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Werth laments “opportunity lost” this season

Sep 15, 2015, 11:00 AM EST

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PHILADELPHIA — Jayson Werth, by all accounts, should have been on cloud nine Monday night. He had been on a tear at the plate over the last month, had just homered twice to lead the Nationals to victory and had done so in his old stomping grounds in front of booing Phillies fans.

Why, then, was the veteran outfielder so glum at the end of the night?

“It would feel great if we weren’t 9 1/2 games back,” he said. “I get the sense that it’s too little, too late. Anything can still happen, of course. But it’s been a tough go.”

It’s safe to say Werth won’t be looking back at the 2015 season with much fondness. Despite his late-summer surge, he might wind up with his worst offensive numbers in a decade. He missed 2 1/2 months with a fractured wrist. And the Nationals, of course, are going to fall well short of expectations, all but certain to lose the NL East to the Mets.

Werth had remained upbeat in recent weeks, insisting he still liked the Nationals’ chances as they finally got close to 100 percent healthy entering the stretch run. But after a miserable week that included a sweep at the hands of the Mets, followed by two lifeless losses to the Marlins, reality set in for the 36-year-old.

“I think about it a lot,” he said. “It’s disappointing. I look at it as opportunity lost. We had a lot going for us going into the season, and although it’s not over by any means … you just get the sense that we kind of let this one slip through our grasps a little bit. It’s unfortunate. It’s hard to swallow.”

On an individual level, Werth has been able to salvage his own season thanks to his recent surge at the plate. As recently as August 18, he was among the least-productive offensive players in the majors, owner of a .184 batting average, .261 on-base percentage, .270 slugging percentage and .531 OPS. But in 26 games since — coinciding with his move up to the top of the Nationals’ lineup — he’s hitting .296 with a .382 on-base percentage, .565 slugging percentage and .947 OPS.

And it all seemed to come together Monday night when Werth first launched a fifth-inning grand slam to give the Nationals a 6-2 lead, then added a solo shot in the 11th inning to ensure their victory.

Something about it all, though, felt wasted to Werth, who recognizes he may not get many more of these opportunities. About to conclude his fifth season with the Nationals, he knows the final two years of his contract are going to come as part of a changed roster, one that will lose several key free agents.

That makes this season sting even more.

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but most likely this team’s gonna be a lot different [next] year,” he said. “You play with these guys every day, and you come to work with these guys. You’re basically family, so you want to make the most of your opportunities. I feel like we definitely didn’t this year.”

  1. zmunchkin - Sep 15, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    One positive thing about Werth’s performance of late is that it should allow the Nats and the fans a bit more comfortable about a starting outfield of Werth, Taylor and Harper.

    • nattyboh1 - Sep 15, 2015 at 11:38 AM

      Still need to add a very strong left-handed hitter to that bunch, IMO. Keep CRob for backup 1B/Pinch HItter, but try not to let him near left field. We need to get someone that will be expected to start 60 games filling in for Werth and to a much lesser extend Taylor and Harper as needed.

      • NatsLady - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:15 PM

        Even with Span, the lineup was too right-handed. Once he went down, it was Harper and occasionally Danny or Clint Robinson. Now a righty lineup is not as bad as too many lefties, because RHB’s have been hitting RHP’s all their lives and they SHOULD have that skill, whereas an overly LH lineup can be vulnerable to good lefty pitchers. Bottom line, I’m agreeing with you, we need a solid lefty bat.

  2. bowdenball - Sep 15, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    Baseball is a fickle sport. You can change the result of just four ABs over the course of this long season and its thousands upon thousands of plate appearances and end up with the Nats trailing the Mets by just 1.5 games as of today:

    1. July 31, top of the 9th, one out, runners at first and second- give either Taylor or Lobaton a base hit to score the go-ahead run. Could also give one to Werth at the bottom of the 8th with a runner on second for the same result.

