Burrell Goes Yard, Phillies Don't
Jayson Werth is one of the most patient hitters in baseball.
He entered last night’s game against the Rays averaging 4.48 pitches per plate appearance to lead the National League and rank second in the Majors. That is second out of 164 hitters who qualify for the statistic.
Here is the top five:
- Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox, 4.53
- Werth, Phillies, 4.48
- Luis Castillo, Mets, 4.37
- Nick Swisher, Yankees, 4.37
- Adam Dunn, Nationals, 4.34
So it seemed especially surprising when Werth swung at a first-pitch fastball from Rays right-hander Matt Garza in the fourth inning in a 7-1 loss. Garza had just walked Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to load the bases with nobody out.
The conventional wisdom is that Werth should have taken at least the first pitch, but he swung instead and hit into a 5-2-3 double play. Matt Stairs struck out swinging to end the inning.
“The thing that I was thinking about is that he just walked the bases loaded,” Werth said. “You’ve got two lefties behind me (Stairs and Greg Dobbs), so he’s going to try to get ahead. He’s going to try to get ahead with the fastball, and it’s probably going to be in. At least I was looking in. I got the pitch that I was looking for. The location. I just beat it into the ground.
“Would I do it again? Yeah, probably. I’d probably try to put a better swing on it. I went and looked at it (on video). It wasn’t that it was a bad swing. It was a good pitch. It was a strike. It’s what I was looking for. He beat me. I thought about it all game, and I really think if I had the same opportunity I would have done it again.”
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel offered his take.
“Sometimes he takes fastballs … he’ll take two in a row sometimes that look right down the middle,” he said. “I have no problem with him swinging at a fastball, but when you hit it you hit it like it’s 3-0. You hit through the ball. I’m sure he wasn’t trying to hit the ground ball to third, but I have no problem with him swinging at it. But where it went, it was just bad for us.
“As a matter of fact, if you want to know the truth, once he’s had at-bats and once he’s worked a guy an at-bat or two, I would like to see him swing more at first-pitch fastballs.”
Werth had an explanation, and Manuel had no problem with it. Jimmy Rollins had no explanation why he flipped the ball to second base in the eighth inning instead of throwing the ball to first to get slow-footed Pat Burrell at first base.
“Usually, I just pick up and go to first automatically — just because the ball is hit soft towards the middle and I’m over on the pull side,” Rollins said. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I really don’t know. It’s an automatic play to go to first. … Every once in a while, those plays happen. And when it happens, it’s like, ‘Gosh, darn it.’”
Rollins is hitless in his last 19 at-bats. He is hitting .135 (7-for-52) with two homers and seven RBIs since he returned to the leadoff spot after hitting sixth June 7-9.