Think about Jayson Werth for a second.
As a Nats fan who loves to worry, is he on your list of concerns? The bullpen, the defense, Trea’s hamstring… Werth doesn’t register, right?
Well, he shouldn’t. Just in case you were thinking about it.
Now, there is a reason or two to worry about Werth. But let me explain why even those shouldn’t concern you. Please, remain calm for the duration of the article.
Werth is actually off to a great start, triple-slash-wise. He’s hitting a terrific .300/.364/.525, with three homers in just 11 games. His walks are down a little bit, from 12 percent career to 9.1 percent this year. His terrific offensive output is also built on the strength of a .391 BABIP, so don’t expect that to hold up.
But the number that jumps out when you look at Werth’s FanGraphs page is his strikeout rate: a towering 31.8 percent. Werth’s career rate is much lower, at 22.8 percent. He checked in at 22.9 percent last season, and was under 20 percent each year from 2012 to 2014.
Every year, folks worry Werth’s age has finally caught up with him. That he’s finally lost his bat speed, and he has to start his swing earlier to catch up with fastballs. By this logic, a spike in swings and misses (and therefore strikeouts) is a harbinger of doom for Werth. His slowed-down swing will cost him his batting eye and his ability to hit the ball hard. Without it, the whole thing falls apart.
But don’t worry! In trying to figure out where Werth’s bat is headed, I discovered a trend that suggests good news for him. Each season, Werth’s strikeout rate spikes early in the season before settling down to a reasonable level.
Werth has played in 11 games so far this season. With FanGraphs, I made a graph of Werth’s 11-game rolling strikeout rates for each of the past few seasons. He got to 35.7 percent in game 19 in 2016, 28.6 percent in game 17 in 2015, and 27.3 percent in game 19 in 2014. The effect starts to disappear before that, which makes me wonder whether this phenomenon is related to his age. Does an older Werth need more time to get geared up for the season? It’s possible.
Either way, it seems an early-season spike in strikeouts is business as usual for Werth. The expectation for him entering this season was probably just about league-average offensive production, so these strikeouts do not seem too much of a barrier to that aim.Tags: Jayson Werth, Nationals, Nats, Washington Nationals