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Grapefruiting: The Jayson Werth Slump

7/40: Jayson Werth isn’t having a sterling spring.

To his defense, 2007 Spring Training wasn’t a grand ol’ time for Werth either: He went 11/40. Not great, but not bad. Hitting .175 is bad.

Last season, however, he started slow and stayed in neutral for a good while. It wasn’t until a 5-for-5 game against the Padres Aug. 26 — yes, Aug. 26 — that Werth started really knocking the ball. After that game, something struck, and the next night against the Mets, he went 4-for-4. Those two nights lifted his average from .270 to .312. For the most part, Werth was about a .260 hitter last season — only the final month of the year made him a standout player (looking back, Werth was a huge reason the team rallied to win the division).

One big difference between the Werth who hit .260 and the Werth who was on a tear in September is playing time. In September, Werth started almost every game in right field, as Shane Victorino still ailed. The answer, then, might be to play Werth everyday.

Or the answer is how you play Werth. Against lefties last season, Werth went .375 with 5 HR and 22 RBI. In almost twice as many plate appearances, against righties Werth hit .257 with 3 HR and 27 RBI. But in 2005, Werth hit .239 against lefties. Then again, in 2004, it was .290. How inconsistent can you get?

Today in Clearwater, Werth played with the AAA squad against Toronto, and while he swung well, he wasn’t hitting anything too fair. Interestingly, after an at bat with the AAA squad, Werth would walk over to the A field and park himself in the on deck circle, then come to the plate in that game. One fan said this was just him “getting his work in.” I say he’s trying to find something.

Obviously Werth seems to hit lefties better, which is why the Geoff Jenkins deal made sense. And obviously Werth isn’t an everyday player — yet there’s evidence when he plays everyday, he’s very good. But the not-so-obvious thing is what’s going through Werth’s mind. He could actually lose his job with the Phillies; he probably won’t, but it’s a possibility. Is he forcing it? Is he blowing his own mind?

From what I saw today, there’s reason to be concerned.

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