Worley freezing batters at league-leading pace

Worley freezing batters at league-leading pace
April 20, 2012, 3:48 pm

To call Vance Worleys start Thursday in San Diego effective would be an understatement.

It was the best of his young career, and it followed his third-worst start last Saturday against the Mets.

Worley struck out 11 Padres over seven shutout innings and allowed only four hits and three walks. It was the fourth time hes ever allowed four or fewer hits over at least seven innings and the first time hes ever reached double-digit strikeouts.

The biggest key to Worleys success was once again his two-seam fastball, a pitch that dives away at the last second from left-handed batters and in to righties. It was the pitch Greg Maddux made a Hall-of-Fame career out of and one that Worley has used to quickly become a mid-rotation starting pitcher.

Of Worleys 11 strikeouts Thursday, five came on fastballs, two were on cutters and four were on sliders. His two-seamer has the opposite movement of his slider, leaving a batter guessing -- especially with two strikes -- as to whether a pitch will bear in on him late or break away.

When Worleys on, as he was Thursday night, its a devastating combination.

He pounds the zone, said leftfielder Juan Pierre after the Phillies 2-0 win. He gets so many called third strikes. His ball moves a lot. From where I stand, it doesnt look like there are a lot of comfortable at-bats against him.

Pierre is correct on both counts. Worley, who is due just 495,000 this season, struck out six batters looking on Thursday and five batters swinging. It was simply more of the same for the 24-year-old righthander who led all of baseball last year in called third strikes.

In 2011, Worley struck out 11.7 percent of batters he faced looking. He led all major league starting pitchers, and Cliff Lee was second. Its a list where Justin Verlander finished fifth and Roy Halladay sixth.

This season, 12 of Worleys 21 strikeouts have been looking.

How does he freeze so many batters? Its that mixture of two-seam fastballs and sliders, says CSN Phillies analyst Ricky Bottalico, who whiffed one out of every five batters he faced in 12 seasons as a reliever.

He has a fastball that comes off of a lefthanders hip back over the middle of the plate, and he has started to master this pitch, Bottalico said after Thursdays game. The other thing is his breaking ball hes not afraid to throw it in any count anymore.

This guy is growing right in front of our eyes.

E-mail Corey Seidman at cseidman@comcastsportsnet.com

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