Thursday, July 12, 2012

2nd half storylines: Werth's return

US Presswire photo
Jayson Werth has been relegated to dugout onlooker since breaking his wrist May 6.
The Nationals open tomorrow what promises to be the most compelling second half to a season since the franchise arrived in town in 2005, owners of the NL's best record but saddled with several major questions that need to be answered.

Over the course of the day, we'll count down the five most significant storylines to the remainder of the Nationals' season, beginning with storyline No. 5: Jayson Werth's return from a broken left wrist...

The image from May 6, of Jayson Werth writhing in agony on the ground in right field after a failed attempt to make a diving catch of Placido Polanco's sinking line drive, is hard to forget. Everyone in attendance at Nationals Park and everyone watching the nationally televised Sunday night game knew the injury was serious, and the only question was whether it was serious enough to prevent Werth from returning to play this season.

Ten weeks later, Werth is inching closer to a return to the Nationals lineup. His wrist is healed, and he's resumed some baseball activities, though he hasn't yet swung a bat. That milestone should come soon, and once it does the 33-year-old could be on a fast track back to the active roster.

The Nationals and Werth have targeted Aug. 1 for his return. That may be a bit too optimistic, but the club fully expects to have its veteran right fielder back for the stretch run. That return, however, raises two important questions:

1) What kind of player will Werth be upon his return? Can he pick up where he left off, hitting .276 with a .372 on-base percentage? Or will he not have regained enough strength in the wrist to swing an effective bat?

2) If Werth does enjoy a successful return, who's the odd man out of the Nationals' lineup, and who will lead off? Steve Lombardozzi has been the biggest beneficiary over the last two-plus months, essentially assuming leadoff duties and the starting left fielder's job. Werth's return, though, should bump Michael Morse from right to left field, and that could bump Lombardozzi to the bench. That, however, would force Danny Espinosa (or Werth or Bryce Harper) to lead off most nights. Perhaps Lombardozzi ends up splitting time at second base with Espinosa, with manager Davey Johnson taking advantage of their contrasting splits. If you combine Lombardozzi's left-handed stats with Espinosa's right-handed stats, you get a .299 batting average, .364 on-base percentage and .423 slugging percentage. That could make for a solid platoon at second base.

First things first. Werth needs to make progress in his rehab, go play in minor-league games and then return healthy to the Nationals' lineup. That process and potential resolution, though, promises to be one of the club's most-compelling storylines the rest of this season.


Joe Seamhead said...

I am so looking forward to a complete recovery from Jayson! I strongly disagree with peric's opinion as to Werth's worth to this team. Also, I was in the lower right field bleachers the night that he got hurt and witnessed a new low from Philly phans when they cheered his injury. I have been un-characterlistically delighted by the Phillies woes this year. I am thinking about organizing a couple of buses to go to CBP for a Nats/ Phillies game. Anybody else in? Do you really have Natitude?

Anonymous said...

His contract will demand that when he is deemed healthy and his rehab is complete that he return to the line-up. Its my hope that his return is a smooth one, not disrupting what has this team in first place as we embark on the 2nd half of the season. I'm thinking mid August is about the time we can expect his return. Personnel decisions on this club are delightful problems to have with the depth that has been built in the system.

MicheleS said...

Joe S! Amen! I am really looking forward to having him back as well. I believe that he may struggle at first (which is why they should not rush his rehab), but that come late August he will help stabilize that OF (Everyone plays the same position every night and not hopping around all the time - unless Ank or Bernie need to replace Morse in later innings for defensive reasons)

natsfan1a said...

I'm rooting for you, Jayson! On a related note, I'd previously shared an anecdote from Sunday's game, which we attended with one of my husband's colleagues and her family. Before the game, as the team was sprinting and stretching on the field, Jayson came out and began stretching. Some fans saw him and cheered. Desi came up behind him and removed Werth's cap from his head, basically doffing it for him. At that, a bunch of us cheered even more loudly.

In other news, either I really miss baseball during the break or I really need to get a life. I had a Nats dream last night. And Micah Bowie was in it. (Not *that* kind of dream! Geez.) Evidently he was hoping to catch on with the Nats in a relief role. In my dream. Or his dream. Anyway, just
looked him up on the Google, and he has his own baseball academy now. Kinda cool. Just thought I'd share that. Is it time for baseball yet? :-)

sjm308 said...

JT - yes he has a huge (and probably mistaken) contract but he was one of our best players when injured, along with LaRoche. I liked that we went and signed Werth for several reasons. It was our first actual statement that we were going to play with the big boys. The Gonzalez trade and extension, the Jackson signing and Zimms extention have silenced every one of those "Lerners are cheap" comments but Werth was the first.

He had a bad year last year but he brought an attitude that saw changes occuring all season. He will never be worth what we are paying him but he does play hard and will be a perfect fit with Harper as far as aggressive baseball is concerned.

