Vance Worley is too often overlooked and under appreciated

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We often hear all about Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Gerrit Cole when we’re talking about the pitching staff of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Often lost in translation is the work turned in by right-hander Vance Worley, who broke out in a big way last year with the club.

On MLB.com’s depth chart, the former third-round pick is slated in behind Cole in the starting rotation as the number two man on Clint Hurdle‘s staff. This comes as a bit of a surprise given the other notable names in the rotation, but when you look back at the season he just put together for the Pirates, it makes a lot more sense.

Pitching to a 2.85 earned run average in 17 starts, the former Phillies righty solidified the Pittsburgh rotation – and was especially effective in front of the Steel City fans, posting a 2.28 ERA while going 5-2 at PNC Park. He was a shot in the arm down the stretch for the team after missing the first couple of months. When he did debut, the wait was well worth it.

In the month of June, his first outings of the campaign, Worley did not lose a start, allowing just four earned runs in 20 2/3 innings of work, while also averaging a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.00. His performance tailed off in July and August, when he posted a WHIP of 1.138 and 1.432, respectively. However, he bounced back down the stretch for the Pirates when it really mattered – which warrants remembrance heading into 2015.

His last two appearances of the season were notable – to say the least. He pitched 14 1/3 innings, allowing just one lone earned run during that stretch, helping Pittsburgh top both the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds in the heat of a postseason race.

Overall, in his final five starts of the year, the right-hander allowed three earned runs just one time. During that stretch, his earned run average dropped from 3.14 to 2.85 – and he did not lose a single outing. Four of his final five outings came against teams in the National League Central, ultimately helping the Pirates secure their second-straight postseason berth.

If the 27-year-old Worley can maintain this kind of performance in his first full season in Pittsburgh, look for Clint Hurdle to rely heavily on him to shore up a starting staff with its eyes set on postseason play.

Next: Do the Pirates have the most depth in the Central?

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