Throwing Some Cold Water on Your Vance Worley Boner

Screen Shot 2011-07-21 at 12.22.37 PM

UPDATE: Of course as I wrote this Buster Olney Tweeted the Phillies would prefer to trade Worley in a Hunter Pence deal. Timing!

Oh no! How could he?

Let’s first get a few things out of the way: Vance Worley has been nothing short of incredible. In a year when the Phillies have the best pitching staff in their history, Worley has somehow emerged as one of the top subplots of the season. He is only the second Phillies pitcher since 1902 (!!!) to make six consecutive starts going five or more innings with only one earned run or fewer. The other guy is Steve Carlton. Smoke on that for a second.

Further, he has displayed remarkable composure, plus sweat glands, and a sweet mohawk. There’s no reason not to champion everything he’s done so far.

But let’s be real for just a moment. I will duck the tomatoes…. now!

Not entirely unlike Kyle Kendrick and J.A. Happ, who both induced city-wide wood during their first full Major League seasons, Worley is benefitting from the unknown.

The first time he made his third appearance against a team, the New York Mets on May 29th, he got shelled… though he did pitch well against them on July 15th.

However, you can’t hold inexperience – or newness – against a guy without backing it up with some facts and anecdotes. To do so, I’m going to argue some the points made in this SB Nation article about Worley’s strengths:

1) Hard, tailing fastball.

Not really. While Worley does have a consistent tail on his max-92 MPH heater, there’s little to no variety between his three different fastballs.

Take a look at this pitch chart from yesterday, which was arguably his best outing of the season: 

Worley_chart

His four-seam, two-seam, and cut fastballs (green, light and dark blue dots) are very similar. All three range in speed from 88-to-92 MPH and they all have a tail. Unfortunately, most of them broke about three-to-five inches, movement that pales in comparison to top talents like Cliff Lee and Jake Peavy.

Looking at Lee’s start against the Cubs on Tuesday night, a game in which he didn’t have his best stuff, Lee still managed to consistently throw two and four-seam fastballs (green and light blue dots) that tailed between seven and nine inches. In fact, only two fastballs had less than a five-inch tail. His cutters (dark blue dots) broke one-to-three inches in the opposite direction. Keep in mind, Lee is a lefty, so everything is reversed here:

Lee_chart

When you look at an average Jake Peavy outing, from June (three runs in seven innings against the Cubs), you again see more consistent pitches than what Worley throws:

Peavy_chart

There is a sharp line differentiating his two and four-seam fastballs (green and light blue dots). In fact, only a handful of them broke less than five inches.

Even Roy Halladay, who was melting on Monday, displayed more consistency and differentiation between his pitches:

Halladay_chart

So, Worley’s hard, tailing fastball really isn't that hard (92 MPH) and doesn’t tail all that much (three-to-five inches). He does, however, benefit from what seems to be late life on them. What little movement there is, does appear to come in the last few feet before home plate. That’s very difficult to measure, though.

2) Sharp breaking ball.

Sort of.

His slider (orange dots), the breaking pitch he throws most often, broke around one-to-three inches, which is on par with the sliders of the Timmies: Lincecum and Hudson (who both pitched last night):

Lincecum_chart
Hudson_chart

But his curveball (purple dots), which he rarely throws, isn’t very good. It breaks five inches with a roughly seven-inch drop. Here’s a real curveball:

Lee_chart

Lee has a consistent seven-to-nine inch break on his curveball, to go along with its seven-inch drop. It also has a 4 MPH larger delta between it and the fastball. Speed matters, too.

While Worley’s slider has been consistent and – I’d argue – his best pitch, he doesn’t possess a devastating breaking ball. Guys like Lincecum and Hudson have a plethora of other pitches at their disposal to differentiate their sliders. Worley doesn’t have that repertoire, yet.

3) Effectively wild.

No, he’s just not accurate. His strike out to walk ratio is less than 2-to-1. Yesterday was the first time he pitched more than seven innings, because his pitch count is usually well above 100 by that point. 

Let’s face it, the Cubs mailed it in after the second inning yesterday. They were losing by five and it was 100 degrees. They weren’t exactly working the count.