I also disagree with Peric on this one but I do see in a couple years and maybe just one or two where Werth might be in a battle to start. If Goodwin continues to develop, if C. Brown continues to improve, if Tyler Moore shows he belongs and of course Harper we will either have huge trade chips or a crowded outfield. This is off topic but I do see Morse being used as a trade chip with all this young talent available.

The big point in Mark's article, in my mind, is that he has not even begun to swing a bat yet. There honestly is a huge chance that he will not recover. I realize its not the same issues with his wrist, but it is the same wrist. Iam rooting for him to make it back!

Go Nats!!

Gonat said...

Looking at Flores offensive stats yesterday, Jayson was below him in BA w/ RISP but had a great OBP w/ RISP.

djinFl. said...

If we want this group of young players to move toward a post season apperance, we need Jason's leadership. Nerves that most of the guys did not know they had, will creep into play in August. Jason has been down that road and is needed to help keep everyone cool in that pressure cooker.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Looking at Flores offensive stats yesterday, Jayson was below him in BA w/ RISP but had a great OBP w/ RISP.

In other words, they weren't pitching to him if they had a base open. That might change now.

waddu eye no said...

seamhead - brought up the philth phan cheering while taliking to a Phan bartender in reho beach last nite. he was the type to cheer along. so as i left i reminded him who was in first and last in the division, and told him the respect i had for their long tradition - 10K losses. the "last word" helped me digest my pizza

looking forward to seeing what jason can do


mick said...

thinking of the future 2013 and beyond, assuming Ramos has a full recovery, the Nats lineup would be dangerous from 1-8!

Positively Half St. said...

In previous years we would spend today wringing our hands about whether top draft pick Lucas Giolito would sign before tomorrow's deadline. It is so much more satisfying to have a team that is actually relevant at the big-league level, so that the signing of the minor leaguer is unlikely to make the Top 5.

I certainly hope the Nats sign him, but this will be nothing like the hand-wringing that occurred over the failure to sign Aaron Crow.


Faraz Shaikh said...

I would love to have Jayson back. He is one of the few players who has good OBP on our team.

With him in the OF again, I think it would be great to have Harper lead-off. He has OBP and speed to be the lead-off hitter, followed by Werth. From my rough calculations, Harper is also second in pitches per plate appearance after LaRoche. That number for Werth is even greater in his small sample size of 113 PA. I get that Harper is not the ideal lead-off hitter but for our team, he has good enough combination of OBP and speed that he can succeed as one.

JoeS, I would be interested in CBP trip if it is in September (weekday series). There is one weekend series in August but I am not in town that weekend.

Anonymous said...

The Werth/Harper dynamic is going to be fascinating.

Tcostant said...

I wonder why the Nationals rush these guys though re-hab? Morse clearly could have used 40 minor league AB's. Lidge said he came back to early. Why not give HRod all of the allowable monor league re-hab time.

Now Storen is back on Friday, why not wait another 10 days after he goes back to back in a few game before sending him up?

I'd also like to see Werth get 40 minor league AB's.

I just rather have these guys fully ready when they get back.

My 2 cents...

SonnyG10 said...

I second the opinions on Jayson's value to our team. Good comments.

Good article by Boswell in WP this morning on how well the Nats are handling their pitchers. In that same article, he quotes Atlanta all-star Michael Bourn as saying Ross Detwiler's stuff is worthy of a No. 1 or 2 starter in the making. "Man, he can go," Bourn said.

NatsLady said...

That article by Boz was interesting, especially in light of Davey's constant complaints--earlier in the season--about the SP's lack of efficiency. Puzzling. I guess if it were easy to figure out the best approach to pitching, we'd all be coaches.

Speaking of coaches, take note of McCatty controversy re: strikeouts here.


Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Boswell on the Nat's pitchers being the 'freshest' in MLB

NatsLady said...


(1) Lidge - sour grapes
(2) Morse, I don't think extra minor-league AB's would have helped him gear up, but I do worry that his injury is not fully healed.
(3) Storen seems ready. As a 1-inning reliever, I don't think extra time in the minors will help him get "sharp." If he's not healed then they should have left him on the DL.
(4) Agree on Werth, hope they don't rush him (or he doesn't rush himself).

joemktg said...

"If you combine Lombardozzi's left-handed stats with Espinosa's right-handed stats, you get a .299 batting average, .364 on-base percentage and .423 slugging percentage."

Dawns on me that this means the Nats add 3 players to their second half battle:
-And a new 2B with those stats: Esbo? Lombinosa?

Call it what you want, but a .364 OBP from your leadoff spot is pretty damn good find. Which means your 1 thru 7 spots are solid. 8 spot is pretty damn good for an 8 spot, and you can't discount this pitching staff with bats in their hands.

