What to Expect from Vance Worley

Vance Worley has filled in admirably for the Phillies while Joe Blanton and Roy Oswalt sit on the disabled list. The young right-hander has made nine starts with overall great results, and has gone between the starting rotation, the bullpen, and Triple-A Lehigh Valley as requested by the front office.

Overall, Worley has a 2.15 ERA in over 54 innings of work, averaging nearly seven strikeouts and four walks per nine innings. With his goggles and easily-manipulable nicknames (my favorite is Vance Vance Revolution), he has garnered a fan following and a push for National League Rookie of the Year.

Despite overall decent results, Worley was not a highly-touted name in the Phillies’ Minor League system. He was taken in the 20th round of the 2008 draft. Yet, he earned a call to the Majors in his third year of professional baseball — quite the accomplishment. In the Minors, he didn’t have any eye-popping numbers; his swing-and-miss stuff was average, and he had decent control, but that was about it. He had limited action in the Majors last year, but had both good performances and good results.

However, Worley’s career 4.25 SIERA speaks more to his true talent level than his career 2.00 ERA. His Phillies career is very reminiscent of J.A. Happ, the lefty sent to the Houston Astros in the deal that brought Oswalt to Philadelphia. Happ showed similar mediocre strikeout and walk rates with no special batted ball abilities, but a fluky BABIP helped him to a 3.11 ERA with the Phillies.

Fans and talking heads alike insisted that Happ was one of the select few that DIPS simply could not understand, like Matt Cain. Many said it was due to deception, as Happ slung the ball from behind his head, leaving batters with even less time to pick up the spin and speed of the ball.

Happ’s success continued when he went to Houston last year, finishing up with a 3.75 ERA after his relocation. With the ‘stros, Happ had a 7.6 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9, both rates slightly up from when he was in Philly. His 4.40 SIERA, though, was in line with his previous performances and indicated what to expect going forward.

This year, Happ has had significant struggles. His strikeout and walk rates are about the same, but rather than having a BABIP in the .260′s, it is now .312. As a result, his 5.76 ERA is not quite what GM Ed Wade expected when he acquired the lefty. His 4.61 SIERA is still around where we have expected to be all along, so Happ has actually been quite unlucky, but his 2009-10 and ’11 seasons are indications of just how much luck can play a part in a pitcher’s success or failure.

That should give one caution when looking at Worley. He has a .253 BABIP so far, but fans and talking heads are still claiming that Worley is the latest DIPS heretic — again, due to deception, as Worley hides the ball for what appears to be an above-average period of time. Everything about Worley and Happ, besides their handedness, is nearly identical, including their luck. Worley is due for the same regression that Happ went through, and it will not be pretty.

If you want to go where the smart money is, look at his 4.44 SIERA. Unless Worley improves his control, his ability to miss bats, and/or his ability to generate ground balls, his true talent level is that of a #4-5 starter. That is fine, for the role in which the Phillies need him. Unfortunately, the needs of the team and the expectations of fans and talking heads rarely align. Worley’s fall from grace will be steeper than it needs to be.

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38 comments

  1. Nik

    July 18, 2011 07:19 AM

    I think most reasonable fans expect Worley’s numbers to regress, but with the big 3 in place at least through 2012, I don’t get the perception that the fans need or even expect him to be more than a back of the rotation guy.

  2. JP

    July 18, 2011 07:36 AM

    Perhaps you should trade him to the Astros, before his results bottom out.

    Happ’s problem has been his shocking FB% for 2011 (46.3), Worley doesn’t have that problem.

  3. Bill Baer

    July 18, 2011 07:47 AM

    Happ’s fly ball rate this year is only two percent higher than his career average. But, yeah, Worley is better at getting ground balls than Happ is.

  4. clivejameson

    July 18, 2011 08:43 AM

    Fangraphs has Worley’s career SIERA at 4.07, but BP has it at 4.26. Is there some kind of calculation difference?

    I think it is also worth mentioning that Worley is 5 years younger than Happ. That combined with his slightly better DIPS numbers makes me hopeful he wont turn into quite as much of a pumpkin. Not to say he’s more than a back of the rotation starter, but looking on the bright side.