    2. August 1, bottom of the 7th, leadoff man- turn Duda’s HR into a fly ball out

    3. September 8, top of the 7th- take your pick of any possible third out in the inning.

    4. September 9, top of the 7th- turn Cespedes’ HR into a fly ball out

    Of course the Mets could probably find a few more wins against us considering we won back to back 1-0 games over them early in the season, but it’s still crazy to think about how easily this all could have been different.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 15, 2015 at 11:46 AM

      One could think of other, similar plays/ABs (not just against the Mets), but that’s why baseball plays a 162-game season. There’s a lot of randomness in the game — which I appreciate — but in the end every team has had multiple chances to work things out and get things right. And, at the end of a long season, the Mets in the NL East and (most likely) the Pirates and the Cubs in the Wild Card race will have proven themselves better teams than the Nats.

    • bababooeytoyouall - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:48 PM

      what kind of math is this? are you living in #Fantasyland? They’re 9 1/2 games back and you cite 4 games that could have gone differently. that would still leave them 5 1/2 back. And that Cespedes HR on Sept 9 was no where near to being a fly ball. It was 413 feet and hit the back of the bullpen. If it wasn’t Cespedes hitting a dinger, it would have been some other Mets schmuck since it was Boo Storen pitching. And that Sept 8 top of the 7th, the Nats pitchers weren’t even coming close to the plate with those walks. Most of those pitches weren’t even borderline calls.

      Maybe don’t trade for #Papelbum? Storen was doing just fine as the closer. Maybe have a deeper bench for inevitable injuries. Maybe use the best relievers in high leverage situations instead of their “roles.”

      This is a joke of a season for a joke of a manager #FireMattWilliams

      • jimbobbillyjoe - Sep 15, 2015 at 1:48 PM

        NYM 79 65
        WSH 77 66

        That is what happens when the Nats win 4 games against the Mets. It is not hard math. Its just regular addition and subtraction.

      • bowdenball - Sep 15, 2015 at 1:52 PM

        Try again, my trolling friend. If we were to somehow change four of the losses to the Mets to wins by changing the outcomes of those four ABs, that would also change four Mets wins to losses, resulting in an eight game difference in the standings.

        Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. The standings as of today are right there in the top right hand corner of the screen. Give the Nats four more wins (and four fewer losses, because that’s how it works, when you win a game you also don’t lose it). Now give the Mets four fewer wins (and four more losses, because when you don’t win a game, you lose it). Let me know if you think the Nats would still be trailing by 5.5 games after that.

        And yes, the Mets have been the better team. And the Nats’ bullpen has been bad. And I don’t like Matt Williams either. But none of that was the point of my post. My post was just an observation on the fickle nature of a baseball season, not an invitation to rant about whatever is on your mind. A rant I would have been happy to ignore if you hadn’t made it so easy by questioning my math while screwing up your own.

      • jfmii - Sep 15, 2015 at 4:29 PM

        No one will ever convince me that the Papelbon trade caused Storen’s collapse. He was lights out the first 2 or 3 times out after the trade.

    • rabbit433 - Sep 16, 2015 at 6:46 AM

      Agreed, and that’s why any first-place team must have Good Luck along with talent.

  3. NatsLady - Sep 15, 2015 at 11:58 AM

    The last two games show that the talent is there, when healthy. And that’s without RZim (who, since the Cespedes trade, has had a HIGHER OPS than Cespedes), and with Desi slumping.

    I wonder if Storen was a bit of a “cancer” in the bullpen, making it clear to all that he felt unfairly treated and perhaps garnering sympathy, or at least attention, that distracted from the main event. Couple that with many, many short outings by starters and you might have a bullpen that’s tired and dispirited. Like, “what’s the point of busting a** if management is just going to shaft you.” I doubt that attitude extended to Janssen, Thornton, or Fister, I’m thinking more of the younger guys.

    As I see it, Thornton was mostly solid, Fister wasn’t much used (injured?), and Janssen pretty much operates on adrenalin–hence he tires quickly and suddenly. Williams asked more of him that he could give, although he WANTED to. Papelbon would have helped the younger guys (he had that reputation in Philly, especially helping Giles) but perhaps there was resistance or indifference. At any rate, the bullpen didn’t have a leader, as it did when Clip led it for so many years.

