One of the hallmarks of Jayson Werth's game has always been patience at the plate; he's second in the National League in pitches per plate appearance and led the National League the last two years in the category. But Wednesday, he proved once again that good things can happen when he gets aggressive early.
He doubled in the fourth inning Wednesday, getting his first extra-base hit since June 28, swinging at the first pitch he saw from Astros starter Brett Myers. Werth's first homer since June 15, which was in the sixth inning, also came on a first-pitch swing.
"He was a lot more agressive today," manager Davey Johnson told reporters in Houston after Wednesday's game, "He hit a couple first-pitch fastballs, which he hasn't done. That's a really good sign."
Part of Werth's appeal to the Nationals was his ability to draw walks. He's got a .361 career on-base percentage, which is 97 points higher than his career average, and he first became a major offensive threat in Philadelphia by drawing walks, getting on base and running the bases aggressively. The one drawback to that strategy, though, is what his plate patience has occasionally taken away from him at the plate; he's built his career on his ability to hit fastballs, and when he passes them up for strikes early in the count, he's less likely to see them again later in the count.
Werth is a career .440 first-pitch hitter. He has as many homers (15) in his career as he does on 2-2 pitches, and only one fewer homer on the first pitch than he does on 2-1 counts. The only counts where Werth has a higher OPS than 0-0 in his career are 3-0 and 3-1 - the two friendliest counts to most hitters. And especially this season, when he's looked tentative at the plate, he hasn't done himself any favors by getting behind in the count, forcing himself to use a defensive swing instead of trying to drive the ball.
It's not likely we'll see Werth abandon his deliberate approach anytime soon; it's part of what's made him an All-Star and he believes in it. But in one of his best games of his disappointing first season in Washington, he might have got a little reminder that swinging early can occasionally be a nice weapon for him.