The same mentality that helped the Cubs have some success against Halladay and Lee – swinging early – hurt them against Worley. 

While his “wildness” has likely helped him when facing lineups for the first and second time, teams will quickly learn to take a lot more pitches. Effectively wild is only good when you’re Randy Johnson and batters have piss dripping down their legs every time you go into the windup.

We’ll keep going. SABR nerd alert!

Worley’s BABIP, the batting average on all balls put into play, is .254. Normally for pitchers, that number is between .290 and .300. This means Worley has benefitted from some luck. Over time, it is expected that number will creep closer to .300. More hits, yo.

To be fair, we’re comparing Worley to some of the best pitchers in the game here. But that’s a comparison his 2.02 ERA has earned. The point is, Worley’s repertoire is not near the level of those guys: He has an an inconsistent fastball with average movement and speed, a plus slider, and a virtually non-existent curveball or changeup. He walks a lot of batters (2, 4, 2, 4, 2 in his last five starts) and strikes out very few (3, 4, 5, 6, 4, 7 in those starts). When balls are put into play, opponents' average is well below what we would normally expect (the luck factor). And he throws a lot of pitches.

Worley has done more than anyone could have asked for this year, but, when taking into account his pitch repertoire, accuracy, and luck, we see that his 2.02 ERA is a bit misleading. Not all dominant starts are created equal. 

Let's just pump the brakes before we beatify him.

All graphs courtesy of Brooks Baseball

50 Comments

  1. Let’s pump the brakes and trade him for Hunter Pence (Buster Olney just tweeted about this)

  2. 3 Finger Lenny

    July 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    get vance the f outtta here while he has some value & put him in a package for Hunter Pence.
    He’s pitching great but so did JA Happ & Double K when they 1st got called up.

  3. cya! trade for pence while it’s still hot! pence is much younger than Beltran and has 2 years of club control..not to mention he has 61 RBI and a .313 avg for the ASTROs

  4. Sell high. We need to get rid of him maybe not before the trade deadline, but I think during this off-season we need to trade him for some prospects or an established right-handed bat because when he starts facing teams for the fifth and sixth times, they’re gonna have him figured out and he will not be nearly as lucky.

  5. send that slut to houston asap

  6. Its funny, the same people saying trade him now, will be the same ones bitching when Kyle Kendrick or Joe Blanton is pitching in a clutch game in the playoffs.

  7. please trade Worley now while everyone thinks he is Cy Young and get us a true ALL STAR HUNTER PENCE!!

  8. SEE YA WORLEY! In steps…………. Mr. Pence

  9. @BudsNSubs….not if we get Pence. I’ll trade my 5th starter for a guy who would instantly become the best hitter on the team (going by avg. alone) any day of the week.

  10. Keep worley at least through the season. If he’s getting some help from his first run through the league, who would we be to not ride that success? I personally think he’s improved over his short stay, keep him. At worst, I see him becoming average.

  11. Wow Kyle, looks like you made some people’s day today putting things in perspective on Worley. I like the kid, and he’s going to be cheap for a couple of years, and allow the Phils to go out and get a new SS or LF, or resign Cole. So I think he should stay, the offense is going to be fine. Utley is rounding into midseason form finally, and Brown is getting better and has a good eye.
    But one thing to think about, how about the impact of having Chooch as his battery mate (even though it was Schneider yesterday) and the other pitchers to learn from and the impact that has. He’s learning how to pitch from the best…

  12. Make this happen…then sit back and enjoy a Kamala Burger with fries

  13. Trade him. You always have to look at it this way: Will he be pitching in the playoffs? In a five game series he never sees any game time unless it’s in relief. In a seven game series he likely won’t see time either of Little Roy comes back and pitches this year. Pence (or place trade rumor here) will likely be in the lineup every playoff game and make an impact on the team instantly. Worley has been great, but we’ve seen this before (Wolf, Happ, Kendrink, hell even Tyler Green back in the day). The numbers show he won’t continue to be effective so dump him now while he has value. Name a pitcher other than Gavin Floyd that is having success after the Phils traded him after being considered an untouchable pitching prospect. And.. they chose to keep Hamels over Floyd. How has that worked out?