    • NatsLady - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:07 PM

      I also feel that Roark could have been Stammen quite adequately, and here I fault Williams/Rizzo (hard to tell who exactly was making the decisions). There was too much confusion in how Roark was used, too much holding him in reserve for a spot start. Stammen never made spot starts (although it was discussed, it didn’t happen. And Fister never had a role in the bullpen, he just wasn’t able to put together enough innings to be a starter. So, both before and after Papelbon, the bullpen never settled in to “roles.” We can sneer at roles, but there just wasn’t a sense of each guy knowing what was expected of him and when (with the exception of the lefties).

      • zmunchkin - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:11 PM

        In other words: They were not well managed.

      • alexva6 - Sep 15, 2015 at 1:44 PM

        I’m of the belief that Roark could not maintain his level of performance from the last two years and would not place the blame on how he was handled. if you recall he was getting rocked in spring training and never seemed to enjoy sustained success once the season started. I doubt he will ever regain

        I certainly am not saying that MW knows handle to handle a bullpen or roster because I think his inexperience there shows up as much as his in game management.

      • NatsLady - Sep 15, 2015 at 2:43 PM

        I agree that Roark could not have maintained his level of performance as a starter. Neither could Stammen–which is why he wasn’t one. I feel Roark could have been perfectly adequate as a middle-long reliever.

    • Guapo - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:13 PM

      Not sure I’d call Desmond’s performance a slump. He’s been on a steady offensive freefall since his peak season in 2012. In all categories. It’s ugly, and not a slump. Just the rest of the NL figuring out his weak spots and #20 not making adjustments. No team in the NL with any sense with sign him. Maybe an AL team can squeeze one good year out of him before the AL staffs develop a book on his plate approach (or lack thereof)

      oh and Fire Matt Williams.

      • nats106 - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:21 PM

        “#20 not making adjustments”. Exactly right. He does things his way and nobody else’s. He doesn’t adjust pitch by pitch, at bat by at bat, situation by situation. I know there are a lot of Cardinal haters out there, but if you don’t do it the Cardinal way, you are out of there. That;s how you run a winning organization. Desmond would have been gone from that team 3 years ago in a sell high situation.

        Now that I’ve said that, watch the Cardinals sign him, Desmond get baseball religion and becomes the greatest situational hitter of all time, playing error free baseball all year.

      • NatsLady - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:26 PM

        I wonder how “coachable” Desi is. There are times when he has a beautiful swing, other times when he’s just slinging from the ankles. I keep thinking of him saying all the first half he had to grind it out, “my swing is my swing,” etc. Desi has a lot of good qualities: he’s tough and manages to stay healthy (and that’s a REAL skill), he’s generally alert, goes to see the pitcher on the mound at the first sign of trouble, never says a word out of line in public, and CAN make the occasional good play in the field.

        But he goes into extended slumps (or doesn’t re-adjust to the league adjusting, whatever you want to call it), and he goes into fielding slumps also. He’s still got that gun of an arm, and it’s accurate, which is a blessing. But his range is shrinking and when is the last time you saw a “Desi leap”? Those used occur regularly. It will be interesting to see how teams evaluate him.

      • Guapo - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:36 PM

        I think Desmond is a world class athlete. Like a step or two above your average MLB player in pure, raw athleticism. There are sports where being an elite athlete is enough to have sustained success, but baseball isn’t one of them. Desmond has done very little in the time I’ve watched him to convince me he truly understands baseball. Either he’s chosen to not learn the game, or simply doesn’t have the capacity to learn it at the depth it takes to be a top tier player. Maybe some of both, its hard to know. Reason for his steady decline since 2012 is that, like the rest of us, time starts to take its toll He’s approaching 30 and his athleticism is starting to decline. Players who play deep into their 30s do so not with physical prowess, but with increasing their understanding of the game.

