti

    July 17, 2010 02:31 PM

    Bill

    1. Based on his WAR, you’re right. But that’s putting a lot of emphasis on WAR, which is only one measurement, albeit one that tries to capture everything. Howard’s WAR is deflated because UZR (unpredictable from year to year) has decided that this year, he’s a terrible fielder, and because the positional adjustment is taking a ton away from him because he’s a 1B in a year where a lot of other 1b are having good years.

    I agree that he will not get better with age, but I think this year, he may very well make his salary.

    2. Yes, 7 day samples are pretty meaningless, but maybe you could cut him a little slack since he’s pretty much the only guy who’s been hitting lately. He even drew a walk today!

    3. I’m sure you’re more versed than I am in the studies about second-half splits, but I say until Howard stops hitting in the second half, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

  11. Drew

    July 18, 2010 10:16 PM

    Werth has hit below average for the past two months. His first month is still carrying his numbers so they look respectable, and even pretty good. However, those numbers came when all the Phils were hitting and I doubt he added more than a win or two during that time because we were crushing people by more than 5 runs a game the first month (would love to see the numbers on that actually). He has looked horrendous the past two months and deserves the criticism. He’s looking at called third strikes way too often, especially with guys on base. However, with all that said, I agree that I see no evidence of Werth being lazy or a clubhouse cancer. I just see him pressing too much and trying to guess pitches instead of just having a simple approach at the plate. The most likely explanations seem to be his looming free agency or just a 2 month slump that is magnified because of other injuries and lack of runs from the offense. I’d also like to say that I think his defense is overrated. I would label him as average. I watch 90% of the Phil’s games and from the naked eye it just looks like he sometimes takes bad routes, is afraid of the wall, and has an average arm due to his inaccuracy (very strong arm though).

    Also, I’m with Phatti on Howard. He’s getting overpaid, no doubt, but everyone in baseball is. The guy is having a very good season and doesn’t deserve the criticism for the contract. That’s on Amaro, not Howard. Howard’s agent has a duty to get the best deal possible for his client. Why should we criticize him for doing a good job? Amaro should be the brunt of our criticism regarding the contract. Howard will end up with 40HR and 135+ RBI again. I know you sabermetric guys don’t care about those numbers but I still give them some weight. I’m happy so long as he gets 35+HR, 120+RBI, and hits .275. As the cleanup hitter, that is a productive season.

  12. sean

    July 19, 2010 12:45 AM

    you are going to either want him to be selective or not selective enough, you can’t have it both ways. i’m probably also willing to bet he doesn’t strikeout looking as much as you think he does(if i could find that stat somewhere). he’s walking less and striking out more but both are 2% difference from last year. based on his projections he’s going to strikeout less then he did last year, his first month stats or normalizing, he’s becoming what he is a .275 hitter that’s 20 home runs and 10 steals or in a good year .275+ with 30 home runs and 20 steals

    As for the defense you say you watch 90% of phillies games but do you watch all other fielders on every other team to know what “overrated defense” is? the whole point of uzr is so that you don’t have to, though looking at his negative UZR for this year i don’t have much to stand on

  13. David

    July 19, 2010 08:54 AM

    It always comes back to poor Ryan here on Crashburn…

    This season has been a collective effort of injuries and underachievement. All Phillies fans alike should agree on that.

  14. Bill

    July 19, 2010 03:15 PM

    Everyone is forgetting the obvious, now that Hamels is pitching well, we have to blame somebody for the losing!

  15. Shooter-B

    July 19, 2010 04:13 PM

    Oh, those crazy Philly fans. No matter what they have, always looking for something better…even if it means ending up dumpster-diving for scraps. They’re like the Charlie Sheen of sports fans.

    If Dominic Brown is half as good as Philly fans say he is, then it certainly makes sense to trade Werth rather than watch him walk away. I heard that Dom Brown is so fast, he accidentally traveled back to 1985 while trying to steal second.

