Has Jayson Werth been unlucky?

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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.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.