        All indications are that he’s a good guy. Wish him good luck. Hope he has a resurgence elsehwere. So glad he turned down the $90M.

      • bowdenball - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:43 PM

        If this were true- that Desmond is in freefall and he hasn’t been able to make adjustments- then wouldn’t his second half 2015 numbers be as bad or worse than his first half 2015 numbers? They’re not, of course. He’s way up across the board. Seems like he made some adjustments to me.

      • Guapo - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:53 PM

        Absurdly small sample size, but you already know that. He had one very good month in August, between a July where he his .190, striking out twice for each base hit he recorded. On a similar pace for Sept.

        Stats since 2012 below show a long term, steady downward slide. That’s what GMs will be looking at, not one month.

        Year Avg OBP SLG OPS
        2012 0.292 0.335 0.511 0.845
        2013 0.280 0.331 0.453 0.784
        2014 0.255 0.313 0.43 0.743
        2015 0.235 0.288 0.388 0.677

      • bowdenball - Sep 15, 2015 at 1:19 PM

        Desmond has 223 plate appearances. That is not an “absurdly small sample size.”

        First half numbers: .211./.255/.334. BB/K ratio of 0.17.
        Second half numbers: .275/.341/.475. BB/K ratio of 0.30.

        How could be possibly do that if he were incapable of making adjustments? That would be one hell of a run of good luck. He’s walked almost twice as often- just facing pitchers with less control after the all-star break, I guess?

      • nats106 - Sep 15, 2015 at 1:20 PM

        Bowdenball, I’d like to agree with you but I’m not sure that your argument is valid. Players get “hot” all the time. Great example was Lucas Duda when MW decided to walk somebody to get to him.

        Also, any consideration that his hitting improvement is related to the types of pitches he is seeing? Are pitchers making fastball mistakes that his swinging style allows him to mash? There are some posters (and I think you might be one of them) who details put pitch analysis and what guys are hitting in hot zones, etc. I’d like to see if Desmond did in fact, make an adjustment to types of pitches or if he is just getting hot, or getting mistake pitches.

        If you have anything like that, I’d be very interested to see it. TIA

      • bowdenball - Sep 15, 2015 at 1:22 PM

        And by the way I agree that he’s on a long downward trend, and I’m glad the Nats have made arrangements to move on without him. But the idea that he doesn’t make adjustments and learn from the game is completely preposterous. And his second half of 2015 is not the only evidence of him making adjustments and learning … he didn’t just start playing baseball in 2012, you know. He struggled for years before that. Surely you don’t think he was the same player in 2012 and 2013 as he was in 2010 and 2011 and that his improvement was just luck and small sample size?

      • bowdenball - Sep 15, 2015 at 1:56 PM

        nats106-

        The best evidence is that he’s almost doubled his walk rate. He’s clearly changed his approach. It’s not just a question of more balls falling in, although that has also happened. He’s also seeing something better, which has allowed him to take more pitches and to barrel those ones he swings at more often, resulting in more dingers.

        Really the only thing I’m challenging is the idea that he is unable to make adjustments and learn from his mistake. He still has flaws and he’s on a downward trend and it’s possible (likely?) that his August 2015 was just a blip, but it was a blip caused in part by a change in his approach. And like I said he’s done it before- he didn’t just pick up a bat for the first time in 2012. He played a bunch of seasons in the minors and two in the majors before then. Obviously he learned and changed along the way to become the hitter he was in 2012 and 2013.

      • nats106 - Sep 15, 2015 at 2:03 PM

        Good stuff-thanks. The walk rate is a valid point. I recall that being mentioned either by Jaegler/Slowes or FP-can’t remember who, but it was mentioned and your stats back that up. I always wonder if my reactionary assessments have validity or not. While I still have my opinion on this matter, I’m not one to disregard facts and just say they muddy the water as I ford the stream to validate my opinion.

        .

