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Mike Morse is Jayson Werth?

March 14, 2010

In a Post in his National Journal blog this week, Adam Kilgore compared Mike Morse at age 27 with Jayson Werth at age 25.  In Adam’s mind, this was a similar point in their careers based on plate appearances.  Here is what he wrote:

Mike Morse: At 27, through 392 plate appearances, Morse has a 106 OPS+. At 25, through 430 plate appearances, Jayson Werth had a 105 OPS+. Mike Rizzo knew that when he traded for Morse.

For anyone following baseball over the last few years, this statement is a real head scratcher. Is Mike Morse the next Jayson Werth?  Let’s look at a few different stats to compare.

As a baseline, we can compare the slash stats (AVG/OBP/SLG).  We’ll use Werth’s numbers from earlier in his career to follow the same line of reasoning as Adam Kilgore. (For those who have not followed Werth’s career, he missed the entire 2006 season due to a wrist injury suffered in 2005 when he was hit by an A.J. Burnett pitch.)  Here’s the line for Mike Morse:

2009 – .250/.291/.481.

Here is the line for Jayson Werth:

2004 – .262/.338/.486

2005 – .234/.338/.374

2007 – .298/.404/.459

There is obviously a big discrepancy in OBP between the two players that can’t be explained by batting average alone.  However, the OBP difference is easily accounted for by looking at plate discipline stats. Both players have a similar strike-out rate of roughly 30%. Their walk rates are entirely different. In 2009, Mike Morse had a walk rate of 5.5%.  Werth’s walk rate:

2004 – 9.2%

2005 – 12.2%

2007 – 14.5%

Those differences alone account for .050-.100 points of OBP. Another way to look at this is the walk to strike out ratio.  Mike Morse 2009 – 0.19, Jayson Werth 2004 0.35, 2005 – 0.42, 2007 – 0.60.

I looked at player replacement value at FanGraphs to see if I was missing something.  Mike Morse’s RAR was 3.7 in 2009.  His WAR was 0.4 which is about what you would expect for a replacement player. Here are Werth’s replacement numbers:

2004 – RAR 23.9, WAR 2.3

2005 – RAR 15.4 WAR 1.5

2007 – RAR 35.7, WAR 3.5

Mike Morse is a good utility player, but there is no evidence that he will ever be Jayson Werth.

This looks like the case of a new Washington Post reporter trying to gain favor with the GM by talking up his brilliant trades…  It would be nice if we got a little more critical analysis from the Post instead of this fluff.

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