Jayson Werth: Best Phillies Outfielder

Alex DanversContributor ISeptember 17, 2009

CHICAGO - AUGUST 12: Jayson Werth #28 of the Philadelphia Phillies watches the flight of the ball against the Chicago Cubs on August 12, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Phillies defeated the Cubs 12-5. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Everybody loves the Flyin’ Hawaiian, and Raul Ibanez got lots of ink for his big first half, but the Sarge has quietly put up the best season of the three Phillies outfielders.


Here’s a quick comparison:


Jayson Werth:


  • .272/.373/.526
  • OPS .899
  • 34 HR, 88 RBI, 90 R, 13 SB
  •  2.5 UZR/150 2009
  • 35.6 UZR/150 2008
  • 37.7 UZR/150 2007


Raul Ibanez:


  • .280/.350/.567
  • OPS .918
  • 31 HR, 86 RBI, 83 R, 4 SB
  • 5.1 UZR/150 2009
  • -10.4 UZR/150 2008
  • -23.3 UZR/150 2007


Shane Victorino:


  • .298/.364/.456
  • OPS .820
  • 10 HR, 58 RBI, 94 R, 23 SB
  • -4.0 UZR/150 2009
  • 7.8 UZR/150 2008
  • 19.1 UZR/150 2007 (played predominantly RF)


The race is close, particularly between Ibanez and Werth. They are neck and neck in OPS, with Ibanez holding a slight edge. However, this is the time to point out that OPS is a flawed stat, since it weights OBP and SLG equally. In fact, OBP is worth more than twice as much as SLG, pushing Werth’s line, with it’s .373 OBP, just ahead of Ibanez in terms of rate of production.


Werth beats Ibanez in all counting stats, mostly because he has played more. Both players are just north of fragile, with a tendency to miss several games each year to minor injuries. A key to Werth’s success this year has been his ability to keep stepping in the batter’s box.


Victorino holds an edge over Werth in runs and stolen bases, but, since he is the leadoff man, that is as much a matter of role as of talent. Werth has wheels enough to steal some bases, too, while his power makes him a more complete player.


I included fielding stats from the past three seasons to make a point about general fielding. Usually Werth is a gold glove-caliber right fielder, while Ibanez is losing his team games with his glove work. But this season Ibanez has improved to above average, while Werth has regressed to just about average.


Personally, I find fielding statistics a little raw. The best way to measure a player’s innate skill with a glove is by aggregating data over several seasons. This comparison is about this year, and I don’t want to cherry-pick data, but it is worth noting that, while Ibanez is better this year, the general trend favors Werth.


WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is exactly the sort of omni-stat needed to settle a debate like this. WAR takes everything into consideration, and it names a single winner.


Here’s how they stack up in WAR:


Victorino: 3.3

Ibanez: 3.8

Werth: 4.1


If you hadn’t guessed from the rest of the article, Werth wins.


People know Werth is a good player, but it seems that people don’t realize just how good. As MLB.com beat writer Todd Zolecki points out, Werth is some kind of streaky, hitting “homers in bunches.”


Does that make it easier to overlook him? Maybe because you don’t see him tearing it up in the box scores every day, you forget how good he is? Or maybe, without that flamboyant red goatee, there’s not much to distinguish him?


Most likely, people don’t know him because this will be his first full season.


For the first time, Werth has 500 at bats this season.


And now that he has, the Phillies are really getting to see what they have.


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