  14. Will he be pitching in the playoffs?
    If Oswalts back stays in the state it’s in… Yes.

  15. My Vance Worley boner is as stiff as ever.
    How can you trade a pitcher with a proven track record, with demonstrated ability to improve, and who is benefiting from arguably the best mentoring on one MLB team…
    when said team’s third ace has ongoing back issues and the fifth starter has a persistently cranky elbow?
    Yes Worley regression will occur but he’ll make the adjustments he needs to make. And Buster Olney is just a twat who invents gossip for shits and grins. Reuben isn’t letting Worley out of his clutches, trust me.
    @Mike Griffiths:
    Ryan Vogelsong is doing pretty well for the Giants this year. This is what Hamels said about him:
    “Seeing him in spring training, it was like, ‘This guy is good. Why hasn’t he been in the big leagues?’ ” Hamels said. “Now he’s actually proving to everybody [that] sometimes it just takes a little bit longer for everything to click. Things are clicking and now we have to play against him.”
    (July 12, 2011 philly.com matt gelb story)

  16. I say trade him… Kendrick pitched better his first season than he has since… in 2009 and parts of last season, Happ was said to be a pitcher who’d develop into a Hamels or Lee-type pitcher, and now look at him. You have to play this game first and foremost for the now. Kendrick and Blanton are both suitable number 4 starters. If Oswalt makes it back for Doctober, you won’t have to worry about your bottom-starter anyway. You CAN NOT sit there and bitch and complain about not having a RH bat, and then cry when they give up something that might have been to get one.
    I personally didn’t think the Phillies needed a righty. I think Mayberry will suffice if given a solid shot. But, if you can get Pence in here, or even rent Beltran for the remainder of the year, DO IT!

  17. Great Points Mike Griffiths.
    Hunter Pence is way worth giving up Vance Worley.

  18. Wow.. Hes nothing compared to “Jake Peavy”??? Check how Peavy and his “movement” are doing.
    Kid is a bulldog and isnt afraid like Kyle Kendrick and JA Happ.
    Im not 100% opposed to trading him in a package for Pence, but remember your comments in the NLCS when Kendrick is pitching game 4 down 2-1 to SF, and Pence is 1-14 in the series.

  19. For true… What kind of #4 and #5 pitchers do Phillies fans think the rest of the league has? With the exception of 2 or 3 teams, most teams are lucky to have TWO exceptional pitchers in their rotation. We have three, four when Oswalt is healthy. Kendrick isn’t nearly as horrible as people make him out to be. He’s easily a #4 or 5 starter.

  20. Nevermind any Worley trade arguments for the moment… Since when did the shade of black become sih-nah-nih-muss with the colour of “dark blue”?
    Kyle Boy, I think either you’ve gone colour blind, or you’ve been abusing the sauce again.
    Hahahahahahahah

  21. Worley’s value will never be this high again, RAJ has to strike a deal with Easy Ed Wade while the irons hot. I could shake a tree & a Worley or Happ will fall.
    BTW Worley is about 2 years away from eating himself out of baseball. I hear he’s constantly ordering 30 wings with cheese fries on the side a few times a week

  22. Whats up with these charts? Don’t two seam fastballs tail away (opposite of cutters) instead of in?

  23. PS Laddie Boy,
    Real manly men don’t get fazed when cold water gets thrown on their boners.*
    *: They just break-out the viagra.
    Hahahahahah

  24. Is there any way to see those graphs of Cliff Lee’s pitches from his rookie year? I’m just wondering how much room for improvement there is for a rookie pitcher that is pitching extremely well right now. I understand that while Worley is benefiting from his first time facing teams, he’s still pitching well. You can’t blame it all on him being a rookie. All pitchers have to improve through their first few years in the league before they have the stuff that they’ll be famous for. If we assume every pitcher we bring up is just getting lucky or benefiting from being a rookie, we’ll never keep one around to find out if they can become the real deal.