  16. Duane

    July 19, 2010 07:24 PM

    Phatti,
    I’m right there with you dude! Bill always takes shots at Ryan unnecessarily. I haven’t quite put my finger on why. You’d think he used to bully him after school, or that he was personally being docked $10-15 million to support Ryan’s salary. The thing that is most respectable about Ryan’s game is that WE CAN ALL TRUELY SEE HE HAS WORKED ON BEING A BETTER BALL PLAYER since coming up.
    First Bill said his power numbers were down, and when he said that, they were, but then he hits 4 homeruns in 4 games to pull within a couple of the most in the NL, and now it still isn’t good enough. Then I see someone else say he isn’t within the top 30 MLB players, by what standards are you referring to? Because depending on your criteria he certainly is within 30 best in several categories, which is good because there are only 30 teams in MLB. Look, absolutely as of right now Ryan has been the most consistent hitter on our team, and while we have a team studded with talent, as most teams have, to continue to undermine Ryan’s efforts is seriously just Hate-Mongering. In Bill’s article above he says we as fans are in Phase 2:Anger, well I think you may be suffering from some anger too Bill, anger that you will be seeing Ryan in the Phillies Pins and Stripes for another 4-5 years, well get over it man, its a done deal.
    I don’t see Bill touting about how Jayson’s power numbers are down against lefties, or that he has more strikeouts than Ryan. Or that despite his higher OBP% he has less runs scored. And don’t give me that crap about him batting after Ryan either because he’s been batting in the third hole too, and he is just in a funk. He’s a very good player in a funk. That wasn’t difficult for me to say, because i like Jayson. Bill, you on the other hand have never written an article, that I’ve seen, that praised Ryan for anything. Please link to one if there is one, or write one, because I just think you don’t like the guy despite the fact that he has done alot of impressive feats.
    I implore you to stop being so biased Bill, then maybe sensible people will take you more seriously.

  17. Wade

    July 19, 2010 08:39 PM

    howard is not a top 10 mlb 1b, and not a top 30 player.

    howard is very inferior to the vottos, cabreras, morneaus of the mlb 1b of the world.

    howard is not close to be a top 30 mlb player.

  18. phatti

    July 19, 2010 09:35 PM

    @Wade: not a top 10 1b? Come on. I’ll give you Cabrera, Pujols, and Morneau. Votto seems to have passed him. I’d put him in the next group with Youklis, Fielder, Gonzalez, and Tex, and maybe on the top of that group. I’m sure you’re putting him behind all them, but who else?

  19. Wade

    July 19, 2010 10:21 PM

    in no order

    cabrera
    gonzalez
    morneau
    votto
    pujols
    fielder
    Youk
    Tex
    Dunn
    Morales

    are all better than howard.

    Howard is 13th in 1b OPS not adjusted with Morales being out for the year.

  20. Drew

    July 19, 2010 10:35 PM

    Wade’s chugging the haterade. Ryan is a top 10 first baseman. You have to remember that Howard plays EVERY game. There is significant value to that when looking at guys like Votto and especially Morneau who seem to miss time every year.

    Just for fun, my top 10 list off the top of my head: Pujols, Cabrera, A Gonz, Tex, Votto, Howard, Youks, Fielder, Morneau, and Dunn (underrated).

    @Sean, I don’t need to watch every other outfielder to make an opinion on Werth’s defensive abilities. I never made a reference to UZR so I’m not sure how your point is relevant to mine. I was just stating my observation regarding his defensive skill set that I believe is slightly overrated. His D tools if you will.

    I’d also like to clarify that I like Werth, hes a good player, and hope we resign him and get rid of Ibanez somehow. I don’t think it will happen but I hope so. I just get agitated watching him play D sometimes when a lot of people consider him a good defensive outfielder. He’s average in the field.

  21. Bill Baer

    July 19, 2010 11:41 PM

    The problem with most people when it comes to Ryan Howard is that they are incredibly myopic and ONLY look at his offense. He is a great offensive player, no doubt, but that is not the only thing that goes into a player’s value.

    You have to factor in, with offense, the player’s defense, his position (an .850 OPS from a first baseman is much less valuable than an .850 OPS from a second baseman), base running skills, his age, any glaring weaknesses (Howard vs. LHP), his contract length and amount, etc. When you factor all that in and compare Howard to the rest of Major League Baseball players, he comes up short.

