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« Looking When it Counts | Main | Arroyo and the Long Ball »

Vance Worley: Made You Look

It's hard getting press when you're part of a rotation that includes names like Halladay, Lee and Hamels, but Vance Worley is enjoying an excellent rookie season with the Phillies. The Mohawked, bespectacled right-hander with the herky-jerky delivery, twice drafted by Philly (in the 20th round out of high school in 2005 and in the third round out of Long Beach State in 2008), has a 3.15 fielding independent ERA and 2.6 Wins Above Replacement in 123 innings pitched.

Worley has racked up more strikeouts as the year has progressed, and he's got a respectable 7.9 punch outs per nine innings on the season. He gets those Ks in an unconventional way, though. Fifty-nine of Worley's 108 strikeouts (55 percent) have been of the looking variety. For comparison, about 24 percent of all strikeouts recorded in the majors this season have caught batters looking.

Worley is getting those looking strikeouts almost exclusively with his fastball. Fifty-one of his 59 looking Ks have come on fastballs, and just about all of them have been located on the black to his glove side:

 Pitch location of Worley's strikeouts looking, 2011

Perhaps part of the reason that hitters seem to be taken off guard by Worley's location in those two-strike situations is that he takes a different approach with his fastball in other counts. Take a look at Worley's fastball location versus lefties and righties with less than two strikes:

 Worley's fastball location vs. lefties with less than two strikes, 2011

While he goes inside with the fastball vs. lefties when looking for a strikeout, he pounds the outside corner with less than two strikes. Lefty batters are probably expecting something away with two strikes, but instead they get a fastball inside that freezes them.

Worley's fastball location vs. righties with less than two strikes, 2011

Against righties with less than two strikes, Worley mixes it up. He hits the outside corner often enough, but he'll also put some fastball in on their hands. There's not much of a pattern to pick up here, which probably leaves righties not knowing what to expect with two strikes.

It remains to be seen whether Worley can keep causing so many hitters to head back to the dugout with a scrunched face and furrowed eyebrows. But for now, he's king of the looking strikeout.

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