Since May 19, Jayson Werth’s average has dipped tremendously, from .285 to the current mark of .249. Also since that time, Werth has struck out 17 times in 56 plate appearances; for the season, Werth has struck out 47 times and is on pace for a career-high 151 strikeouts.
Werth’s struggles are easy to see. By investigating some recent pitch charts, I’m seeing Werth is too busy looking at fastballs. Completely not swinging, he’s looking at more fastball strikes than any normal hitter should. His percentages back this up – Werth is swinging at only 38.4 percent of pitches this season, his lowest percentage ever.
What makes this more interesting is that Werth’s contact percentages are the highest of his career – 80 percent of his swings are making contact. That’s a pretty good percentage, and it makes sense – Werth’s long arms able him to catch anything. He has trouble with sliders in the dirt and fastballs high, but pitchers make more mistakes on those pitches, allowing for adaptation.
(As a contrast, strikeout partner Ryan Howard swings at more than 50 percent of pitches thrown to him; he makes contact with only 67.5 percent of pitches. He swings and misses. A lot.)
The point: Werth needs to swing. Whereas Jimmy Rollins has to take pitches at his lineup hole, Werth has the freedom to swing away down in the six-hole. Pitchers are still giving him first- and second-pitch fastballs in the zone. He has to take advantage. It’s the only way his average will rise back to norms.