• Why Vance Worley needs to expand his arsenal

    Vance Worley is poised for his second unofficial start for the Minnesota Twins today.

    Compared to the other recent additions to the rotation, the 25-year-old right-hander’s first outing in the Grapefruit League was very positive. He worked two innings, allowed a pair of hits but didn’t allow any runs. Feedback from his new manager was good.

    “I like him. He looks like a gunslinger with that windup,” Ron Gardenhire told reporters following the team’s 5-4 victory over the Pirates. “It looks like he’s ready to draw a pistol. I always liked guys like that.”

    Of course, first impressions are sort of Worley’s thing. It is meeting people a second and third time that the newest member of the team needs to work on, as you will see.

    Heading into the 2012 season Worley grew concerned that the rest of the league was going to catch on to his sinker, a pitch that had been wildly successful for him in 2011 when he finished 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 131.2 innings and took third in the Rookie of the Year voting.

    “I need to develop a change-up this spring so I can have it ready for this season,” Worley toldYahoo.com’s Dave Brown, “The whole league knows I throw a sinker now, and my cutter is OK; it can be good at times. But definitely I need a third pitch.”

    True to his word, Worley set out to install the change as his third pitch. Up to that point in his career, his version of the change was the standard “circle” grip, named such because when the pitcher’s thumb and index finger make the “OK” symbol and the ball is thrown with the aid of the three remaining fingers. Still, the results on the pitch in 2011 were lackluster. Because he threw this change at a high velocity (averaging 84.7 mph according to Fangraphs.com) he had little separation between that and his sinker and cutter (thrown on average at 90 mph). Opponents smacked the change around to the tune of a .309 average.

    Even coming off his solid rookie campaign, Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee reiterated the need for Worley to add an additional pitch. “Hitters will adjust after seeing him,” he told the media. “He has to adjust, too.”

    Worley had the good fortune of being employed alongside one of the best pitchers in the game, Roy Halladay. Just a few years prior, Halladay learned a new change-up grip that helped win him the National League Cy Young Away in 2010. Rather than the circle grip he split his ring and middle fingers out wide on what would have been a prototypical two-seam fastball grip, a less wide version of the split-finger fastball. What the former Cy Young winner did was develop a “split-change” that had heavy sink and enough speed variation to make it extremely effective.

    In camp in 2012, Worley hoped to come away with the new version of his change-up but despite the fact he had shaved a tad off of the velocity (down to 83 mph), he still did not feel comfortable throwing it frequently throughout the year.

    Nevertheless, Worley had success despite not missing bats was due to his deceptive delivery andoutstanding movement on his sinker/two-seamer. He froze opponents regularly, ringing up a baseball-high 57% of his strikeouts looking. What’s more is that umpires (with some help from his catcher) gave him nearly 10% of his pitches not swung at and thrown OUTSIDE of the strike zone a strike. That’s well above the league average of 7%.

    It appears, at least judging by the statistics, that opponents figured out not to be fooled as much by the movement or deceptive delivery the second or third time around.

    Worley’s splits may show signs of how he was affected by his shallow arsenal. According to Baseball-Reference.com’s pitching splits, Worley labored as the lineup continued to turnover in 2012. After the first time through the order, the spectacled one held the opposition to a 620 OPS coupled with a 22% strikeout rate. This success would slide significantly as the game progressed. The second time through the OPS increased to 863 while his strikeout rate dropped to 17%. The third time around, the floodgates would open as his OPS allowed spiked to 971 while his strikeout rate came in at 13%.

    With a lack of a solid third pitch, was the shifting numbers a result of opponents zeroing in on his sinker and cutter? While those segmentations are small sample sizes, the OPS allowed in the second and third time through the order were noticeably higher than the league average.

    As Worley said prior to the 2012 season, he was in need of an additional pitch. He threw a solid cutter, one that had the highest percentage of swing-and-misses among his repertoire last season, but that has been below average among all pitch types in that department.

    There’s probably some hesitation as to why Worley had mistrust in his change. It is a “feel” pitch and, given the fact that he allowed three of the 12 home runs surrendered on the pitch while throwing it less than 8% of the time. Look at his intended location versus his actual location for this change when facing Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alverez:





    Yes. That ball went way far, far away. The reason was that instead of down and away as desired, this slow mover went middle-in and allowed Alverez to nearly send that pitch back to the other side of the state of Pennsylvania.

    If a pitcher does not have confidence to hit his spots consistently, that pitcher may withhold throwing that pitch. And it appears that Worley still does not have faith in that offering either. “My changeup is usually just terrible all around, all the time,” Worley told reporters after his first outing this spring. “So if I can not use it, I won’t use it.”

    True, Worley only faced eight batters so he did not have the lineup turn on him and likely did not need to show them anything else. Yet switching to the American League, where, thanks to the DH, lineups are more robust, it should accelerate the need to refine that pitch. If he is able to hone that pitch, he may have better success against his opponent that second and third time through the order in 2013.
    This article was originally published in blog: Vance Worley and the need for a third pitch started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 20 Comments
    1. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      I didn't realize that Worley only had 2 pitches! Let's hope that he can get that changeup under control.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      To be clear, he throws a curve and a slider too. Neither have been effective. His focus has been to refine the changeup to give him that velocity separation.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I didn't realize he didn't have an effective changeup. Did Terry Ryan? I thought it was a pre-requisit for Twins pitchers. Well I guess in this instance we can say that it is better to have Cuellar up at the MLB level. At least he can and has thrown the pitch, hopefully Cuellar can fix a mechanical issue or grip and the implementation of the change will not be something that causes him to be erratic this entire season.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Burton throws a splange too. I wonder if those two have talked about it, Burton might have a different take than Halladay.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      “I like him. He looks like a gunslinger with that windup,” Ron Gardenhire told reporters following the team’s 5-4 victory over the Pirates. “It looks like he’s ready to draw a pistol. I always liked guys like that.”