Theophilus T. S. said...

I don't have enough insurance to take a road trip to Philadelphia.

Given the post-recovery performances of Morse and Zimmerman we shouldn't expect much out of Werth for the first 30 days. Hopefully the OF defense improves w/ Morse moving back to LF and no longer dependent on the improvisatory Lombardozzi and Moore.

Given Espinosa's recent progress I don't foresee splitting time at 2B. First, in a pennant race, they need to go with their best defensive lineup. Lombardozzi may have a good glove but Espinosa gives them more, especially turning the double play. Second, I'd rather have Espinosa's power and baserunning over 20 or 30 points of BA. There's a reason teams play "no doubles" defense in the late innings and it's that doubles kill. Espinosa hits doubles, mostly in the gaps.

Apart from Strasburg drama, and who -- if anyone -- replaces him, the third story will be whether Flores can survive playing almost every day, Solano can avoid regressing to Wil Nieves status. I think Leon will be a September call-up anyway, and will take Solano's starts, leaving Solano for pinch-hitting and late-innings double switchery.

NatsJack in Florida said...


NatsJack in Florida said...

Espidozzi at 2b.

natsfan1a said...

I always figured that when I made the trip, it would be for a day game, probably on a Sunday. Also, a weekend would be better for us for a road trip. That said, we do have tix for a P-Nats game on Friday, August 24 (Rosenbaum bobblehead), so not sure about that weekend for a CBP trip. I can only talk my hubby into so many games in a given time span. :-)

I don't have enough insurance to take a road trip to Philadelphia.

natsfan1a said...

Did you mean Lombardosa? ;-)

NatsJack in Florida said...

Espidozzi at 2b.

moshermama said...

Joe S. -- There is a bus trip being organized in August to go up to CBP! Look up @stephanats on twitter for more information.

JD said...


To me the whole pitch to contact concept is counter intuitive. The idea is to miss bats and in doing so if you have good stuff and good location you will induce strikeouts and balls that are hit weakly. Pitchers who don't have the stuff to miss bats are called pitch to contact guys but even for real good sinker ball pitchers 1 in every 3 balls put into play will result in a hit.

JZim is a pitcher who has been used as an example here. Firstly JZim is still predominantly a strike out pitcher who often induces weak contact because his pitches have late movement. Secondly JZim gives up more hits per inning and more home runs than Gio and SS who are classic strike out pitchers.

Historically all the best pitchers (Seaver, Gibson, Koufax, Randy Johnson,Ryan etc) have all been strike out pitchers. Unless you have the painting ability of Maddux and Glavine you are better served in avoiding hit balls.

alm said...

Joe S.

I would be interested in a CBP day bus trip back and forth for the August 26th Sunday game.

JaneB said...

I think we have to assume Werth won't be strong on the bat immediately. As long as he is strong in September, I'll take a weak August from him if that is what it takes to get him going again for the stretch. Oooolala! We're preparing already for the STRETCH!

JaneB said...

pS I love "Espidozzi" NatsJack!

Anonymous said...

Jayson Aaron Rowand!!! No way you start Werth automatically...he is now a 4th OF who needs to earn his playing time. I physically get ill thinking about having to put him back out there in the outfield every day disrupting the chemistry that we have going on right now and relegating Moore and Lombardozzi to the bench, not to mention blocking Corey Brown from getting a shot to play.

Swift Eagle said...

Why would Werth get his spot back automatically when Storen won't?

I hope Werth comes back healthy and productive, but he should have to earn his ABs by performing.

just like any other .238 hitter, which is what he is as a Nat..

natsfan1a said...

Eh, he's a blogger just like us, except that he went from doing his own blog to doing one for NBC. I'm pretty sure that in his former life he was a lawyer, not a pitching coach, which I suppose makes him about as qualified as any of us are to comment on this "controversy." Wait, what? :-)

NatsLady said...

Speaking of coaches, take note of McCatty controversy re: strikeouts here.

July 12, 2012 9:29 AM

Stephanie Springer said...

Joe S., alm:

A group of us started planning a trip back in December. In January we put down a deposit for two blocks of tickets for the Saturday August 25th game. We have with a few tickets remaining. We also have coordinated with Ballpark Bus to provide transportation for that game (from Arlington directly to CBP).

We originally wanted to get group tickets for the Sunday day game, as that would make it an easy day trip for everyone. However, weekend day games are nearly impossible to get group tickets for - and I called the first day that the ticket office was selling group tickets. There are lots of tickets available on StubHub for the Sunday game, but it would be extremely difficult for a group to sit together for the 8/26 game.

That said, if you're interested in joining us for the 8/25 game, please let me know. I need to make the final payment in a little over a week. If you want to wait and make a decision later, that's fine - you can still take Ballpark Bus even if you aren't sitting with the group.


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