Playoffs: Oswalt or Worley?

Over the past two weeks or so, the Phillies’ #4 starter in the playoffs has been the topic of discussion. Roy Oswalt has the tenure and the track record, but Vance Worley has been incredibly successful in his 19 starts this year. I don’t want to rehash all of the arguments (on the topic, David Hale does a nice dissection here), but I’d like to add one viewpoint that I haven’t seen presented yet.

Earlier this morning, I went into Philly to tape today’s episode of Stathead on Phillies 24/7 HD radio. Our topics of conversation for the hour focused entirely on pitching, with Oswalt/Worley leading off the show. I expected to simply praise the hell out of Worley and end the segment on that note, but my co-host Jeff Sottolano made what I think is an excellent argument in favor of starting Oswalt #4 in the playoffs, and it has nothing to do with stats.

Oswalt is an 11-year MLB veteran, so he’s certainly “earned it”, as they say. Previously, Oswalt hinted at retiring after the season, so this could be his final shot at a championship. Out of simple respect for the 2,000-plus innings Oswalt has thrown in the Majors, it makes sense to defer to him in lieu of Worley. Additionally, if Oswalt were to be bumped for Worley, wouldn’t that be insulting? Does Charlie Manuel seem like the type of manager who would want anything to do with explaining that to Oswalt? I can’t see it happening. Meanwhile, it’s a relatively easy job to tell Worley he’s going to the ‘pen — he’s not an established Major Leaguer yet, what can he do about it, y’know?

Furthermore, Oswalt has been used out of the bullpen exactly four times since 2003. Worley was used as a reliever as recently as May 13 of this season. Of course, he went on to struggle as a result of his bouncing around between the rotation, the bullpen, and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but that won’t be an issue in the playoffs. Practically speaking, it makes more sense to enter the playoffs with Worley in the ‘pen.

Finally, the #4 spot is mostly a formality anyway. The Phillies have two well-qualified pitchers for one very small role (one start per series). Let’s say Oswalt has a rough go of things in Game 4 of the NLCS (assuming they get there, of course) — they can have Worley stretched out and ready to go, so both end up pitching in the game anyway. Or maybe Oswalt is just fine and it doesn’t matter.

If we’re weighing the pros and cons of the matter, with the agreement that the decision is merely a formality anyway, then it makes sense to give Oswalt the nod even if the stats show Worley to be slightly better (most ERA retrodictors have Worley ahead by about 0.40).¬†That this is even a debate tells you just how good the Phillies are running right now.

Leave a Reply



  1. bje79

    September 13, 2011 11:25 AM

    Wow, that post went the opposite way of where I thought it would go. All the logic makes sense though.

  2. The Citizens Bankers

    September 13, 2011 11:54 AM

    Wow, I am quite shocked. An article on CBA with little to no use of stats. I loved it, of course, but it was just the opposite of what I was expecting when I clicked on the link.

  3. Buzzsaw

    September 13, 2011 12:11 PM

    Worley has (for whatever reason) been a more effective pitcher with men on base. A nice trait for a reliever (if that still works when he is not starting).

  4. Paul

    September 13, 2011 12:16 PM

    Here’s something else … if I’m not mistaken, Schneider has caught Worley for the bulk of his starts. God love him, but the man is an offensive liability compared to Chooch (especially if he catches fire like he tends to in the playoffs). So if Worley starts you’re either going with a relatively untested battery or putting an automatic out in the lineup against some potentially tough pitching.

  5. The Howling Fantods

    September 13, 2011 12:18 PM

    ‘Oswalt wouldn’t like it’ isn’t a very convincing argument, to be honest, although I agree with your conclusion. Doesn’t make much of a difference anyway, as it only impacts likely two starts at most in the playoffs, and the expected difference between the two pitchers is not very much for this year.

    Charlie’s ‘player’s manager’ instincts will definitely default to Oswalt, which is a thought process that I almost always decry, and which I’ve never seen defended before on this site.

  6. Bill Baer

    September 13, 2011 12:22 PM

    I’m not defending it per se, but I also don’t see any reason why Manuel should change. Any advantage Worley has over Oswalt isn’t that large.

  7. John A

    September 13, 2011 12:26 PM

    I don’t feel one way or the other on who should start Game 4, but calling it a formality is foolish. In a Best of Seven series, one start can be a pretty big deal. Even if they do start Oswalt and have Worley ready to go at a moment’s notice (which doesn’t seem like something Charlie would do), Worley wouldn’t be coming in until Oswalt allowed quite a few runs.

    Again, I’m not saying Oswalt -would- allow quite a few runs. Just that if Oswalt starts, you’d better not expect Charlie to be pulling him early unless the game gets completely out of hand. Charlie’s patient, sometimes to a fault.

  8. Richard

    September 13, 2011 12:53 PM

    The same is true with the invented Lee over Halladay argument for a game 1. Can you even imagine Charlie explaining to Halladay that he’s not the game 1 starter, after he’s been #1 all year, and has had the same old ordinary season of dominance he always has? It’s silly.

  9. Nick M.

    September 13, 2011 12:56 PM

    An excellent point that I hadn’t considered at all. Was shocked to see a non-numbers argument for Oswalt that I agree with (I’ve been high on using Worley and his hot hand). But yeah, Oswalt has had a good run let him go out with some dignity.

  10. olo567

    September 13, 2011 02:32 PM

    Good post. Especially like the second to last paragraph as it’s exactly what I’ve been thinking. I can’t envision any scenario where we’re eliminated because of who our fourth starter is; if we get bounced it’ll be because of offensive issues or some fluke issue with our top 3.