  25. ThePhillyFlash

    July 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    I would agree that Worley could well be the second coming of J.A. Happ or Kyle Kendrick in that he’s taking advantage of being the unknown quantity, the mystery meat on the Phillies’ pitching menu. Once he’s been around the NL and teams have seen enough of him to learn his tendencies, his strengths and weaknesses, he could go from awesome to awful in the blink of an eye. Sure, Worley might well be great, but can we afford to wait around and find out?
    Meanwhile, Pence fills all our most pressing needs on offense, which, despite what we saw yesterday in Wrigley, is still annoyingly inconsistent. Consider this: Who’s to say the Braves won’t make a play for Pence themselves, if but for no other reason than to keep him out of Philly? Sounds crazy? Maybe, but Atlanta would be foolish if they didn’t at least try to prevent a division rival from getting stronger. As much as I like Worley, if he can be had for Pence, then, let’s get this done!

  26. In my fandom of Worley, I failed to realize that it’s impossible for a good pitcher to grow out of the Farm System, how silly of me. Of course, every minor leaguer called up is going to turn into Kendrick!

  27. The next person who recommends a trade with me involved is going to get a fastball under the chin

  28. Wow I think you folks are nuts. I want Pence here as well but I’d sooner give up Brown. Probably the most hyped prospect in a generation, Brown is either not being groomed right or he is not all that he is in AAA.

  29. Vance stays. It makes me sick to my stomach to think of Kendrick pitching in the play-offs. I’d rather see Dom Brown go. The pitching rotation is in such a good groove right now, why shake that up? We don’t know what kind of Oswalt we’re gonna get back and isn’t Fat Joe done for the season? Why are we so quick to dismiss Worley and get rid of him? Who’s to say he’s gonna turn out like Happ or Kendrick? He’s surrounded by the best pitching staff in baseball right now. He’s gonna learn from them and get better if he stays around long enough to get the opportunity. Haters…

  30. 5th pitchers don’t start in the playoffs

  31. I agree with Nicole. Keep Worley. Forget about Pence & go after Cabrera. There are several players out there who are either available now or will soon be available who’ll produce just as well and will cost less than Pence. I wouldn’t also be adverse to trading Brown & Mayberry while their values are high. Sorry but i don’t see much further upside in either of them.

  32. @kathy. but we don’t know what’s going to happen with oswalt. look at the last time he came back from DL. it wasn’t pretty. if he comes back truly healthy and is pitching good then there are no worries but as of right now i’m not sold. and then if we get rid of worley?? and joe blanton is done for the season??? if that’s the case then we’re looking at halladay, lee, hamels, kendrick??? that last name just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. however, i do feel the first 3 could carry us just fine.

  33. hep- they’re supposed to, yes. his don’t, he really doesn’t have a “cutter.” keep in mind, some are righties and some are lefties, so these charts are flipped for those guys.
    and yes, many rookies don’t have impressive charts, but they also don’t have 2.02 eras like worley. the point is, as “great” as he’s pitched, it’s more a consequence of newness and luck than “stuff.” i’d imagine you will still see some off the chart pitches from guys like lincecum and lee from their rookie years.

  34. Carlos K Pena

    July 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    This kid is the real deal..

  35. With the question marks around Oswalt (retiring) and Hamels (Free agency)..I think it would be best to keep all options open. Vance could be the Phils number three in a year or two.

  36. @Steve Reber
    There’s no way the Phillies let Hamels walk to free agency. They’ll lock him up this offseason, for sure. If they let him walk, it’d be almost as crazy as the Flyers trading their leading goal scorer and their captain on the same day.

  37. ….. wait…. what?

  38. Here’s what I would like to see…Halladay’s rookie season pitch chart. Was he in command of the ball like he is now? Or did he develop those pitches through a career? How about Hamels circa 2008? He had two pitches then, and throws a much better game now. I say, of all the options out there, keeping him to work with and learn from Roy and Cliff appears to have some great potential outcomes. Trading him now for Pence would solve an issue in the moment, but the pitching staff isn’t exactly overflowing with talent beyond the big 4 when it comes to starters. And two of them may likely not be here next year. (Hopefully Cole joins the Cliff Lee bandwagon and chooses Philly over bigger $$$ somewhere else, but that we will have to wait and see)

