The Value of Worley
Wanna know the value of the Vanimal?
It’s broadening the spectrum of on-paper “Games You Should Win.” It’s propping up the most talented starting rotation in the history of the sport. (And, by virtue of bats flailing like cooked spaghetti, the most stressed.) It’s youth. It’s energy. It’s the sickest bro-hawk since the 80s.
It’s basically everything Vance Worley (1-2) did last night, in the Phils (6-7) win over the Padres (3-11), 2-0.
He tossed seven scoreless. Fanned 11. Allowed just four hits, and only three walks.
Forget the qualifiers. Yeah, entering the series, San Diego lead the league in strikeouts. Their record is less a stat line than a one-liner. Not a single starter (or qualifier) in the Padre lineup bats over .300. Four – Cameron Maybin (.160), Jason Barlett (.175), Jesus Guzman (.182), Nick Hundley (.194) – are under .200.
No, no – you’re totally right. They’re swing the bats like the Phillies on muscle relaxers.
And Worley was, for record, opposed by a guy making only his second career start on a team with fewer arms than the reptile house at the zoo, Joe Wieland. But those are the types he’ll face all year season, the only ones he’ll be asked to beat. Just like he was against Jonathan Niese on April 14 (in a 5-0 loss to the Mets) and Joel Hanrahan six days earlier (in a 5-4 loss to the Pirates), both instances in which he wasn’t at his best.
But when he is, when he’s like this, you’d have to figure the Phils the favorites in such games, right?
And, so far as dealing with blown starts goes, you’d have to figure Worley’s other halves the types that give the Phillies a chance to actually produce.
What more can you ask for from your No. 5?
Awesome as it was, the solid outing from Worley doesn’t have the staying power of Cliff Lee’s instant gem of a Wednesday. (What’s left of it, at least, after the lineup put it on an anvil and mashed it to bits. Which, yeah, is totally ironic, given that it was the only thing they managed to make contact with all night.)
But outings like these mitigate pressure. They instill calm. They’re basically clubhouse chamomile. For one of the antsiest, most anxious seasons in recent Phils history, you can’t get enough of that.
And, frankly, you can’t get enough of Worley. Not the way he hammers the corners of the plate. Not the way he makes due with 91 m.p.h. heat warmth. Not how he plays Loki on his breaking balls and off-speed stuff, tricking and frustrating and winning.
That’s how he duped the side in the first, striking out the top of the Padre order in succession.
That’s how he “three-up, three-downed” San Diego in the third and fifth, throwing pitches they couldn’t hit – save for dribblers to Freddy Galvis and Placido Polanco. (Both of whom, at least defensively, proved their value Thursday, too.)
That’s how he punk’d Mark Kotsay in the bottom of the seventh, with runners on first and third and nursing just a 1-0 lead. The scene was the stuff of sandlot imaginations. (Less the part about the incompetent run support. Don’t think anybody’s that cynical at age 7.) Full count. Pressure of the road mounting. Seasoned vet who, even though he’s a shell of what he used to be, still has brand recognition that conjures memories.
With a bag to spare – what? you didn’t wonder whether Worley was gonna walk him? – he didn’t play it safe. He rolled up his sleeves, and, risky as it is – what happens if his nose-t0-knees breaking ball misses? worse, what happens if it doesn’t actually break? – pulled out a pen for his John Hancock, his signature stuff.
Emphatic ring-up from the umpire. Impassioned roar from the fans. (Yeah, even at Petco Park. Looked like where the Marlins used to play, but after an anthrax scare. Place was empty.)
Wanna know the value of the Vanimal?
Maybe start there.
(This article was written by Matt Hammond. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)