  5. Bill Baer

    July 18, 2011 08:45 AM

    I do believe there are slight differences in SIERA between FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus. Matt Swartz, one half of the team that created SIERA, will now be writing at FanGraphs and said he will be publishing articles soon explaining SIERA and the new slight changes.

    twitter.com/#!/matt_swa

  6. Ken

    July 18, 2011 09:02 AM

    I believe Worley was originally a 20th round pick in 05, but opted for college at LBS. He was drafted in the 3rd round when he actually signed in 08 by the Phils. Perhaps that would suggest being thought of in higher regard with rthe additional experience.

  7. hunterfan

    July 18, 2011 10:05 AM

    FWIW, I haven’t seen a single person suggesting Worley is a future ace or future #2. Most of the people I have talked with are hoping he turns out as a reliable #4 or so and just enjoying the ride as he pitches well right now.

    Where are these people who think Worley’s 2.00 ERA is his true talent level?

  8. MplsPhilsFan

    July 18, 2011 10:22 AM

    Not sure I have seen anyone call Worley an ace, the most optimistic projection I have seen for him is as a #3 starter. As a cost controlled #4 starter, I think he adds a ton of value to this team, particularly in light of the hefty salaries of the top 3 pitchers (my projection is for Hamels to sign a deal worth 5 years $95 million, $15 mill in 2012 and $20 mill in 2013-2016)

  9. hunterfan

    July 18, 2011 10:36 AM

    “I don’t see the part where I said people were calling him an ace.”

    ?

    The point being that where are these people who believe the 2.00 ERA is Worley’s true talent level and need to guard against their heightened expectations?

    I want to be pointed in their direction so I can laugh at them.

  10. awh

    July 18, 2011 10:41 AM

    We all love the success Worley has been having.

    The way I view it is that he IS this good, when he’s on a hot streak. To support my POV I point to Cliff Lee’s hot streak in June, where he pitched 42 innings to a 0.21 ERA.

    Worley ain’t Cliff Lee – he’s not that good.

    But Cliff Lee isn’t ’0.21 ERA good’ all the time either. He regresses too.

    So, Bill, I don’t understand all the concern with Worley’s regression and the probability that “it will not be pretty.”

    So what? Worley will have his share of ugly starts – just like any pitcher (Cole on Saturday, Lee on May 31st and July 3rd, Halladay on April 19th).

    (BTW, speaking of Halladay, he’s been so good he hasn’t lost a game in 2 months, and in his last 2 losses he pitched 8 innins twice and gave up 2 and 3 runs, respectively. Just tremendous.)

  11. Dave

    July 18, 2011 11:04 AM

    The Phils have actually caught some fortuitous luck the past few years with mediocre/AAAA starters: Kendrick in ’07, Happ in ’09-’10, and Worley this year. And who can forget about Mike Grace in ’96.

  12. Phillie697

    July 18, 2011 11:13 AM

    For those same people who have such optimism for Worley, I ask you, do you feel the same optimism for Kendrick? He’s having the same luck as Worley this year, and they are not THAT different as pitchers. Worley strikes out more, but Kendrick walks slightly less and induces slightly more ground balls. What I really hate is the double standard Phillies fans have all the time. It’s almost as if we are the fan base most willing to judge by our emotions as opposed to facts, aka Casey Anthony trial. The fact of the matter is, neither Worley nor Kendrick is anything special, and I would be ecstatic if Amaro can turn Worley into a Hunter Pence or a Michael Cuddyer come the trade deadline.

    As for awh’s argument… Yes, because managing a baseball team based on “hot streaks” and luck is oh so effective. Maybe you subscribe to the Omar Minaya style of management that he used with the Mets. Look how well that turned out.

  13. Phillie697

    July 18, 2011 11:19 AM

    That also reminds me of the droves of fans who had a wet dream over how “nasty” Juan Perez’s stuff is after his 9-pitch, 3-strikeout outing. The thing is, young pitchers are suppose to have nasty stuff, otherwise who’s going to notice them? Without a consistent command of the strike zone, e.g. last night, they will still suck.

  14. jauer

    July 18, 2011 11:58 AM

    To those saying you haven’t heard Worley described as an ace, on WIP this morning (I know), the entire morning show agreed that Vance Worley is too valuable and has too high a potential to be traded. They said he has a chance to be “great,” then said that theyd rather get rid of Domonic Brown than Worley.