  39. @Mike Meade
    Halladay was bad early in his career. He got sent to the minors, figured it out and became Doc. Cole did only have two pitches, but when you have a good fastball and a devastating changeup, you can get outs. Vance doesn’t have a devastating pitch.
    Yes, Vance probably could learn from the Aces, and that would be great. But he likely won’t be on their level (how many ML pitchers do similar to what Vance is doing in their first go round the league? answer: A LOT. How many turn into aces? Very few).
    Trading him now for Pence would solve an issue in the moment… and the next two years. That’s big when you don’t have corner outfielders you can count on right now.
    The pitching staff IS stocked with talent. It’s just all at the single A level, on track to be major league ready at around the time… that the Aces are dwindling. The pitching, right now, is set up pretty well.
    Two of the aces “may likely not be here”? Cole WILL be here. He’s under control for next year. And they WILL lock him up. They know they have to. Cole knows they have to. Everyone knows they have to. It’ll get done.

  40. “i’d imagine you will still see some off the chart pitches from guys like lincecum and lee from their rookie years.”
    You would imagine? Well wouldn’t it have been good journalism to find that out BEFORE writing this article based on….wait what was this based on again? Kyle Scott’s intuition? Your entire argument is seemingly based on the idea that Worley will not develop, at all. That the pitcher he is today is the pitcher he will always be(with your main evidence being Kyle Kendrick ad J.A. Happ…selective,short, and narrow memory there). Then you compare him to the best pitchers in the game and this is more evidence why he isn’t that good? SHOCK! He isn’t as good as Halladay or Lee right now? NOPE! He’s a rookie! I want Pence as well, but the whole time reading this I had to keep asking myself, what the hell is his actual point?

  41. cant trade him. so were looking at pitchers, only in philadelphia who were really top notch at first but than failed. im pretty sure it was just about this time in Kendricks rookie year he floundered, mid-july into august. Happ was decent, 4th starter for some reason everyone wants 5 aces in the rotation because that will work fantastically, than everyone will bitch because were not getting any hits because we spent all our money on pitching. heres a young guy making little cap hit money, and is doing above average and would be great to have in the later part of the season over kendrick or blanton, maybe even Oswalt depending on his back. i say keep him let him learn under halladay, lee, and hamels. if you fans were GM’s you would have sent Schmidt packing when he struggled when he was younger, or halladay when he wasnt pitching well. Worley is pitching well, and on top of that has the ability to learn, we dont know how he could work in the offseason, if he trains hard and learns from the other 3 than he could be the next big thing, so think about having halladay, lee, hamels, than a apprentice under them pitching for the next 3+ years before you trade him.

  42. Kendrick and Happ started out as good pitchers not because they were an unknown to opponents but because they were good. It’s Dubee’s coaching that’s ruined them. Case in point: Since that on-field row with Dubee, Kendrick has been performing somewhat better (assuming he’s not taking much coaching from Dubee now). Myers got better after he left. Happ, although not in good form this year, still florished last year after going to the Astros (maybe their pitching coach this year is a Dubee protojay?). I’m sure the 4 Aces don’t need Dubee’s help so that’s why they stay in form. So before the Phillies consider trading Vanimal let’s think about axing Dubee before he ruins the young man too. I say shopping Brown for a decent RHB is the best option right now, given the uncertainty with Lil’ Roy and Fat Joe’s dissposition.

  43. All this trade Worley talk makes me ill. He’s a young and cheap pitcher that I believe the Phils should keep. With Fat Joe and Oswalt being question marks it would be stupid to deal him away. Plus we don’t know if Hamels will sign a deal with us or not.

