Could Werth Alter The Course Of His Peak Years?

At age 29, Jayson Werth is perfectly in the prime of his career – or at least that what age indicates. Normally, hitters start their prime around age 25, maxing near age 27 or 28, ending somewhere around age 32. Of course, that’s not always the case, but statistical data suggests that hitters will usually find their best success in the very late 20s.

2008, of course, was Werth’s best season yet:

134 G / 482 PA / .273 AVG / .363 OBP / .498 SLG / 24 HR / 67 RBI / 20 SB

In 2007, under limited time, Werth’s average was higher, as he saw a greater percentage of left-handed pitching, which he can rake. Against lefties in 2008, Werth hit .303 with 16 HR – two-thirds of his total. Against righties, however, he hit .255. If Werth should have a better hitting season in 2009, it will be because he’ll attack righties better.

But where does he go wrong against righties?

Statistics show there’s nothing he doesn’t do against righties that is different than against lefties. He strikes out 25 percent of the time against both sides. So the other three of four times, he’s merely getting a hit at a slower rate against righties. Watching him on film, I find that Werth tries to pull a lot, and against right-handed throwing, he’s just a little late pulling the ball, which either induces a shallow pop, or a weak opposite-field ground ball.

When Werth is successful against righties, it’s a base hit up the middle, meaning he’s late, but just barely. His eight home runs against righites shows he’s only been exactly right 0.25 percent of the time, not nearly enough to justify continuous pulling of the ball.

The answer, then, is to shorten up the swing, lock in to a spot a bit higher than the waist, and start striking balls into left-center field. A line drive is an honest hit; a ground ball could potentially be an infield single, since Werth can speed down the line.

What does this mean for his 2009 total? It might mean less home runs, which runs counter to peak trends. But it would make a more dangerous hitter in regards to average, which could supplant him into the three-hole, ahead of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. That move itself could bring rewards for the Phillies, as Utley is starting to really pop the ball out of the park.

A 2009 line that resembles this – .305 AVG / .402 OBP / .468 SLG / 21 HR / 82 RBI / 28 SB – would be very welcome in the Phillies lineup, and would show Werth’s hitting isn’t just about peak ages, but about smart adjustments.

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