Throughout the offseason, The Nats Blog will look back at every player’s 2012 season to summarize and analyze his performance, and we’ll look ahead to his possible role in 2013. We’ll go from #1 Steve Lombardozzi all the way to #63 Henry Rodriguez until Spring Training. Enjoy.
Owner of both the best beard and the highlighting moment of the Washington Nationals’ breakout season, Jayson Werth was among the Nationals’ stars in 2012. His final at-bat in game four of the National League Division series will be recorded in the baseball annals as one of the most exciting moments of this young team’s history. However, his contribution to the team last season stretched well beyond one thirteen-pitch at-bat.
The difference between Werth’s performance in 2011 and 2012 was stark. Werth finished his debut season in Washington with some of the worst stats of his career – a slash line of .232/.330/.389 and 160 strikeouts – leaving Nats fans frustrated with the new guy from their northern nemesis.
But while it seemed he could never really find a rhythm in 2011, the only thing that could disrupt his consistent offensive production in 2012 for more than a few games was a broken wrist, which benched him for three months. Although his injury kept him from achieving “qualified” statistics, his slash line of .300/.387/.440 was on pace to be one of the best on the team, even as he assumed the unfamiliar role of “Larry Leadoff.”
Werth was one of the team leaders by numbers, but his leadership was by no means limited to his offensive production. As one of the few Nationals who had previously played in the postseason, Werth was a mentor to the Nats’ many young players. His most notable mentee was Bryce Harper, who consistently pointed out his gratitude for Werth’s guidance throughout the season.
Werth’s even, outward disposition served to balance Harper’s tendency to be hotheaded, as Cheryl Nichols of District Sports Page perfectly illustrates in the photo above. The photo shows Werth running out on the field within seconds of Harper’s being hit with a pitch by Lendy Castillo of the Chicago Cubs, to keep Harper from letting his temper get the best of him during the twice-benches-clearing game in which emotions ran high.
This moment is just one great example of the importance of Werth’s role on the Nationals. He is a leader on and off the field, and his influence on Harper and obvious investment in his success is indicative of something very special about the Nats: they are not only a team because they wear the same jerseys, their chemistry and care for each other is a huge contributing factor to their success.
Next Year: Werth figures to be a part of that success for the foreseeable future as the Nationals' right fielder. The 34 year old won’t be a free agent until 2018, and is due to be paid more than $16 million this year, which will make him the highest-paid National in 2013. He will likely hit second in the batting order this season, keeping his high on-base percentage at the top of the order, but letting Denard Span take over the role of leadoff hitter.
Up Next: #30 Zach Duke