Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Vanimal

I must admit that just the other day when I saw on MLB Trade Rumors that Vance Worley had been released by the Twins, I thought to myself I feel bad for whoever picks him up. My first reaction to seeing Worley being picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates was annoyance. Then I realized the Pirates bought him with cash and he was most likely organization depth, but I see no reason he can't be the next Francisco Liriano, or more accurately the next John Axford, but more on that later.

From 2010-2012 Worley provided the Phillies with 277.2 quality innings putting up a 3.50 ERA that was supported by terrific ratio stats. His 3.1 BB/9 was just about average as was his 7.7 K/9 and Worley looked like a solid mid to back end starter on a stellar Phillies staff.

The Phillies decided to trade Worley following 2012 to the Minnesota Twins for speedy Centerfielder Ben Revere. Revere was really a good reward to flip Worley for, despite not having a single HR through his first 1,400 PAs Revere is fast on the bases and plays a premium defensive position without really hurting your lineup. Even though Revere is a decent player I still thought the Twins got the better of Ruben Amaro Jr and Friends because Worley was worth 113 ERA+, was a young cheap arm, and well because it's Ruben Amaro Jr and Friends.

In 2013 Worley was rocked in Minnesota posting a 7.21 ERA in a meer 48.2 IP. His strikeouts were way down to a meager 4.6 K/9, however his 2.8 BB/9 was a career best.

I thought the guy only pitched 48.2 Innings, there is a good chance he had some weird statistical phenomenon that is extremely unlikely to repeat itself so I immediately started digging deeper into some of the more advanced stats. What I found was that for whatever reason not only was he getting hit at a ridiculously higher rate, he was getting hit a lot harder than ever before. He wasn't riding the zone too much as his 63.7 Str% was right on par with career norm and the league average was 63.6%. He had always been above the league average in XBH% but it hadn't shown as bad before because he had always managed a low HR/FB Ratio until his ugly 10.6% last year.

The  Twins Assistant GM has come out and said that Worley was inconsistent with his mechanics and that his velocity was way down which were the reasons the Twins released him. If it is something with mechanics hopefully Ray Searage can work his magic on him and return him to a decent back-end starting pitcher. If it is however that he simply doesn't throw as hard this may be a lost cause. Of course he has less than 250 career IP in the majors and even in the minors the most he threw was 153.1 innings in AA 2009.

Moving to PNC park will definitely bring down his HR/FB and McCutchen and Marte will probably track down a few more doubles and triples in the gaps than the Twins outfield. But the real thing is he needs to start striking out batters at a league average rate again to become useful.

I wonder if he could be doing something wrong that is allowing batters to see his pitches better. This could be a case similar to John Axford where the Cardinals showed him he was tipping his pitches and he regained form almost immediately. Becaue I am holding on to that hope I see him closer to the Liriano experiment than the Jonathon Sanchez fiasco. Remember of course that Fangraphs has his xFIP last year at 5.53, so still not particularly kind so I wouldn't say he is close to a sure thing to bounce back. This year Steamer projects him to have a 4.60 ERA and ZiPS projects a 4.33 (Oliver projects 4.05 but Oliver is the least reliable in my opinion so I rarely cite it).

I'm going to predict a sub 4.50 ERA in less than 5 starts in 2014, the walks will stay down and the strikeouts won't go above 6.5 K/9 but he will be serviceable. With the Liriano injury, the Taillon arm troubles, and the general lack of usefulness out of Volquez made this an understandable move. I don't think we'll see a lot of him as a starter in Pittsburgh in 2014, but maybe a spot starter/ Long reliever.

A quick look at Vance Worley's career stats:

2010 22 PHI NL 1.38 5 2 2 0 13.0 0 302 0.923 5.5 0.7 2.8 8.3 3.00
2011 23 PHI NL 3.01 25 21 0 1 131.2 3 127 1.230 7.9 0.7 3.1 8.1 2.59
2012 24 PHI NL 4.20 23 23 0 0 133.0 6 96 1.511 10.4 0.8 3.2 7.2 2.28
2013 25 MIN AL 7.21 10 10 0 0 48.2 3 56 1.993 15.2 1.7 2.8 4.6 1.67
4 Yrs 4.05 63 56 2 1 326.1 12 98 1.446 9.9 0.9 3.1 7.3 2.35
162 Game Avg. 4.05 36 32 1 1 186 7 98 1.446 9.9 0.9 3.1 7.3 2.35
PHI (3 yrs) 3.50 53 46 2 1 277.2 9 113 1.351 9.0 0.7 3.1 7.7 2.45
MIN (1 yr) 7.21 10 10 0 0 48.2 3 56 1.993 15.2 1.7 2.8 4.6 1.67
NL (3 yrs) 3.50 53 46 2 1 277.2 9 113 1.351 9.0 0.7 3.1 7.7 2.45
AL (1 yr) 7.21 10 10 0 0 48.2 3 56 1.993 15.2 1.7 2.8 4.6 1.67
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/25/2014.

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