    Yes WIP is ridiculous, but there are dumb Phillies fans who dont call/host WIP as well.

  15. KH

    July 18, 2011 12:04 PM

    I dont think its quite fair to compare Worley to KK Dave. At least Worley can actually make people miss more then once in a blue moon. KK, on the other hand, is one of the luckiest men on planet both on and off (Stephanie Lagrossa) the field.

  16. Jay

    July 18, 2011 12:14 PM

    The Phils are stocked with pitching in the minor leagues. Would be best to trade Worley before the end of the month with his stock as high as it is.
    Juan Perez’s stuff is filthy. So is his command. He is not a young guy though, he is 32 and has been stuck in the minors because of his command.

  17. Scotch Man

    July 18, 2011 12:28 PM

    I figure Worley to fit in well in the back end of some team’s rotation. I just question who takes that spot when Oswalt is gone next season? Cosart appears at least 2 seasons away like the rest of the Clearwater bunch.

  18. soundofphilly

    July 18, 2011 12:28 PM

    If the Phillies unloaded Worley for a RH bat / bullpen guy at the deadline, I would not shed a tear. Ok, maybe one.

    Also, Danny Cohen sucks

  19. Red

    July 18, 2011 12:32 PM

    I agree we’ll likely see a correction in his numbers going forward. Worley did show more control in the minors (~2 BB/9 during his AAA time) and a 7+ K/9, so there may be some room for improvement in those areas. So we might see an increase in his BABIP and his HR/FB, but it may not be disastrous if his BB and K rates can improve a bit.

    FWIW, Happ had stronger K numbers in the minors than Worley, but never exhibited the same kind of control.

  20. bill

    July 18, 2011 01:48 PM

    Above commenter hit it. Worley has room for improvement (especially his BB rate) because he’s shown to be less walk-prone in the minors. The rest of his numbers may worsen (BABIP, HR%, etc.) but it cuts both ways.

  21. COAL HAMLETS

    July 18, 2011 02:24 PM

    I always thought of Worley’s best case scenario as a decent 3-4 starter possibly similar to a Joe Blanton type guy. That being said, I still think he’s substantially more talented than Kyle Kendrick(who’s a #5 at best) and a little bit better than a J.A Happ, who’s probably nothing more than a 5 at this point.

    There just seems to be something more to Worley than merely just smoke and mirrors, and he seems to have a strong work ethic which is important if he wants to improve.

    Do I expect him to keep a sub-3 ERA? No, but I think an ERA in the high 3′s/low 4′s is somewhat realistic, but again a lot of it depends on how he develops as a pitcher.

  22. awh

    July 18, 2011 02:45 PM

    Phillie697, who said anything about “managing a baseball team based on “hot streaks” and luck”?

  23. Todd

    July 18, 2011 03:34 PM

    Can someone make a mirrored version of the Worley gif so we can compare Happ to what Worley would look like left-handed 1-to-1? Haha

  24. Jesse

    July 18, 2011 04:33 PM

    I’d rather they keep Worley at this point than trade him because he’s not even eligible for arbitration until after the 2013 season. Given how much money the Phils have committed to Halladay and Lee (and Blanton for that matter) and how much they will (hopefully) shell out for Hamels, they’re going to need some cheap guys at the back of the rotation the next couple of seasons. If Worley can be a legit 4/5 starter (ie: better than Kendrick, maybe slightly worse than Blanton), that will have tremendous value.

    But yeah, I don’t see any situation where Worley turns out to be better than a solid #4.

  25. Jesse

    July 18, 2011 04:34 PM

    Also, even if Worley is no better than KK, he is still substantially cheaper. KK makes $2.45M this year and will likely make more next year in his second arbitration season.

  26. Nick

    July 18, 2011 06:41 PM

    Let’s face it, this guy could take Blanton’s spot in the rotation and save the Phils a boatload of money while not downgrading our pitching that much. He’d be a number five, which is worse than he should be (but he’s no 1 or 2) but I mean would it make a huge difference to the Phils overall? I doubt it.

