Should Vance Worley be on your Fantasy Teams?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When Vance Worley splashed onto the scene in 2011, it looked as though we were seeing the emergence of another great Phillies pitcher. The 2012 and 2013 seasons were rough on Worley, who consistently battled ineffectiveness and injuries, falling off of Major League — and by natural extension — fantasy rosters.

While 2012 and 2013 didn’t offer much to be positive about, Worley has landed in Pittsburgh, the land of resurgent pitchers. Much like the seemingly endless stream of struggling pitchers that have had good years for the Pirates, Worley has been performing at a high level.

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Since we’re dealing with a guy that’s had one season of fantasy relevance, we’ll go with this question. How does this current run compare to that one season? For now, we’ll just stick to his Major League numbers.

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So, the total numbers, at least as far as ERA and WHIP go, are pretty similar. But as you can see, he’s not getting the numbers in the same ways, which makes projecting a little bit. Fortunately, we have Fangraphs to help us work through this mess.

A few things jump off of the page at me when I compare the Vance Worley of 2011 to the one we’ve seen this season.

  1. In 2011, he threw a slider more than 21 percent of the time. In 2014? In 2011, he threw a change-up nearly 8 percent of the time. In 2014? Not even 1 percent. The slider and change tend to be great kill pitches that result in a lot of strikeouts, so throwing them with less regularity will naturally result in fewer strikeouts. On the other hand…
  2. In 2014, he’s thrown the cutter just over 20 percent of the time. In 2011? Nada. The cutter isn’t necessarily a kill pitch in the way of swings and misses. But as Mariano Rivera — and anyone who ever faced him — will tell you, the contact it produces is generally pretty weak. He’s also throwing a general fastball nearly 73 percent of the time in 2014, compared to a little under 67 percent in 2011.

Now, when you pitch to contact, you’ll be a little more prone to giving up base hits, which explains the increase, albeit slight increase, in hits. Having said that, fastballs tend to hit the strike zone and a good cutter will rarely be hit with any juice, even if it does find a hole.

What that means is that both the lower ERA and WHIP can actually be explained, and not just by luck. On that note, his .287 BABIP this year is similar to the .283 we saw in 2011, and neither mark comes anywhere near unsustainable. At the very least, even if you’re expecting an increase in that mark, it shouldn’t be such an increase that it completely blows the other numbers up.

So, to answer the question we posed at the top. Should Vance Worley  be on more fantasy teams? Yup. He was one of my Dixon’s Picks this week, but I think he should be owned beyond the weekend. Anything can happen but a deeper look at the numbers he’s producing suggests that they are very much sustainable.