    I only report what the numbers tell me. I have nothing against the guy. I think he’s a good person and I hope he proves me wrong every year by putting up a .600 wOBA (even splits against RH and LH pitchers!) with a +100 UZR/150.

    The fact remains that Howard is just barely a top-ten first baseman — let alone a top-ten player — according to FanGraphs, using WAR over the past three calendar years. The list:

    Albert Pujols: 21.4
    Kevin Youkilis: 15.2
    Mark Teixeira: 14.6
    Adrian Gonzalez: 14.2
    Joey Votto: 12.7

    Lance Berkman: 12.3
    Prince Fielder: 12.3
    Justin Morneau: 12.3
    Miguel Cabrera: 12.1
    Ryan Howard: 9.7

    It’s not even a debate, as far as I can see. If you like Howard and think he’s the tops, we will never see eye-to-eye and we will never convince each other of our position.

  22. Bill

    July 20, 2010 09:09 AM

    Wish we would get off the “hate Ryan Howard” bandwagon here. I hate his contract, not him.

  23. Bill Baer

    July 20, 2010 09:13 AM

    Agreed. People are too touchy to any criticism of the guy. Hypocritical when you look at the guy 100 feet behind him.

  24. Childhood Phan

    July 20, 2010 05:50 PM

    How does everything, literally EVERYTHING become about Ryan Howard? The same Howard who hit into a double play last night? Yeah that guy’s playing great. Do not get me started on Victorino.

    This whole team has been playing badly for 2 mos. Unfortunately this happens to be Werth’s FA yr. Perhaps b/c of a lack of imagination the writers began to focus on him as the begining and the end of all things bad on the Phillies. At first I didn’t pay much attention to it b/c I believed anyone with a rational thought in their head would remember all the hard work, good work, Werth has done for and with the team over the past several yrs. Also the rather reticent Werth has been vocal about his desire to stay in Phila, about how much he likes the team, the coaches, the city, the fans, and how he’s felt he belonged here. People would recognize this and not buy into the hooey. But the slump went on, the losses extended, and the gang mentality developed into an all out witch hunt. People needed a scapegoat and they unfairly focused on Werth. At this point they’ve done everything except tie him up, riding him through town for people to take swings at him.

    The same people hating Werth now loved him & his beard in April. And if the team was in 1st place winning, it would be Howard, Rollins, & Utley’s glory. But the losses & ignominy is shoved at Werth. As a Phillies fan since childhood, I’m embarrassed. Maybe I’ll buy a Werth jersey in support. It may be the last chance I get to buy one.

  25. Mandy

    July 20, 2010 07:23 PM

    I read a previous blog by you. Thank you for helping prove my point…..!!!

    When I asked this question to my Twitter followers…
    has Jayson Werth helped or hurt his value as a free agent with his production thus far in 2010?
    …these were some of the responses I received:

    It’s not the production that’s hurting him. By all accounts, he’s a bad apple. It’s why the Phils are shopping him. (@Beerleaguer)

    his production has been poor. I think the pressure of a contract year has gotten to him. Some team will still pay him $15M (@FlyersFanShawn)

    Werth has been disgraceful. No it’s not the numbers. His attitude and his overall lack of trying. Not worth what he’ll get. (@GregVince)

    Werth’s attitude reminds me of David Bell. He seemed he could have cared less what happened on that field. (@KieranCarobine)

    I think you just have to watch how he acts on the field to know Werth is a jackass. (@ballsticksstuff)

    I’d say hurt, especially if you were one who considered him a 4/5 yr $60/75 mil player. He’s be overvalued from the jump. And if he stays at or around this level, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Phils offered arb and he took it. (@philsvilleblog)

  26. Bob V

    July 21, 2010 02:41 AM

    Seems to me after watching the Phillies in Chicago and the first two games in St.Louis Jayson Werth is one of the best players the Phillies have. Four hits in two games with a 2 for 4 night against arguable one of the best right handers in baseball (Chris Carpenter)isn’t too shabby. Also got a hit against fireballer Jason Motte while other Phillies batting left handed struck out. I think you Philly fans need your heads examined. The best thing you clowns can do is shut your mouth and watch the boob-tube.

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