  27. SF Giants Fan

    July 18, 2011 07:44 PM

    What a bunch of fatheads you philly phans are. The kid, Worley has been phantastic. All I see here are a bunch of people who think they’re backing an unbeatable team. How’d that work out last year????

  28. Nick

    July 18, 2011 09:16 PM

    Worley has been commendable true and this isn’t hating on Worley, this is acknowledging that he’s been pitching too good as of late. Cliff Lee is a legitimate ace yet were people still expecting him to put up a sub 1.00 ERA all season? No, his June was a fluke. Sometimes batters and pitchers go on hot streaks – your Giants should know that very well from last season’s playoffs.

    Luck is a factor even if you cannot account for it.

  29. Phillie697

    July 19, 2011 11:40 AM

    I’m not even going to respond to SF Giants Fan.

    And awh, I have enjoyed both Worley and Kendrick’s run of luck these last couple of months as much as any Phillies fan, but I’m not going to “credit” them for being on a “hot streak” that really wasn’t a hot streak. Thinking like that is how Omar Minaya convinced himself to overpay players.

  30. yobill626

    July 20, 2011 10:39 AM

    I think Kendrick is good for a #5. Usually keeps the team in the game for 5-6 innings. Look around the league at the other #5s. Ain’t nothin’ there guys…

  31. Dustin

    July 20, 2011 04:15 PM

    Vance Vance Revolution laughs in the face of regression while pwning Cubs’ faces.

  32. James

    July 20, 2011 04:27 PM

    What do his metrics look like excluding the Mets game? and after today I guess

  33. Kelly

    July 20, 2011 04:48 PM

    Look at Worley today? In a triple-digit heat index, no less. I don’t think most of you are giving him enough credit – he is only 23! We should not even think about trading him. I’d take Worley over Blanton any day.

  34. Lefty33

    July 21, 2011 01:37 AM

    Who cares what his SIERA is?

    Worley is getting guys out and that’s what matters.

    To compare him with Happ at this point is stupid because Happ has not been the same pitcher since his elbow injury last year and when you add his oblique injury earlier this year clearly his lack of success is based either on lingering injury issues or lack of confidence in his own ability based on those injuries and has nothing to do with “luck”.

    Worley will make a nice #3-5 starter just like Happ would have if he can stay healthy.

    There is no such thing as “luck”.

    Either a pitcher is executing his pitches or he’s not and if he’s not there is always a reason and Happ’s reason is injury not “luck”.

  35. Sylvy

    July 22, 2011 12:48 PM

    If you could deal Worley and and keep all but say one or two top prospects (excluding Dom Brown as he is not going anywhere) for Pence, to me it would be a no-brainer. However, the Phillies must keep in mind that although Worley isn’t the 2.00ish ERA pitcher we’ve seen this season, he’s our best option as of right now in Game 4 of a playoff series. You definitely don’t want Blanton starting if he ever gets back (I hope he never does), Kendrick isn’t a great choice either, but what I’m most worried about is if Worley is dealt the Phils would be putting a lot into the idea that Oswalt can come back and pitch at the same level he did last year and the start of this year. If Oswalt doesn’t return to form and Worley is dealt you’re basically conceding defeat in a Game 4 of any series unless you expect to use a 3-man rotation which is probably a bad decision. Also, keep in mind the playoffs are routinely won by the luckiest/hottest team and not the best (i.e. Giants of last year, the 83-win Cards, and our own ’08 Phils). To think one added player guarantees us a WS victory is preposterous. And unless you can get Pence for a reasonable deal, Beltran for less than Pence, or the Melk-Man for less than both of them you’d be better off holding firm. I’ll take a healthy Phillies lineup and this rotation into the playoffs and be perfectly confident.

  36. V fan

    February 20, 2012 01:46 AM

    Worley is the best thing to happen to the Phil’s since we picked up doc . Look at how few home runs he gave up and for people raging about his control I have 2 things to say first he’s only 23 second he only walked 46 B which isn’t bad for a rookie

  37. V fan

    February 20, 2012 01:52 AM

    Oh by the stop comparing him to Blanton happ and kendrick this guys in a whole nothher league than those guys plus both happ and Blanton have had a history of arm problems now I’m not saying he’s an immediate 1-2 guy but I think he’ll get there but for right now he’s your avg 3-4 guy

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