The Legend of Pitcher Vance

Nothing too heavy in the way of analysis here, just some fun food for thought. Last year, Vance Worley led the National League in strikeouts looking, which made us wonder if it was a sustainable characteristic. Through ten starts, Worley has shown that his propensity for the backwards-K is indeed sustainable as he is once again atop the leaderboard in that category.

2011 Leaders Strikeouts Looking (KL)

Name Team K KL KL%
Bartolo Colon NYY 122 75 61.5%
Vance Worley PHI 119 65 54.6%
Cliff Lee PHI 238 97 40.8%
Jason Hammel COL 86 34 39.5%
Tim Stauffer SD 128 49 38.3%
David Price TB 218 83 38.1%
Mike Pelfrey NYM 105 39 37.1%

2012 Leaders Strikeouts Looking

Name Team KL K KL%
Vance Worley PHI 36 59 61.0%
Bartolo Colon OAK 26 55 47.3%
Clayton Richard SD 22 52 42.3%
Cliff Lee PHI 32 77 41.6%
Joe Blanton PHI 28 68 41.2%
David Price TB 32 78 41.0%
Mike Minor ATL 24 59 40.7%

Worley relied on his fastball for his called strike threes more than every pitcher in baseball except for one: Bartolo Colon. Here is a detailed look at the pitches used for called strike threes last year.

And in 2012:

What’s obvious is that Worley’s pitch classifications have changed between 2011 and ’12, since he obviously hasn’t changed his pitch repertoire. The pitches that were classified last year as “fastballs” are now in their own category as “sinkers”. For all intents and purposes, Worley is still relying almost exclusively on fastballs for his called strike threes.

Anyway, here is how the league’s right-handed pitchers approach right- and left-handed batters for their backwards-K’s.

And Worley himself in 2011:

Worley in 2012:

As you can see, very little has changed in Worley’s approach between 2011 and ’12. Worley has 205.2 innings under his belt, which isn’t enough for us to make any strong conclusions about his future, but if he can continue to paint the corners as well as he has and the league isn’t able to catch up, then he could very well become a valuable part of the Phillies’ starting rotation for years to come, especially if this is indeed Cole Hamels‘ last season in Philadelphia.

Fun with Pitcher Wins and Losses

One of the more interesting storylines to this depressing season is Cliff Lee, still without a win through 11 starts.

twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/214311686906191872

If you comb through areas where fans express uneducated opinions (e.g. message boards, talk radio, mainstream website comments), you’ll find a lot of frustration with Cliff Lee because he has zero wins, even though he has been quite good throughout the season. I have already cited some of the usual Sabermetric stats to illustrate that, but I’d like to take a different approach by going through each of Cliff Lee’s start and comparing it to the league last year to see how most pitchers fared.

Please note this is just for fun.

  • April 7 @ PIT: 6 IP, 1 ER, 66 game score (no decision)
    • Matching IP/ER: 63 wins (48%), 16 losses (12%), 51 no decisions (39%)
    • Matching GS: 25 wins (51%), 12 losses (24%), 12 no decisions (24%)
  • April 13 vs. NYM: 7 IP, 4 ER, 58 game score (loss)
    • IP/ER: 4 wins (13%), 17 losses (55%), 10 no decisions (32%)
    • GS: 24 wins (39%), 17 losses (27%), 21 no decisions (34%)
  • April 18 @ SFG: 10 IP, 0 ER, 85 game score (no decision)
    • IP/ER: no data
    • GS: 3 wins (50%), 0 losses, 3 no decisions (50%)
  • May 9 vs. NYM: 6 IP, 2 ER, 59 game score (no decision)
    • IP/ER: 64 wins (37%), 42 losses (25%), 65 no decisions (38%)
    • GS: 20 wins (39%), 9 losses (18%), 22 no decisions (43%)
  • May 15 vs. HOU: 8 IP, 1 ER, 77 game score (no decision)
    • IP/ER: 39 wins (72%), 7 losses (13%), 8 no decisions (15%)
    • GS: 11 wins (73%), 0 losses (0%), 4 no decisions (27%)
  • May 20 vs. BOS: 7 IP, 5 ER, 44 game score (loss)
    • IP/ER: 0 wins (0%), 5 losses (100%), 0 no decisions (0%)
    • GS: 14 wins (26%), 23 losses (43%), 16 no decisions (30%)
  • May 25 @ STL: 7 IP, 3 ER, 53 game score (no decision)
    • IP/ER: 26 wins (34%), 30 losses (39%), 20 no decisions (26%)
    • GS: 26 wins (46%), 14 losses (25%), 16 no decisions (29%)
  • May 30 @ NYM: 6 IP, 3 ER, 51 game score (no decision)
    • IP/ER: 28 wins (24%), 50 losses (42%), 40 no decisions (34%)
    • GS: 20 wins (29%), 27 losses (39%), 22 no decisions (32%)
  • June 5 vs. LAD: 7.2 IP, 2 ER, 70 game score (loss)
    • IP/ER: 6 wins (60%), 2 losses (20%), 2 no decisions (20%)
    • GS: 22 wins (61%), 1 loss (3%), 13 no decisions (36%)
  • June 10 @ BAL: 6 IP, 4 ER, 48 game score (no decision)
    • IP/ER: 18 wins (17%), 52 losses (49%), 37 no decisions (35%)
    • GS: 11 wins (23%), 20 losses (42%), 17 no decisions (35%)
  • June 16 @ TOR: 7 IP, 5 ER, 35 game score (no decision)
    • IP/ER: 0 wins (0%), 5 losses (100%), 0 no decisions (0%)
    • GS: 2 wins (6%), 20 losses (65%), 9 no decisions (29%)

If you add up the percentages, Lee would have on average 3 wins, 5 losses, and 2 no decisions based on IP/ER data from 2011.

Date W L ND
Apr 7 .48 .12 .39
Apr 13 .13 .55 .32
Apr 18  1.00  .00  .00
May 9 .37 .25 .38
May 15 .72 .13 .15
May 20 .00 1.00 .00
May 25 .34 .39 .26
May 30 .24 .42 .34
Jun 5 .60 .20 .20
Jun 10 .17 .49 .35
Jun 16 .00 1.00 .00
SUM 4.05 4.55 2.39

Doing the same for Game Score:

Date W L ND
Apr 7 .51 .24 .24
Apr 13 .39 .27 .34
Apr 18 .50 .00 .50
May 9 .39 .18 .43
May 15 .73 .00 .27
May 20 .26 .43 .30
May 25 .46 .25 .29
May 30 .29 .39 .32
Jun 5 .61 .03 .36
Jun 10 .23 .42 .35
Jun 16 .06 .65 .29
SUM 4.43 2.86 3.69

Support-neutral wins and losses from Baseball Prospectus matches up with the observational data, putting Lee at 5 wins and 4 losses (2 no decisions). If Lee had those 4 or 5 wins, even with 3 to 5 losses, there wouldn’t be nearly as much frustration directed at him. Unfortunately, Philadelphia fans have a tendency to blame the scant quality players for their respective teams’ failures.