  11. Michael

    September 13, 2011 02:53 PM

    I disagree with the argument for Oswalt. If Manuel and Oswalt really want to be smart, Oswalt would understand that Worley has been flat out better this season and take one for the team and pitch out of the pen

  12. Jason from marietta ohio

    September 13, 2011 04:06 PM

    Worley has been a beast but i think i would start oswalt over him for the simple fact that he has expierence in the post season and worley has none. i know worley’s season has been a sensational season but oswalt is in his late years where he is about to retire and all he wants is a world series ring and i think he should be out there to help the team get it for him. if we won the world series without him out there it just wouldnt be the same to him as if they won with him out there. I say start oswalt and go phillies!!!!!

  13. Scott

    September 13, 2011 04:21 PM

    I agree totally.

    Remember, Oswalt came to Philly for one more chance to win it all. Where would we be without him?

    He’s more than earned his chance.I’ve seen enough of him to know he’s not going to blow it.

  14. Pete

    September 13, 2011 04:42 PM

    Commenter Paul is right… if the choice is really Oswalt+Ruiz vs. Worley+Schneider, that only adds another reason to start Oswalt.

  15. LTG

    September 13, 2011 06:09 PM

    olo567, are you a member of the CSFBL community?

  16. Bobby

    September 13, 2011 09:21 PM

    Seriously, do you want to win a championship? Then you pitch Worley…Oswalt has pitched like crap and gotten banged around all year…pre and post DL. Worley has lightning in a bottle. You go with the hot hand and…screw hurting his wittle feelwings!!!! Earned it…BS…there are not going to be many starts in the postseason for a fourth starter anyway. Maybe one or two total even on a WS run. Either way, Manual should be fired if he pitches Oswalt

  17. LTG

    September 13, 2011 10:41 PM


    Good argument. Mockery always makes a point stronger.

  18. dave

    September 14, 2011 03:26 AM

    Are we really talking about how a player making 16M+ from two organizations earned a right to pitch in the postseason after putting up a sub-par year?

    I’d rather see Blanton pitch before Oswalt — by this same argument, don’t the Phillies owe it to Joe more than they do Little Roy? Joe’s been with the team since it won the World Series. Oswalt, by comparison, was merely acquired last year.

  19. MAG

    September 14, 2011 07:23 AM

    Yes Oswalt has had a sub-par year. Yes he has had injuries that have put him on the DL twice this season. Yes his fastball is 1 or 2 MPH slower than it has usually been.

    What it comes down to is who do you trust more in the playoffs? A rookie who would be making his 1st postseas start ever or a 10 year vet with a 5-1 career postseason record and a 3.39 career ERA in the postseason. Oh and is one of the biggest competitors in the game still.

    Obviously I’m for Oswalt. On top of that it’s maybe 1 start a series, which will be perfect for Oswalt with his health issues this year.

  20. Brad

    September 14, 2011 08:11 AM

    I agree that Oswalt should get the nod for post season game 4’s unless he just totally collapses in his last few starts. I’d just have a quicker hook for him than normal. If he could just pitch good for 4 or 5 innings, we could then bring Worley in until the 9th. I think both pitchers have been better in the first 4 or 5 innings of their outings than later on, so you could have an ideal situation. Just call the pitcher Osworleystein.

  21. Eric

    September 14, 2011 08:28 AM

    The best argument I’ve heard against Worley being the game 4 starter is that with Oswalt’s back issues, it’s harder for him to just come out of the pen and than it is for Worley to come out and be a long-man.

  22. buzzsaw

    September 14, 2011 10:14 AM

    And if Oswalt struggles in his first post-season start then who gets game 4 of the next series?

  23. TMC

    September 14, 2011 10:25 AM

    Honestly, my feeling upon reading this post is that this is exactly the kind of emotion and intangible-based argument that this blog would have mocked if it were written by someone like Marcus Hayes.

  24. buzzsaw

    September 14, 2011 10:30 AM

    After Hamels start the new FIPs number is 3.645 and the DVD leaders are still

    3.4667 Leonard
    3.50 MFP
    3.55 HK
    3.56 Phil
    3.57 Buzzsaw

    Should Halladay throw typical start, the FIP number would drop back to ~ 3.4

    Basically if he allows 1 homer these are probably the winners.

  25. Ace

    September 14, 2011 12:39 PM

    Wow. So say we’re down 1-2 in the NLCS. Fourth game up. You want to start Oswalt because… It’s his last chance to win a championship. Right. Sound argument.

  26. deo

    September 14, 2011 02:24 PM

    Why not a 5 man rotation? I know that means less Halliday/Lee/Hamels, but these are the pitchers who got th ePhillies where they are.

  27. Curtwill

    September 14, 2011 04:12 PM

    You and I have had our disagreements, Bill but you are right on with this and good article from David hale also, David Murphy good article also:

    “Little” Roy is not pitching at the level that he used to, mainly he has been inconsistent, but even coming back he has pitched better than Vance since coming back from the DL. In fact, he has had 4 out of his 7 starts going at least 7 and every start except one (the Marlins game) going at least 6. Vance has only had 2 starts over 6 innings. And to be truthful, Roy has been a tad unlucky to go along with his inconsistency but Worley has pitched more innings than he ever had. To me, it’s simple, you pitch the Vet who has had the success in the postseason who has the better upside going forward for this year over Worley. Worley is better for the pen. It’s easy and logical.

  28. Win

    September 18, 2011 03:46 AM

    It’s one of those things where we think too much, none of our starters this year other than Blanton have an ERA above NL average. We legitimately don’t have a bad choice here. Instead we have 6 pitchers to fit into 3.5 holes since I doubt we would go into game 7 with the 4th guy on the list.

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