Vance Worley: a hard look at a steep decline

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May 3, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Worley (46) throws the ball against hte St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Vance Worley’s slider has taken a huge step back in 2015. Batters hit it much more productively this year than in 2014, despite the slider finding the zone much less.

Year .AVG .SLG Zone %
2014 0.289 0.478 45.4%
2015 0.372 0.581 32.8%

Not only is Worley’s primary out-pitch not working, but his secondary go-to in the slider is also struggling. While batters hit it pretty well in 2014, they are absolutely crushing it this year. A borderline back-end starter such as Worley cannot afford to have any one pitch be hit this hard. Batters will sit and wait for it, limiting the effectiveness of his other pitches, thus creating a vicious cycle that Vance possibly cannot get out of.

So where does Vance Worley fit in from here. Well, if his two-seam can play well again, a bullpen role might suit him. A return to his low-walk rate form of 2014 makes him ideal. Despite his struggles, Worley still does not give up the longball, having only given up two on the year. Where Worley gets into trouble, however, is that he has no other pitch to fall back on. While he does throw his share of four-seam fastballs and changeups, the answer does NOT lie in his breaking stuff. Of the pitches identified as a curveball by FanGraphs, Vance has a 0.00 Swinging Strike %. It’s not fooling anybody.

The good news is this: with a stint in the bullpen, Worley may be able to get a fresh outlook on things and work on that which has plagued him this year.

Until we see him in a starter’s role again, the jury remains out on if his 2014 success was truly a fluke year.

Next: Jose Tabata gets another chance