Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post wrote an interesting column looking at some statistics which seem to indicate that Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth has been unlucky this season. While Werth sports a respectable .277/.363/.407 slash line with five home runs and 20 RBI, they’re not quite where they have been since he broke out with the Phillies in 2008.
Werth has had a few hard-hit balls memorably caught, including this homer-robbing grab by Mets outfielder Juan Lagares. Kilgore also recalls a 420-foot smash to Tal’s Hill in Houston, and a well-struck fly ball on a cold April night against the Marlins. Digging more into the numbers, Kilgore writes:
But, based on the contact he has made, Werth could be having a great year, one of the best in the league. His highlight tape would be a maelstrom of warning track fly balls, blistered line drives into gloves and other assorted smoldering outs. According to ESPN statistician Mark Simon, a subjective video tracking service ranks Werth fourth in the majors in at-bats that ended with hard contact.
The most telling figure about Werth’s hard luck: Major league hitters have collectively batted .661 when they hit a line drive, per Baseball-Reference.com. Werth is hitting only .435 on his line drives.
If Werth’s batting average on his 46 liners matched the league average, it would give him an extra 10 hits and boost his overall batting average from .277 to .333. His overall on-base percentage would climb from .363 to .412.
Werth overall has a .321 batting average on balls in play, which seems good, but it’s ten points below his career average and it’s about 35 points below his BABIP in each of the last two seasons. He’s hitting fly balls at his highest rate — 44 percent — since joining the Nationals but has only the five home runs to show out of 63 fly balls hit. In his three prior seasons with the Nats, Werth hit 50 home runs on 397 fly balls, a rate of about eight fly balls per home run. Based on that rate, we would expect Werth to have eight homers presently.
There’s some compelling evidence to the “bad luck” explanation for Werth’s comparatively pedestrian numbers thus far. Thankfully for Werth, there are four months of baseball left, which is plenty of time for things to turn around.
After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.
The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).
Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.
With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.
Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.
With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.