Jayson Werth has blossomed into Nats’ leader

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The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore has a fantastic article about Jayson Werth up on the website today, looking in depth at his transition from new guy to team leader. Kilgore discusses Werth’s off-beat personality, his stern suggestions to anybody and everybody on the team, and how the right fielder changed the culture both in terms of attitude and practice.

The numerous ideas that stuck became tangible symbols of Werth’s off-field impact. In the clubhouse kitchen, no longer does a cook make whatever players ask for. A chef trained in nutrition informs players how much sodium, fat or Vitamin A they should be eating. [snip]

Werth advocated for better equipment in the weight room, and Rizzo took the requests to ownership. The Lerners bought both a single and double isokinetic activation device for $4,500. Position players use the single to build core strength. Pitchers use the double to strengthen their shoulders, one of the most important precautionary measures they can take.

The Nationals also added a long press, the barbell system Olympic weightlifters use, for $600 at Werth’s urging. They already had kettle bells weighing 55, 65 and 75 pounds. Werth persuaded them to purchase a 100-pound kettle bell for $500.

Werth missed 75 games last season due to a fractured left wrist, but he was one of the Nationals’ more productive players when he was on the field. Along with changing the clubhouse culture, the 33-year-old posted a .300/.387/.440 slash line. He is entering the third year of his seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.