    • NatsLady - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:19 PM

      Yes, they weren’t. I was about to add that. Rizzo put talented guys in the bullpen, lots of talented guys and expected Williams/McCatty to figure out their usage. They didn’t. Rizzo intervened again–you can sense that happening several times after Williams’ screwups. But that’s not Rizzo’s job, and he has PLENTY of other things to do. He actually threw in a good mix of youth, veterans, lefties, righties, power arms, control artists–on paper. Granted there were maybe a few too many auditions in the spring, but that’s the usual pattern, you try guys out to see what they have. But by late May-June the bullpen should have been like an oiled machine. It wasn’t, hence Papelbon.

      • nats106 - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:22 PM

        Exactly right. Some good commentary today until you get to my posts.

      • NatsLady - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:38 PM

        Well, in Williams’ defense–not really defense, but a mitigating factor–it was difficult to establish bullpen roles with the rotation constantly making short starts.

    • bababooeytoyouall - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:51 PM

      Fister wasn’t used much because he’s terrible. His 2014 was very good, but the advanced metrics will tell you that he was very lucky in 2014 and that 2015 is closer to his “true talent” level.

      Storen was fine as the closer. They messed it up when they got #Papelbum. Just wait until next year. #Papelbum will be the one you’ll be calling the “clubhouse cancer”

  4. trfwans - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:06 PM

    Turning four losses to the Mets into Nats wins still leaves them 5.5 games back. What else you got?

    • bowdenball - Sep 15, 2015 at 1:44 PM

      What else do I have? Well, I have an understanding how baseball standings and “games back” work. And as a backup option I have the ability to add and subtract the number “4” from double digit numbers like season win and loss totals for two different teams and consider the results. What else do you got, trfwans?

      • trfwans - Sep 15, 2015 at 2:49 PM

        My bad. Obviously a four game series between two teams will only result in at most a four game swing in the standings. The chink in my mental arithmetic here was the assumption that going into this mythical four game series you created the Nats were 9.5 games back, when really they would have been only 5.5 back. But it’s irrelevant, really, because the Nats lost all those games, and even had they won them there were undoubtedly lucky breaks they got in other games that saved them from losses. Over the course of 162 games, with 19 against each divisional rival, it all tends to even out. And the truth emerges. The Mets really are 9.5 games better than the Nats right now.

      • bowdenball - Sep 15, 2015 at 3:16 PM

        Yup, and I pointed that out in my post earlier- specifically the back to back 1-0 Nats wins over the Mets earlier in the season. There was also the game and series vs the Mets in DC that they won just before the break on late hits by Taylor and Espinosa I believe.

        I was just engaging in an interesting exercise about the fickle nature of the game, especially in division races where head to head games can mean so much and these two teams have played some close ones. I wouldn’t try to argue that the Nats have been better than the Mets and have just been unlucky. They’ve been unlucky to be sure for a number of reasons- late losses, scheduling breaks, injuries to key contributors- but they’ve also been the worse team and it hasn’t really been that close.

  5. philipd763 - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:20 PM

    I don’t care what Werth has done late in the season after the Mets had already closed the door on the Nationals. Overall, he’s batting .229 with 9 home runs and 36 RBIs and that’s not acceptable for a full time outfielder. Too little, too late Jason! Okay, so last night he hit two homers in a meaningless game, in a tiny ball park off of crappy pitching. Big deal!

    • nats106 - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:26 PM

      At least he isn’t celebrating his late irrelevant success. I can’t deal with these football players who do a dance when they sack a QB when their team is down 45-10.

    • ArVAFan - Sep 15, 2015 at 12:30 PM

      Yeah, he’s probably thinking “why didn’t they come up with that ‘body armor’ wrist protection BEFORE I got hit by that pitch?” How different this year would have been for him (maybe the team, too, maybe not).

  6. langleyclub - Sep 15, 2015 at 2:47 PM

    Not about to buy-in to the “we were so close” “or this team is still fighting” claims just because the Nats won an extra inning game against the worst team in the NL (BTW, did you notice the Fighting Phils 3-4 hitters last night? Brian Bogasevic and Aaron Altherr; might be the least accomplished 3-4 hitters in any MLB game this season) That was a AAA team that the Nats struggled to beat and couldn’t hang on to a 6-2 lead against.

