Why has Vance Worley flopped in Minnesota?

Why has Vance Worley flopped in Minnesota?
June 12, 2013, 11:15 am
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So far, neither team has won the Ben Revere-Vance Worley trade.

The Phillies have gotten very little production from their centerfielder at the plate, his defense has been inconsistent and he hasn’t shown the speed many critics praised during the offseason. Sure, Revere is fast, but not in a game-breaking way like Peter Bourjos or Carlos Gomez. Think of all the times Revere’s been out at first base by a step.

Worley has provided even less value for the Twins. In 10 starts with Minnesota before being demoted to Triple A, he had a 7.21 ERA and opponents hit a mind-boggling .381 off him. This from the guy the Twins not only coveted in a trade, but started on opening day.

To get a better understanding of how Worley’s game fell off so drastically, we turned to Brandon Warne, a Twins beat writer for 1500 ESPN Radio in Minnesota and a fantasy baseball writer for Fangraphs.com.

Two things Warne pointed out were a flattening-out of Worley’s two-seam fastball –- his bread and butter –- and poor framing by his catchers.

Pitch/FX data backs up the claim that Worley’s two-seamer was moving less. It didn't have as much sink last season, either, as Worley struggled with elbow problems and failed to extend and finish consistently.

And, as Jonah Keri concluded in a must-read article on the art of pitch-framing, Twins outfielder/catcher Ryan Doumit costs his pitchers more runs through poor framing than any backstop in baseball. Doumit caught two of Worley’s outings, and in those two games Worley had more walks than strikeouts and a 1.113 OPS against.

The most significant issue with Worley early in the season was a lack of called strikes. If you recall, that was how Worley found success with the Phillies – by having his two-seamer run back over the plate against lefties for called strike-threes. In 2011 Worley led the National League in called strikes and in 2012 he led the majors.

In those two years, 35 percent of Worley’s strikes were looking. This season, that fell to 27 percent. If eight percent doesn’t sound like a substantial decrease, consider that with the number of pitches he threw, it was the equivalent of 46 fewer strikes looking. Guys knew the book on Worley and were swinging more, and it’s not as if he ever had overpowering stuff that he could afford to miss with over the plate.

Worley hasn’t fared much better at Triple A Rochester, where he’s allowed 18 runs in 24 2/3 innings and has a WHIP of 1.58.

It will be interesting to see if Worley’s career gets back on track, or whether he was just another young pitcher the Phillies sold at peak value, as they did with Carlos Carrasco, Kyle Drabek and J.A. Happ.

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