When the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract last winter, the deal was viewed around baseball as too rich for a player who’d had three impressive, but not transcendant seasons in Philadelphia.
Most expected Werth to come to Washington and do about what he’d done the last three years in Philadelphia - hit around .275/.370/.500 with 25 homers and 85 RBIs. The Nationals, while acknowledging they paid a premium for the right fielder, figured they were also paying for a sturdy clubhouse leader who had been around winning teams and could change how his teammates viewed themselves.
That much, Werth has done. But his production at the plate has been off by so much that it would take an enormous second half just to get him back to his career averages.
At the moment, Werth is hitting .221/.326/.377, far below his averages of .266/.362/.470. And even as much as those numbers have been depressed by his icy start to his time in Washington, he’ll have a hard time getting close to them.
Werth has logged 308 at-bats and 362 plate appearances in the 83 games in which he has played. Assuming he gets 550 at-bats and 650 plate appearances, he’d have to hit .322/.406/.578 in the Nationals’ final 75 games just to reach his career averages. To put that in perspective, Albert Pujols hit .312/.414/.596 last season.
While the Nationals would certainly welcome that kind of a tear - and there’s no telling what it could do for the team’s sagging offense - it’s tough to imagine Werth getting close to that. He’s got better numbers (.276/.376/.479) in the second half of the season, and the Nationals would certainly take that at this point, but in a production sense, it’s tough to see Werth’s first season in Washington ending as anything but a disappointment.
If there’s anything working in Werth’s favor, it’s that his luck is probably due to change; he’s got a .265 batting average on balls in play, well below the MLB average of .300. But he hasn’t hit many balls hard in the last two weeks, has just one double since June 24 and hasn’t homered since June 16.
Werth has continued to say he knows his numbers will turn around, and manager Davey Johnson echoed that after Tuesday’s game. “He’s not really worried as far as I can see, and I’ve had a lot of conversations with him,” Johnson said. “When he comes out, he’s going to come out big.”
Maybe he’ll have the kind of second half that would pull his numbers closer to their career averages. The Nationals certainly hope so, because as far as Werth has fallen off his normal pace, it’d take one heck of a run to get him back there.