What Should We Make of Worley?
Last year was Vance Worley’s first almost-full season in the majors and was quite the sensation. Not only did he do fairly well (3.01 ERA 1.23 WHIP, 8.31 K/9) but his mohawk and nickname (The Vanimal) played well with the fans. He walked a few too many, but was definitely solid. I was a bit skeptical as his minor league career was nothing to write home about, but for the first few months of this season season, his success continued and I said to myself that he is a solid 3rd or good 4th starter in the bigs.
However, lately, Worley has been less Vanimal-like. It should be noted that he is pitching with bone chips in his elbow, but I believe he said that he could pitch through it. In his last three starts he has given up four runs in each and has not gone past 5.1 innings pitched. Going back further, twice in July he surrendered six runs in a game. He is walking slightly more batters and giving up more hits which has resulted in a WHIP that is too high, 1.48. His velocity is slightly down, but that is to be expected with the elbow issue.
One interesting thing that I noticed on fangraphs is that he has thrown a lot less sliders this year compared to last (21.3% down to 3.7%) while throwing a cut-fastball a lot more. Apparently he did not throw that at all last year, while this year is throwing it 19.9% of the time. Maybe the cut-fastball has been less effective? It’s not that much different than a slider, so maybe that is not it. I don’t know. Perhaps it is just the elbow. Either way, right now Worley is pitching more like a fifth starter, or a first or second starter on the Phillies of the late 1990s.