Comparing Span and Werth’s numbers as leadoff hitters in 2012

The Nationals traded for center fielder Denard Span to be their leadoff man for 2013. This will give right fielder Jayson Werth a chance to move down in the lineup.

Although the sample sizes are different because Span was the leadoff man three times more than Werth, it is interesting to see how close the numbers are for two very different styles.

Obviously, the power numbers favor Werth a bit, but Span did a great job of making contact and keeping his on-base percentage at a good level.

Span hit .280 with 46 walks and a .339 on-base percentage in 122 starts.
For the season, Span accumulated 144 hits, 38 doubles, four triples, four homers and 41 RBIs with 17 stolen bases while batting first

Batting first in 38 game starts, Werth hit .309 with a .388 on-base percentage, 46 hits, 13 doubles, one triple, two homers and 12 RBIs. He had four stolen bases and was caught stealing twice.

The 28-year old Span hit .243 with a .287 on-base percentage as the first batter of the game. He had nine doubles, one triple and one homer with one RBI to begin a game in 122 plate appearances.

The 33-year old Werth was the first batter of the game 38 times, hitting .235 with a .316 on-base percentage and five strikeouts.

Swinging at first pitch, Span hit .420 in 45 games. With a full count, his average was .277 with 31 walks and seven strikeouts.

On the first pitch, Werth hit .333 in 13 games. In 42 games with a full count, Werth hit .357 with a .565 on-base percentage. He walked 20 times with 11 strikeouts.

With runners in scoring position, Span hit .257 and had an on-base percentage of .333 with 15 strikeouts. With runners in scoring position, Werth hit .250 with a .410 on-base percentage, 17 walks and nine strikeouts. He had 15 hits with four doubles, one homer and 27 RBIs.

What is more amazing? That Werth can keep pace with a prototypical leadoff outfielder? Or would Werth’s on-base percentage numbers go down if he had three times the plate appearances he had?

It is difficult for starting pitchers to have to figure out a way to pitch to a 6-foot-5, 225-lb., leadoff man when all they are used to facing is smaller, quicker batters.

But Werth also used his veteran savvy to stay in at-bats. Witness his 13-pitch at-bat that ended with a home run to win Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals.

But the biggest plus to moving Werth down to sixth in the order is that it provides the third through fifth hitters with Span’s on-base percentage, and Werth becomes the second wave of power hitters in the lineup. That prevents the opposing starter from getting a chance to relax. Not in this order. Not with Span and Werth in the same lineup.

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