No Easy Answer to Jayson Werth

At the Baseball Analytics blog, I look at just how much of a challenge Jayson Werth is to opposing pitchers and managers.

He hits hard stuff (93rd percentile in wOBA, 2010) and soft stuff (95th percentile) alike. He even hits well with two strikes (97th). If there is an easy way to handle Jayson Werth, it’s not obvious. Among the 14 pitchers he has faced 20 or more times, only Tim Redding, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez, and Chris Volstad have had impressive results. Aside from mediocrity, there is nothing the four pitchers have in common.

When Werth hits free agency after the post-season, teams will be bidding for the services of what appears to be an as-yet unsolved riddle — a very productive, multi-talented unsolved riddle.

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  1. Phillies Red

    October 22, 2010 03:30 PM

    Yeah, he’s pretty good. Bill, do you think it would be smart financially for the Phils to sign Werth to a 5-6 yr contract at $15-20M? If we assume that he’d be roughly worth that much, would it make sense based on the Phils current salary and personnel situation? I find myself really split on this issue, personally.

  2. Bill Baer

    October 22, 2010 03:45 PM

    The Phillies are typically averse to such long-term deals (except when it comes to Ryan Howard), and they’ll be strapped for cash as it is going into 2011, so I don’t think it’s likely.

    Let’s say the Phillies sign him to a six-year, $120 million contract at $20 million per season. Using WARP-3, and adjusting for two percent inflation, Werth would have to put up 5.2 WARP-3 each season. He was at 4.6 in ’08, 5.6 in ’09, and 7.0 this year.

    (Click here to read Matt Swartz’s article on MORP)

    I think his true talent lies closer to his ’08 production and that this year is a bit of an outlier.

    I think signing him to such a long-term deal for so much money is risky, especially considering he’s already 30 years old. Unlike Ryan Howard, though, I think Werth is more likely to live up to such a large deal since his talent isn’t locked up in one skill. Even if he doesn’t hit well, he can still be very valuable defensively and on the bases.

    I don’t think it’d be smart for the Phillies to commit so much to Werth. I’d prefer a smaller, shorter-term deal but Werth is much less likely to accept such a contract unless he really enjoys playing in Philly.

  3. nik

    October 22, 2010 04:00 PM

    Really wish the Phils signed him for 3 years instead of 2 after 08. Hindsight is 20/20 of course.

  4. Phillies Red

    October 22, 2010 04:43 PM

    Yeah, I agree with basically everything you said.

    I do wonder if there is a chance the market for Werth won’t quite be that high. I mean, the Red Sox are too savvy these days to give out contracts that big/long to early 30s guys, right? The yanks could do it, but wouldn’t they rather spend on Crawford (I also keep thinking that every Thames HR drives Werth’s price down… wishful thinking, I’m sure)? And what other team really has the need or the finances to spend $100M+ on a player that just doesn’t have the name recognition of a Crawford or a Holliday (and yes, I am suggesting that name recognition impacts the size of contracts that players get, though I’d be happy to be wrong about that).

    He’s certainly a better player than Bay, but I wonder if Werth’s contract looks more like Bay’s than like Holliday’s once it’s all said and done. If he goes at 4 year $70-80M, would that be a smart deal for the Phils? Put another way, is it the years or the AAV that is the biggest hurdle for the Phils?

  5. Steve

    October 22, 2010 05:25 PM

    Werth is simply the most valuable position player on the team. If it’s total payroll that’s the driver, the FO needs to set priorities and make the moves it takes to sign him. He has carried this team to make the playoffs and is one of the few players hitting decently in the playoffs. You know what he brings to the table day in, day out. I would not want to take my chances with finding another outfielder on the market or an unproven commodity like Dom Brown.

  6. Phillies Red

    October 22, 2010 05:38 PM

    Pretty sure Utley is the most valuable. But I kinda agree with the sentiment that the FO should push hard to retain him. Then again, more that 5 years and $100M is probably too much.

