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« Quick Hitter: Chase Utley and the Playoff Fastball | Main | Phillies Spell Relief »

No Easy Answer to Jayson Werth

Soon-to-be free agent Jayson Werth continued to pad his resume with the all-important insurance run last night in Game Five of the NLCS with a solo home run in the ninth inning off of Giants right-handed reliever Ramon Ramirez. The right-handed Werth took Ramirez to the opposite field, clearing the 24-foot high wall at AT&T Park, putting his team ahead 4-2. Werth had already made noise earlier in the game with one of the best outfield assists of the 2010 season, and had been one of the only Phillies doing anything offensively in the playoffs to that point.

Represented by Scott Boras, it seems a foregone conclusion that Werth is playing his final games as a Philadelphia Phillie -- and for good reason: hitters of Werth's caliber are very rare.

Over the past three calendar years, Werth has the fifth-highest wOBA among all Major League outfielders. At a ridiculous .389, Werth trails only Matt Holliday, Josh Hamilton, Shin-Soo Choo, and Ryan Braun. In 2009, Werth led all Major Leaguers in average pitches seen per plate appearance (4.5) and finished third this year (4.37).

With a hitter so patient and yet so potent, how do you pitch to him? It's a good question, one that opposing pitchers have yet to answer. As the following charts show, Werth has tremendous plate coverage and great power to all fields against both left- and right-handed pitchers.

Jayson Werth's in play ISO vs. RHP

Jayson Werth's in play ISO vs. LHP

He hits hard stuff (93rd percentile in wOBA, 2010) and soft stuff (95th percentile) alike. He even hits well with two strikes (97th). If there is an easy way to handle Jayson Werth, it's not obvious. Among the 14 pitchers he has faced 20 or more times, only Tim Redding, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez, and Chris Volstad have had impressive results. Aside from mediocrity, there is nothing the four pitchers have in common.

When Werth hits free agency after the post-season, teams will be bidding for the services of what appears to be an as-yet unsolved riddle -- a very productive, multi-talented unsolved riddle.

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