It seems like yesterday Jayson Werth sported red pinstripes. Philadelphia has many fond memories of Werth, but he has been placed in the rear view mirror. Losing Werth to free agency left many fans upset, the Phillies were without a strong right-handed bat. In addition, it left a gap in right field and questions as to whether Domonic Brown was ready for the everyday job. Brown got hurt, Ben Francisco did little with the job, and for two of the first three months of the season the Phillies got little from the corner outfield.
A drastic move at the trade deadline was necessary, even despite the Phils having the best record in baseball. Hunter Pence was acquired from the Houston Astros in exchange for top prospects Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, and two minor leaguers.
The Phillies offense had been streaky all season, but Pence’s addition has immediately improved it. Batting fifth, he enabled Ryan Howard to see more pitches in the strike zone. He initially took over the role that Jayson Werth once had.
In any sport, there are ongoing debates as to which players are superior. Whether using stats or intangibles, there are several ways to measure those similarities and differences. That leads to the question: who is the better option? Hunter Pence or Jayson Werth?
Looking at their career totals, Pence and Werth are very similar. In fact, their statistics are very close to one another. Here are Pence’s and Werth’s lines based on their 162 game average:
Pence: .290 AVG/ .338 OBP/ .478 SLG/ .817 OPS/ 24 HR/ 90 RBI/ 14 SB
Werth: .265 AVG/ .362 OBP/ .468 SLG/ .830 OPS/ 24 HR/ 82 RBI/ 17 SB
Pence hits for a higher average, but Werth will draw more walks. As far as power numbers go, there isn’t a significant difference.
Werth is coming off a career year, but has really disappointed this season. He’s hitting a lowly .224 with a .710 on-base plus slugging percentage. On the other hand, Pence is arguably having the best year of his career, hitting .305 with an .818 OPS.
Much like offensive categories, Pence and Werth are similar defensively. It’s ironic that both Pence and Werth have a .985 fielding percentage, but that stat is fluky, considering it is based on the opinion of the scorekeeper. Both are known to be above average defensive rightfielders with strong arms.
According to FanGraphs, Pence has saved 31 runs with his arm in the outfield in his career. Werth has saved 39. Again, very similar totals.
As far as the “hustle” factor goes, the award goes to Pence. Both players have above average speed, but Pence is an Utley-like baserunner … a term that is hard to describe but you know it when you see it. Pence beats out balls he shouldn’t, he goes first-to-third when most wouldn’t.
The age factor also kicks in when comparing players. Pence, 28, has youth on his side. Pence is four years younger than the 32-year-old. Pence is just entering his prime, while Werth is just about to exit his. Pending injuries, Pence has more years ahead of him than Werth does. Werth may have more experience, but he wasn’t an everday player until 2008. Pence has been a starter since the beginning.
Comparing contract situations, it’s a no-brainer that Pence is preferred. The Washington Nationals signed Werth to a ridiculous 7-year, $126 million deal. Pence is making $6.9 million this year. Pence is under team control until 2013, and will likely make about $25MM combined in 2012 and 2013. Werth will make almost $25 million during each of the final three years of his contract.
Pence and Werth are very similar offensively and defensively. Sure, Werth has struggled this season, but they are still a lot alike. However, when age and money are factored in, Pence becomes the clear favorite. When Werth filed as a free agent, Pence in pinstripes seemed unimaginable. Now, Pence is the one standing in front of Citizen Bank Park’s Out of Town Scoreboard. And I’m pretty sure that, if presented with the options, you’d rather pay Cliff Lee “Werth money” and replace Werth with an equally talented rightfielder mere months later.