On Werth, Information, And What Might Have Been

by Matt on May 27, 2011

in Red Sox

courtesy of Washington Post

The Washington Nationals are in free fall. Losers of five in a row and seven of eight, the team is suffering through injuries to star players like third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Stephen Strasburg. With the strain starting to show in the clubhouse, newest National Jayson Werth took to the media after his new team was swept by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Never the touchy feely sort to begin with, Werth is accustomed to winning some games and he’s also likely accustomed to being about the fourth or fifth guy down on a reporter’s interview list. Neither is the case since signing his seven year, $126 million contract with the Nationals this past off season. His comments were big news and were almost immediately turned around by a Washington Post reporter who, amidst repeated mentions of his salary, admonished Werth for “hitting .254″ and for “hitting .205 with runners in scoring position.”

Readers of this site know a player’s batting average with runners in scoring position is not a separate or distinct skill from hitting in general. Beating on a player for failing in the clutch, especially when that player is one of the most productive players on the team, is ultimately just a tool for stirring the pot. It is instructive at times like these to ask the question, who is the clutchiest clutcher to ever clutch? That would be, of course, Derek Jeter. Jeter’s clutchiness is so highly thought of that most people don’t even think to look it up to confirm it. Doing so yields the following information:

Jeter, Regular Season: .313/.383/.450
Jeter, Post Season:.309/.377/.472

Shockingly, Jeter is the same player in the post season that he is in the regular season. Jeter is also no better or worse with runners on than with the bases empty. Werth is no different. The difference was a journalist who didn’t know any better.

Why do I bring all this non-Red Sox garbage up? For a couple reasons. One, I’m old enough that I grew up reading and believing articles like the one quoted above, the essence of which is that Werth has taken his $126 million in one lump sum and already checked out for a private island in the Caribbean. In the age of blogs we should be thankful not only for access to vast quantities of information, but to a huge increase in quality as well. Hopefully you are enjoying reading Red Sox Beacon. Hopefully you find us insightful and worth your time. If so we appreciate it, but if not, there are literally hundreds of other sources of information on the Red Sox, sabermetric orthodoxy and hilarious puns. We are lucky to live in this, the golden age of baseball writing. As such we, the mildly curious, are not beholden to any single source, and that is a huge blessing.

Also germane is that Jayson Werth is already experiencing some, to put it kindly, growing pains as a member of the last place Washington Nationals. If you recall, many of the rumors this past off season pointed towards Werth joining the Red Sox. Indeed, it seemed almost a fait accompli, an expectation that made the Crawford signing all the more shocking. But the desperate Nationals threw a contract at Werth that no sane team would match and Werth, whether he wanted to no not, had no choice but to sign the thing before those offering it came to their senses. A ripple effect from Werth signing in DC was Crawford’s signing in Boston.

While Werth has endured a tough start to what will be a long journey in DC whether he likes it or not, it was nothing compared to what Crawford has gone through. Crawford’s struggles have been well chronicled both here and elsewhere, and it isn’t my intent to revisit them again. However, it should be noted that, in contrast to Werth’s comments about his manager and the media squabble they have created, Crawford has borne his burden quietly and with exemplary sportsmanship.

The Red Sox may have been targeting Crawford over Werth all along. Or not. We certainly know they were interested in both players, though the extent to which they scouted and investigated Werth understandably hasn’t surfaced. Who can say how things would be if it was Werth, in a Boston cap, complaining to Dan Shaughnessy after the 2-10 start. As the old saying goes, sometimes the best deals you make are the ones you don’t make at all.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ari Collins May 27, 2011 at 11:44 am

While I would rather have Crawford than Werth going forward, even before taking contracts into account, I’d rather Crawford have complained to the CHB while wOBA-ing .359 than not complained while wOBA-ing .287.

Further, while I’m not one to defend Derek Jeter, hitting just as well in the postseason is actually pretty “clutch,” since you’re against better pitching. Though I think batters tend to do better with RISP, and if that’s true then HE’S A TOTAL CHOKER.

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Matt May 27, 2011 at 12:02 pm

You’re right about the quality of playoff pitchers, Ari. I didn’t get into that because I didn’t want to get off topic any more than I already was.

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