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.