      Seriously, Gardy.

      I mean, seriously.
    1. mcrow's Avatar
      mcrow -
      From what I have seen he does have a changeup that is effective at times, it's not a plus pitch for him though. I still say his cutter is his best pitch and of course he has a decent fastball. So I think he does have 3 pitches but the change is clearly the weakest. After looking at more of his games I noticed that his curve is not as good as I thought and is in fact useless...lol.

      So I'd say he's a 3 pitch guys though that 3rd pitch is fringe. I think if he can just through the changeup more consistantly and in the right spots it would be huge change in his peformance.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Burton throws a splange too. I wonder if those two have talked about it, Burton might have a different take than Halladay.
      I think it is a misconception that Burton throws a split-change. According to this piece in the Pioneer Press, it is actually a circle change that has the action of a split-finger (hence the name, splangeup):

      Jared Burton was playing catch as a freshman at Western Carolina University when he developed what he calls the "splangeup," an offspeed pitch like a changeup that dives like a split-fingered fastball.A variation on the "circle change," for which a pitcher makes a circle with his thumb and forefinger, Burton found that "it moved a lot, and I thought, 'Oh, that's pretty good.' "
      So when Burton went home after practice, he held the ball with that circle grip "the whole night, just to get comfortable with it." They've been tight ever since.


      I'd like someone to get full confirmation on that grip.

      From what I have seen he does have a changeup that is effective at times, it's not a plus pitch for him though.
      Depends on your definition of effective. He seldom threw it (less than 8% of the time) and threw it will very little separation from his fastball's velocity (6 mph differential). Opponents hit .429 off of it with six of the nine hits going for extra bases.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      I think it is a misconception that Burton throws a split-change. According to this piece in the Pioneer Press, it is actually a circle change that has the action of a split-finger (hence the name, splangeup):
      What is the difference between a split-change and a splange? If I am understanding it, the only difference between Doc's pitch and Burton's is the fingers they use. Trigger and middle for Doc, Middle and ring for Burton.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      What is the difference between a split-change and a splange? If I am understanding it, the only difference between Doc's pitch and Burton's is the fingers they use. Trigger and middle for Doc, Middle and ring for Burton.
      Right. But Burton doesn't actually split his fingers, it's just named for the similar movement to a split-finger.
    1. GCTF's Avatar
      GCTF -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Seriously, Gardy.

      I mean, seriously.[/COLOR]
      Gardy ain't been more serious in his life, pardner.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      Right. But Burton doesn't actually split his fingers, it's just named for the similar movement to a split-finger.
      I guess I assumed he did split them. The way that pitch moves, to my eye that can only be from a split.
    1. ScottyB's Avatar
      ScottyB -
      It's Bobby Cuellar time! Can you say Circle-Change? Tie the two together at the hip.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Its interesting that Worley has a reverse platoon split so far in his career too. Normally changeup-heavy pitchers have that. Suggests to me that he might benefit more from a better braking pitch that he can throw to RHBs, but maybe its just SSS. A new/better change would never hurt either.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Disguising his changeup may be more important than locating it. Hitters depend so heavily on timing that Worley may be better off working on making his change look more like his fastball, and don't worry so much about pinpoint location. In fact, scattering his change around the zone might actually make it more effective, especially if it takes a fraction of a second longer to recognize it.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      In fact, scattering his change around the zone might actually make it more effective, especially if it takes a fraction of a second longer to recognize it.
      Hmm. That really has not played out in terms of pitch value across the league. If you look at the research done at Hardball Times Annual 2010 or 2011 you see that down and away is by far the most effective location for a changeup. Certainly speed differential and deception will allow for getting away with leaving a ball thigh-high but keeping the change in the proper spot will make it more successful.

      Overall, completely agree that Worley needs to disguise it more.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by GCTF View Post
      Gardy ain't been more serious in his life, pardner.
      I always liked managers like that.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      Hmm. That really has not played out in terms of pitch value across the league. If you look at the research done at Hardball Times Annual 2010 or 2011 you see that down and away is by far the most effective location for a changeup. Certainly speed differential and deception will allow for getting away with leaving a ball thigh-high but keeping the change in the proper spot will make it more successful.

      Overall, completely agree that Worley needs to disguise it more.
      The explanation given for best pitch location I heard was: "down and away and high and inside are the toughest pitches to hit--because your arms are attached to your shoulders."
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      The explanation given for best pitch location I heard was: "down and away and high and inside are the toughest pitches to hit--because your arms are attached to your shoulders."
      This probably explains why I hit so well the year I separated my shoulder. Pro-tip for the Twins' trainers.

      / Truth in posting regulations require me to state that I never separated my shoulder and I never hit well.
    1. Doc Freiermuth's Avatar
      Doc Freiermuth -
      Is it just me or does Worley remind anyone else of "Wild Thing" from Major League. Mowhawk...horned rimmed glasses...tough guy attitude??? Or maybe it's just that the whole team reminds me of Major League...all we need for incentive is a poster of Jim Pohlad that Gardy can take off a piece of the suit each win they get...
    1. raindog's Avatar
      raindog -
      Quote Originally Posted by Doc Freiermuth View Post
      Is it just me or does Worley remind anyone else of "Wild Thing" from Major League. Mowhawk...horned rimmed glasses...tough guy attitude??? .
      Ha! I was kind of thinking the same thing. Doesn't quite have the velocity though...

      Thanks for the article Parker! You are a treasure. It's hard to find this kind of Twins analysis.
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