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.

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