    The Nats have proven to be a .500 team, and their record wouldn’t have been that much better had the aging Jayson Werth been able to play the entire season. So, he can lament all he wants, but keeping him around for two years and having to play him the in field is going to be an anchor around this team’s neck through 2017.

    The Mets are going to win the division (or could win the division if they don’t start resting pitchers) by 10+ games. That is domination. With KC’s recent struggles, there is a decent chance that the Mets win the East by more games than any division winner. So, the Nats weren’t that close. Also, the Nats schedule was ridiculously easy as they played or will play) three of the worst teams in baseball 19 times (Marlins, Phils and Braves; that more than 1/3 of the team’s games) that this team may not even have been a .500 team had it played in a more competitive division.

    • bowdenball - Sep 15, 2015 at 3:27 PM

      I don’t think anyone is really making that claim, but a couple of counterpoints:

      1. The Mets played the same schedule. They also get to play the Nats 19 times while the Nats have to play the Mets 19 times 😉

      2. The Nats have caught some tough breaks schedule-wise despite playing the NL East. Most fans will remember that the season started to fall apart out of the all-star break, during a stretch that coincided with the team facing and unbelievable run of starting pitching over 16 games. Here’s the opposing pitcher for the first 16 games out of the break, in order: Bolsinger, Kershaw, Greinke, Harvey, DeGrom, Syndergaard, Liriano, Locke, Burnett, Cole, Fernandez, Kohler, Haren, Harvey, DeGrom, Syndergaard. That’s not normal, in fact in 11 years of following this team and four years of closely following other teams competing with them for the NL East I’ve never seen anything like it.

      3. The injuries were not just plentiful but were to key guys. Simply replacing injured 2015 Strasburg and 2015 Rendon with mostly healthy versions of those players, say for example their 2014 selves, probably makes this a 90+ win team.

  7. janebeard - Sep 15, 2015 at 4:21 PM

    There’s a good article in the NYTimes today about the defining moment in the Mets season. Here it is., though I don’t know how to make it a live link. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/16/sports/baseball/as-time-ticked-down-mets-thought-hard-before-acquiring-yoenis-cespedes.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=mini-moth&region=top-stories-below&WT.nav=top-stories-below

    It will be so sad (to ME!) to see Desi and Jordan go. Denard too. And Drew. Drew will be gone. Whatever bad things you have to say about them, I don’t care. It WILL be a very different team next year, And I’ll really miss these guys. He’s right: too little, too late.

    • nats106 - Sep 15, 2015 at 4:41 PM

      It will be a different team. Of all, I am most sad to see Span go. From the moment he arrived, he was a positive impact to the team. I’ll also miss Zimmerman. I think his demeanor and toughness make him a great acquisition for another team.

      Desmond, I won’t miss. Best of luck in the future with whatever team you play for……

      Storen, I believe he will be an effective closer for some other team. In some ways I think he’s too nice to be a baseball player. In a world of highly paid jerks, Drew is an exception.

      Just my humble opinion.

      • jfmii - Sep 15, 2015 at 5:24 PM

        Storen had a really, really stretch before he broke his thumb. It wasn’t about “choking” and I don’t think it was about not being the closer. He just lost it. I hope he finds it again. Even if he does “find it”, am not sure he can ever be a team’s only closer because of his grossly bad performance against lefties.

      • jfmii - Sep 15, 2015 at 5:42 PM

        Sorry, “grossly bad” too strong and not fair. But not good enough to be a full time closer

    • kkpp3 - Sep 16, 2015 at 6:25 PM

      Interesting NYT article. Interesting too that Alderson hired Billy Beane in Oakland and both DePodesta and Ricciardi worked for Beane. Does that mean the Nats got Moneyballed by the Mets this year?

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