  7. Steve

    October 22, 2010 07:07 PM

    I’ve sen the statement from others that Utley is most valuable. Bill, can you shed some light on it based on the numbers? I haven’t seen it this year. Granted Chase has been hurt, and may be coming back too quickly…

  8. Bill Baer

    October 22, 2010 07:59 PM


    While Utley may not be the biggest offensive force on the team, especially this year, a lot of his value comes from being elite both offensively and defensively at a premium position.

    Utley: 5.2 WAR
    __ 20.6 batting runs
    __ 10.3 fielding runs
    __ 17.0 replacement runs
    __ 1.7 positional runs

    Werth: 5.0 WAR
    __ 39.0 batting runs
    __ -6.9 fielding runs
    __ 21.7 replacement runs
    __ -5.7 positional runs

    For an explanation on WAR and its components, check out my article, “Explaining Ryan Howard’s WAR” posted back in September.

    WAR isn’t a perfect metric. I do my own personal adjustments since I don’t quite trust the defensive components, since it’s based on single-season UZR totals, and UZR takes about 2.5 seasons to become reliable.

    So, I look at Utley’s fielding runs and UZR and see that it looks similar to his performance in previous years, especially when playing time and injuries are factored in.

    I look at Werth’s defensive stats, however, and I’m skeptical. He’s at -6.9 fielding runs, the first negative score he’s ever had in his career. At the very least, he’s an average fielder, so I’ll scale back the fielding runs myself based on this knowledge.

    About 10 runs = one WAR, so if I’m scaling back Werth’s defense by 7 runs, I’m giving him credit for 0.7 more WAR. That means Werth goes from 5.0 to 5.7. And I was conservative with that estimate as I’m confident that Werth is an above-average outfielder.

    What you should really take away from this, though, is that WAR shouldn’t really be stated with decimal points. Maybe at .5’s and .0’s. But we can’t really say that someone with 5.1 WAR is definitely better than someone with 5.0.

    TL;DR version

    Werth and Utley are about equal players in terms of value.

  9. Phillies Red

    October 23, 2010 12:36 AM

    Well, they may be even for the year, but not on a rate basis. Utley missed a month and still performed better, or equal to Werth. Werth had a great year, Utley a down year. Again, they are both very good, but Utley is in a special class, especially when healthy.

  10. Djcione

    October 23, 2010 03:52 AM

    Obviously, the Phillies don’t like the long term part for Jayson. Montgomery even stated that in the interview he gave to the press a few weeks ago.

    I agree he’s a hard guy to figure out, but no one can deny that he is very valuable to the team’s success, and they need to make a strong pitch to try to keep him.

    The FO is also hard to figure out- throwing so much $$$ at Blanton, Ibanez, Moyer,etc and then saying that they couldn’t afford Cliff Lee.

    So my hopes are not high for him coming back

  11. Steve

    October 23, 2010 06:48 AM

    Thanks for all the data, Bill. Bottom line is they’re both great players and we’re fortunate to have them. If there were some way to predict dropoff over time on an individual basis, that could help the FO make a sound decision. Obviously work ethic and conditioning should be one indicator, which the FO should be able to see. I know mechanics are looked at for pitchers to help provide insight into potential vulnerability to injury. Do you know of any other indicators that could be predictive in terms of drop off over time?

  12. Sundar

    October 23, 2010 06:55 AM

    It’s not that they couldn’t afford Cliff Lee. Rube wanted Halladay and they couldn’t afford both.

    I think PhuturePhillies wrote the most extensive analysis on this subject back in May; though, I do realize several new factors have occurred, especially the Oswalt trade. Essentially, the take home message for me is that the Phillies have more growth potential as a brand, and that their payroll limitation isn’t as finite as we’re lead to believe.

    I do agree that signing him to a deal as long as Howard’s could be the crucial impetus.

