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What Jayson Would Really Be Werth to the Tigers

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The third concern is that Werth is right-handed. So what, you say? So was Magglio (and we have to assume that if Dombrowski signs Werth it is to replace Magglio Ordonez). We all know that the Tigers have had a right-leaning lineup for quite a while now. It isn’t just that we have more righties than lefties; it’s that our best hitters have been right-handed. Last year the Tigers OPS against left-handers was .776, 50 points above the AL average and trailing only the Yankees and Red Sox. Against right-handed pitchers that OPS fell to .742, only 7th best in the AL. Most teams hit better against righties, not us. The problem: about 70% of your plate appearances over a full season come against right-handed pitchers, so mauling lefties isn’t the best of strategies. Over his career Jayson Werth has R-L splits a bit on the extreme side, with an OPS against lefties 137 points higher than against righties – compare that to 61 points for Miguel Cabrera and 93 points for Ordonez. The direction we want to move is diminishing that relative weakness against right-handed pitching and signing Werth would move us in the opposite direction.

The fourth concern is that Werth is coming off a career year fueled by an unusually high BABIP. I know he’s the kind of guy who swings and misses a lot but hits the ball hard when he hits it at all. His career BABIP of .333 is not by any means anomalous for that type of hitter. In 2010, however, he bested that mark by 20 points (which still didn’t drag his BA above .300). He’s much more likely to duplicate his ’09 production next year than he is last years, but he got hot at just the right time. These things have an outsized impact on contract negotiations and somebody will undoubtedly wind up overpaying for him as a result.

The fifth concern is that we aren’t likely to get the production out of Jayson Werth that the Phillies got. I’m not saying this because he’s past his prime, or because the AL has better pitching than the NL – though both those things might also be true. I’m saying this because Jayson Werth loves Citizens Bank Ballpark, and he isn’t likely to ever see it again if he signs with the Tigers. I can’t say how he would like Comerica Park (since he has never played a game here before), though both parks are roughly “equal” in terms of overall scoring. Nonetheless the two parks are very different in their dimensions and very different in how they affect home runs. And what we do know about CoPa, for sure, is that it is not Citizens Bank Ballpark. Over the whole of his career Werth has put up a .913 OPS in Philadelphia, and an .809 OPS everywhere else. Last year Werth had a .999 OPS in Philly compared to an .838 OPS on the road. If we forecast 2011 Werth in a Tigers’ uniform using his road numbers in 2010, he still leads the league in doubles, but he only hits 18 home runs and only drives in 68. His larger number of strikeouts on the road probably has nothing to do with the ballparks, rumor has it umpires are more likely to call a marginal pitch a strike if the home team threw it, but the lack of home run power is probably all park-induced. Remember, last year was a career year with a lot of lucky hits making it through the gaps. So if we cut the Ks for road Werth, and cut his BABIP as well, an .840 OPS in 2011 seems a fair estimate.

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