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Jayson Werth has quietly gotten hot over the last month.
Here's something you probably hadn't been thinking to yourself, though: Right now, the Nationals really need Werth in their lineup as much as possible.
I know, that would have sounded like a ludicrous statement not long ago. But it's true. Look at the numbers.
Remember when Werth's season seemed to be spiraling out of control, with no hope of being salvaged? That was back on July 18, when his batting average had plummeted to .211, his OPS to a paltry .669.
Well, in 30 games since then, Werth is hitting .295 with a .500 slugging percentage and .878 OPS. In other words, pretty much exactly what the Nationals figured he'd do for the entire season.
This one-month surge hasn't entirely salvaged what will forever be remembered as a colossally disappointing debut year for the $126 million right fielder. But it has at least eased some fears about the likelihood of Werth producing at a higher level over the rest of his contract than he did during its first three months.
With five weeks to go, Werth is now hitting .232 with 15 homers, 48 RBI, a .332 on-base percentage and .721 OPS. Still not good.
Yet he's actually compiled comparable, if not better, overall numbers than one of the guys who carried the Nationals through the All-Star break: Danny Espinosa. Seriously.
Let's compare the two stat lines:
R H 2B HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS
WERTH 55 105 24 15 48 .232 .332 .389 .721
ESPINOSA 57 106 20 18 57 .228 .313 .409 .723
Now, of course Jayson Werth should put up better numbers than Danny Espinosa this season. One is a 32-year-old right fielder who has been a major contributor on a World Series winner and last winter was given the richest contract in franchise history. The other is a 24-year-old second baseman playing his first full season in the big leagues.
But think about how ludicrous it would have sounded one month ago to suggest Werth would out-produce Espinosa (or least match him) at the plate.
This has as much to do with Espinosa's recent tailspin -- a .176 average, .488 OPS, one homer and two RBI over his last 32 games -- than Werth's recent resurgence.
But it does show you how many twists and turns the 162-game baseball season has, and it shows you how difficult it is for players to maintain a consistent level of production from early-April to late-September.