Lessons in Stick-to-it-tiveness: Jayson Werth

There were a number of table (and head) turning plays in the Cincinnati Reds 6-3 win over the Washington Nationals yesterday, giving the Reds the rubber match for the early season series in what portends to be a budding rivalry of National League powers.

Nats Kurt Suzuki‘s game tying 3 run homer in the 2nd inning? Literally head turning, and a hit that created a 22% swing in win probability towards the Nats.

How about Shin-Soo Choo‘s RBI single off of Stephen Strasburg in the 6th, worth a 13% swing in win expectancy for the Reds?

Jayson Werth‘s seeing eye single in the 2nd inning, advancing Denard Span to 2nd base, worth a whopping 2% increase in the Nats’ win probability?

???

While it didn’t have the pizzaz of a scorched home run, or a perfectly choreographed double play, Werth’s single at the heels of Suzuki’s homer was important in how well Werth battled Reds SP Johnny Cueto and stayed true to his hitting approach, in spite of facing some tough pitches.

Let’s take a look at the at-bat with the help of PITCHf/x and Brooks Baseball:

werth_cueto

The greenish-blue square, out of the zone and labeled ‘5’, is what Werth hit into left-center, off of an 83 MPH changeup. OK, so not all that impressive when presented in this fashion.

With the help of Twitter celebrity Jayson Werth’s Beard, let’s have a look at the fifth pitch of the at bat that produced the single from a couple of angles:

It’s a little tough to see, but watch Werth’s back-end – his lower half has already committed, and his swing is slightly off-balance, which hints at Werth looking fastball and getting a changeup. To put it another way, he got fooled. Cueto’s career resurgence of the last year or so has been at the hands of his further developing the changeup into the devastating pitch it is, so Werth has nothing to be ashamed of – it’s a fantastic pitch.

Let’s look at the at bat from the first base side:

Looking at it from this angle, we have a better appreciation of what Werth did to get his single – fooled by the change of speed and possibly by the sink and tail of the pitch, Werth does some impressive improvisation of his swing to get his bat on the ball, and is rewarded with a single.

Here’s a still pic to better show how off-balance Werth was, and how impressive it is that he made as solid of contact as he did on the Cueto changeup:

Screen shot 2013-04-08 at 10.34.36 AM

While it didn’t play a huge role in the outcome of the game, Werth’s at bat against Cueto did highlight a couple of the things that makes Werth a great 2-hole hitter – he has the ability to take pitchers deep into counts and make solid contact with any pitch a pitcher might offer, be it fastball or offspeed. While his pitch recognition will continue to improve as the season progresses and the off-balance, let me throw my bat out and hope for the best swings will subside, the fact that he is already making good contact and putting the ball in play, even when fooled, bodes well for a productive season for Werth in the 2-spot in the Nats lineup.

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