Monday, December 6, 2010

Jayson Werth over Adam Dunn: An Analysis

Major League Baseball's winter meetings hadn't even officially begun when the Nats started the meetings off with a huge bang by signing Jayson Werth to a 7-year, $126 million contract. This blockbuster deal will keep Jayson in a Nationals uniform until he turns 39. That's a long, long time. Especially when the Nats would have had to offer Adam Dunn fewer years and less money per year. So, was it the right call?

Initially, if you look at some generic stats, you could very easily lose it if you're a die hard Nats fan. Adam Dunn basically guarantees you at least 38 home runs every year, while Jayson Werth has never hit more than 36, and even that was probably an anomaly. Remember, Werth was hitting in Citizens Bank Park in half of his games played in the last 4 years. Furthermore, Dunn knocked in more than 100 runs in each of the last 3 years, while Werth has gotten 67, 99, and 85 in the last three seasons, respectively.

But we have to look beyond those numbers and dig into some other stats to find some of Werth's true value. Let's look at them in bullet-form. (If you're looking for a Sabermetric analysis, you're not gonna get it here. We're looking at straight up production.):
  • Werth is capable of hitting near .300 (see partial season 2007 and 2010) while Adam Dunn hasn't hit above .270 in his entire career.
  • Werth has stolen 20 bases in 2 of the last 3 years while Dunn hasn't stolen a single base since 2008.
  • Jayson Werth hit 26 doubles in 2009 and 46 in 2010, while Dunn hit 29 in 2009, and 36 in 2010.
  • While Dunn hits a lot of home runs, Werth's OPS in 2010 was .921 vs. Dunn's .892. Very comparable numbers.
  • Werth has scored 73, 98, and 106 runs in the last 3 years, while Dunn has scored 79, 81, and 85 in those same seasons.

Sure, Werth's higher runs scored numbers are partially (mostly?) due to the fact that he played for the Phillies, while Dunn played for the Nationals, Diamondbacks, and Reds during the same time. But you certainly can't argue with the stolen bases that will put Werth in scoring position more often, or with his ability to make extra base hits with his speed, or with the higher OPS last year.

Other factors besides offensive prowess certainly played into the decision, although the people over at FanGraphs believe that Werth and Dunn are far more equal offensively than people believe. Jayson Werth is clearly a better defensive player than Dunn. Though I am one of those that believe that Dunn was a significantly improved defensive player in 2010, you can't rule out the fact that Werth is a Gold Glove caliber outfielder. In 2009, Werth had the highest range factor per 9 innings and range factor per game of any right fielder in the National League. He has the kind of range to be a center fielder when a certain #1 overall draft pick is ready to come to the majors (spoiler: it's Bryce Harper).

Werth and Dunn are essentially the same age (Dunn is 6 months younger), so why offer him the long term deal and not Dunn? Size certainly played a factor. Adam Dunn is football player sized. He weighs nearly 300 lbs., which has a negative affect on a players physical ability over time. Werth, at 6'5" and only 220 lbs., is at a weight that will give his body more longevity in the game than the Big Donkey. He is more nimble, which gives the team a significant offensive and defensive advantage. Despite their similar ages, Werth is simply a younger player.

Do these thing justify 3 more years than Dunn was asking for? Does it justify the average of $18 million/year that Werth will be earning? It's truly impossible to know until he hits year 4 of this deal. But one thing is for sure, for the next 4 years while Jayson Werth plays in DC and Adam Dunn hits in Chi-Town, there will be endless comparisons in their stats. I'm thrilled with the sign, all things considered, and I think that a Zimmerman, Werth, Willingham 3-4-5 provides a different kind of punch, that's not necessarily bad. Now if the Nats now take this opportunity to unload the Hammer, we'll be having a different conversation right here on Capitol Baseball.

The great part about all this for Nats fans is that Mike Rizzo said "We're not finished," and he may have meant it according to Mark Zuckerman in his post this morning. The Nationals will be covered in the national sports media for the next few days, which is almost never bad. Keep checking in with Nats Insider for the breaking news and here at Capitol Baseball for analysis of any future moves.

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