  13. hk

    October 23, 2010 07:29 AM


    I believe that the data shows that players with skill sets like Utley and Werth have aged better than the big sluggers like Howard (think Cecil Fielder). Judging from the FO’s willingness to sign then 36 year old Ibanez and to re-up Howard when they did, for as long and as much as they did, I don’t think they’re too concerned about how the 31 year old Werth will age.

    I’m thinking a 4 year deal with less in year 1 to help absorb the final year of Raul’s contract and with an option for year 5 should work. Maybe $10M in 2011, an average of $19M in 2012-4 and a $23M option with a $3M buyout. That way, it ends up being $70M for 4 years or $90M for 5 and you commit around $20M to RF and LF for the next 4 years.

  14. Richard

    October 23, 2010 11:19 AM

    Djcione – it’s not fair to lump the Blanton deal with the others you mention; that was a good move.

  15. Moose

    October 23, 2010 09:51 PM

    Bill, could you do one of these graphs for Howard? I just can’t believe how much he cannot hit the outside pitch anymore. Its ridiculous

  16. asdfasdfga

    October 23, 2010 10:48 PM


  17. d_raam_51

    October 23, 2010 10:59 PM

    And the answer is… hit the ball over his head (and the fence if possible) and strike out the guy ahead of him!!!!

  18. dino

    October 24, 2010 07:26 PM

    surely you are joking Richard

  19. dino

    October 24, 2010 07:34 PM

    From the article on today’s Philly. com, the Phillies never made an offer to extend Jayson’s contract !!

    Phillies led the Majors in attendance this year, so I am very hesitant to believe that the team couldn’t afford Lee and/or offer Werth an extension.

  20. sean

    October 25, 2010 07:07 AM

    why are you “hesitant to believe that”, dino? you know something about the money they pull in and pay out that the rest of us don’t know? who are you to say they can afford to pay more money? they know their finances better then we do, to specuatlate otherwise is just dumb because there is no right or wrong answer

  21. CH Phan

    October 25, 2010 11:35 AM

    The owners’ want their net profits to stay the same while the rest of the US (& the world’s) has gone down. These owners are NOT hurting. Anyone who believes that should work for them. See the contracts they picked up for Halladay, Oswalt, & the one they chose to sign 18 mos in advance for Ryan Howard.

    Werth is tied for NL postseason HR leader with Jim Edmunds, Chipper Jones, and Albert Pujols. He did this in less games than they (43 fewer if I read right). Typical to Werth he was quiet about it too.

    Werth’s DEFENSE is poor? Stupifying. The Utley comparison is more staggering considering the kind of season Utley had (2 mos on DL & multiple errors, before & after DL). And it’s believed their defenses were equal in ’10? I’m still shaking my head. Perhaps Werth’s errors were made in less imp games, at less imp points in those games. Utley’s errors were egregious, costing runs.

    I did sports & entert. PR/promotions for a number of yrs in nyc. I learned to believe 1/2 of everything read & take the rest w/a grain of salt. I don’t care how “legit” the publication. The larger the business, the more money they make, the more they lie (& sometimes the bigger the lie), esp when they’re going against 1 person (1 athlete or 1 actor). They know it’s easy to make the public believe the worst: ‘he’s greedy’; ‘she’s a raging bitch’, etc. This FO has … interesting PR.

    You have to wonder. No matter how many numbers you slice & dice, Jayson Werth is in the top two (poss three) most valuable players on this team. His talent & skill are not in debate. Yet the FO has done it’s best to alienate him to the point of not speaking w/his last agent. Now it seems they won’t re-sign him no matter how necessary his presence is to winning, no matter how obvious the re-sign.

    Unless there’s a clone, they’re betting heavily on Brown & Francisco to “replace” Werth’s production, which I doubt highly considering their play (collectively) this yr. You want strike outs & defensive errors? You got ’em.

    It may be ridiculous but I’m unwilling to write this off yet. I’ll still hope for the best here & that RAJ will do the right thing in this situation. Getting a reputation as a team that doesn’t care for the players that do the work & produce won’t get the best players to go w/the Phillies.

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