  44. Oh My god this post by Kyle is the STUPIDEST post anyone has ever made about anything having to do with baseball.
    Thank God we have Kyle and his charts to PROVE that Rookie Vance Worely is NOT as Good as Halladay is …. when Halladay in his prime.
    Does anyone really need CHARTS to KNOW that Worely in his 1st season in the MLB is NOT as Good as Halladay or Lee or Peavy or Kershaw of Linecum who ARE NOW IN THEIR PRIME ?…..
    oh my god what an Idiot post from Kyle

  45. This Vance Worley discussion needs to stop. He’s not that talented for fans to be arguing one way or another. We need to trade him, so here we go…
    1. Our biggest need, which everyone can agree upon, is finding a right handed corner outfielder. The production coming out of those positions has been inadequate. For the entire season people have been bitchin’ about the lack of offense, so lets address that need.
    2. Vance Worley is at best a 3rd starter in MLB. He happens to be the 4th on this rotation. If he was throwing in the mid 90’s with a good breaking ball, I would probably be more inclined to keep him, but he doesn’t. Worley was a late round draft pick a couple years ago. He was not a 1st round pick, groomed to be a top of the rotation pitcher.
    3. Vance Worley is a combo of Kyle Kendrick and JA Happ (with reckspecs and a mohawk). Like JA Happ he hides the ball well and is not easily picked up by the hitter out of the hand. And like both of the previously mentioned pitchers, he does not have electric stuff. Now look at what Kyle Kendrick and JA Happ have become. Kendrick is at best a 5th starter, but probably more effective as a long man in the bullpen. Happ is a middle rotation pitcher with a 5+ ERA. Last year, people acting like trading Happ was trading Sandy Koufax. Get real. And Vance Worley is not Greg Maddux. He has an average array of fastballs and an average breaking ball. That’s not to say he couldn’t develop another pitch and progress over the next couple years, but I don’t care about the next years (more on that later).
    4. When we make the playoffs Vance Worley will not pitch. If Roy Oswalt comes back (hopefully) Worley might not even make the postseason roster. If Oswalt does not come back, at best, Worley would need to pitch 2 games. 2 games. And if we can’t win games with our 3 horses (RH, CL, CH), then we don’t deserve to win anything.
    5. If any team is willing to give me a righthanded starting corner outfielder for Worley and another low level prospect, its absolute no brainer. And here is why…
    The Phillies have committed so much to this season, that they have to win a World Series for the season to be a success. So I want to maximize my chances of winning by adding an outfielder that can play everyday, not having a 4th. The future is now, next year is next year.
    I can spit in the wind and find a 4th starter.

  46. Everyone who wants him to say “well don’t you think keeping him he’d be mentored by the best rotation in the game and that’ll make him even better?” … well, even if that’s so, they could just simply use that same mentoring on Kyle Kendrick. it’s not like Vance is the only person on the team who can be mentored. You’ll all love Hunter Pence once you see how he plays, especially considering that last year his best months were august and september (10 HR 39 RBI)

  47. And someone is eating crow today. Boner is still hard.

  48. This is one of the dumbest posts I’ve ever seen. You can’t compare Worley to Happ and Kendrick, he’s a different pitcher. You also can’t compare him to the top pitchers in the league, he’s a rookie, all these guys are in their prime and have experience. Worley has gotten and will continue to get better and better, you have to keep him. We’ll have 2 open spots next season, and nobody else is ready for the majors, and we can’t afford to go out and get another big name ace. Let’s do something different for a change: Grow our own. As for him not having a devastating pitch, that’s bullshit. I’ve seen him absolutely freeze left-handed batters with the same pitch. He’s 23, making the league minimum, and working with 3 of the best pitchers in the league. Give the guy a chance.
    As for everybody thinking the Phillies need another bat, take a look at the record. The Phillies have a 2 game lead on the Red Sox, 4 game lead on the Yankees, and everybody else is 6 or more games back. They’ll be just fine without Pence. I don’t even agree with giving up Brown for Pence. Brown’s also a rookie, give him a chance to prove he belongs there.
    I believe the Phillies can win the world series with the team they currently have. Don’t change it if it’s working. And who cares if the Braves get Pence? One guy isn’t going to make that much of a difference, unless that guy is Utley.

  49. Worley also throws 6 different pitches, and throws them effectively. You can’t get rid of a player like that. There’s so much potential there.

  50. Phillies proved that they are smarter than all of you. Got Pence without trading Worley. I think keeping Worley and acquiring Pence will pay large dividends in the playoffs. Worley is a very solid pitcher with strong stuff. Let’s face it guys, he will be a 4th or 5th starter, he doesn’t need to be like Roy or Cliff.

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