Q&A: Vance Worley, Deceptively-Diverse Twin

Vance Worley will be displaying his uniquely-diverse repertoire in the Twin Cities this summer. Ditto his deception. Acquired by Minnesota from the Phillies in the Ben Revere deal, the 25-year-old right-hander throws six different pitches. They include a four-seam fastball that acts like a cutter and a cutter that acts like a slider. His delivery has produced a k-swing% markedly lower than league average each of the past two seasons.

Worley talked about his repertoire last week in Fort Myers.


David Laurila: How do you get hitters out?

Vance Worley: For me, it’s about setting pitches up. It’s being able to go inside, back out, up in the zone, bounce a pitch when you need to. Get guys guessing.

DL: Is velocity important to your game?

VW: It can be, but it’s more just flashing it. You don’t have to throw everything 100 percent. Some guys call it a BP fastball. You throw it with command more than velocity. At times you’ll show a hitter something, then come back and throw something harder.

For some reason, on my first pitch of the game, I can never throw anything over 87 mph. It doesn’t matter how hard I try. But I’m usually somewhere between 86 to 93, maybe 94.

DL: Do you throw a two-seamer or four-seamer?

VW: Both, and I have command of both. Whatever is working better is what I’m probably going to throw more. I had a two-seam before I got drafted, but at the lower levels of the minor leagues they wanted me to focus more on four-seamers. I did that until I realized my four-seam was straight. If a ball is straight it’s going to get hit, so I went back to knowing what I knew how to do. That was to throw more sinkers.

DL: You’ve had a low home run rate. Is that mostly a matter of location?

VW: Not necessarily. I’ve had some guys tell me I’m pretty deceptive. I hide the ball and the longer you hide it the less time the hitter has to see it. I’ve been hit hard — trust me — but home runs are mistakes. Nobody goes up there trying to hit a home run. It’s just something where a guy happens to get underneath it and it takes off.

DL: What is your best secondary pitch?

VW: Probably my cutter. I throw it like a cutter, but it moves more like a slider. You can call it whatever you’d like. The pitch has two-plane action. It slides and it falls out.

It is basically a cutter that morphed into a slider. I throw it the way you’re supposed to throw a cutter, but it moves like a slider. Everybody is different. Everybody has different arm slots when they pitch, and that’s how mine breaks.

My four-seam, with a big-league ball, has cut movement. With a minor-league ball, it won’t cut. I guess I have a four-seam cutter and a cutter/slider.

DL: What is the velocity on your cutter/slider?

VW: It depends. Same thing as with the fastball. If you change speeds on your off-speed stuff, it’s going to mess up hitters. It’s anywhere from 79 to 88. I think it has been clocked as high as 89.

DL: What else is in your repertoire?

VW: I throw a knuckle curve, a circle change, and I’m working on a splitter.

DL: What is the story behind your knuckle curve?

VW: I’ve been throwing a curveball since I was 12 years old. Once I got to college it was too slow — or so they told me — so we started working on a knuckle curve. That’s just putting your index finger on the seam instead of having both fingers on it. That way it doesn’t have to work against the ball. It gets right out of the way.

DL: Why are you working on a split when you already have the circle? Most pitchers don’t throw both.

VW: It tends to be one or the other, yes. The circle change is something I’ve been working with since I was 15 or 16 years old. It’s a feel pitch. Same thing with the cutter. You’ve either got it or you don’t. Split-finger, same thing. I’m just trying to find that other pitch that’s going to work for me.

The split has a little more down depth to it. My circle change kind of has some two-seam movement; it just comes out a little slower.

DL: Last year, Dave Cameron wrote that your strikeout rate is higher than maybe it should be.

VW: I don’t have a lot of swinging strikes. A lot of my strikeouts are looking. That’s pretty much my deception and keeping guys off balance. That said, an out is an out. I’m not trying to strike guys out. If a guy puts the ball in play within two pitches, great. That means I get to go deeper into the game.

DL: How much do you rely on reports and video?

VW: Everything goes on how you feel that day. You’re going to get your rundown on the team that’s coming in. Whether I’m working with Joe Mauer or Ryan Doumit, they’ve basically seen all these guys before. I’ve seen some of them as well. We’re going to put our heads together and figure out our game plans.

A lot of it depends on that bullpen beforehand. I might have a pitch that’s working better that day than normal, or vice versa. Or I might have something not working that I normally rely on. You go with your strengths.

DL: Do you always know coming in from the bullpen?

VW: Sometimes it doesn’t always transfer over. You might have a great pen and then be terrible on the field. You might have a terrible pen and be lights out on the field. It’s weird, because you’re working off two different mounds. Some bullpens are really high and some are really low, then you get into the game and it’s the opposite. Other times it’s perfect. You never know until you’ve worked off that mound.

DL: This year you’ll be working off a mound in a ballpark with more-forgiving dimensions.

VW: It’s a great feeling. Philadelphia had a small ballpark. You had to both pitch to contact and strike guys out. When there was contact, you hoped it was down on the ground, because if it was up in the air, it was probably going out.

DL: You were on a Phillies staff with some guys who really know how to pitch. What did you learn talking with them?

VW: We all had such different stuff. We had different deliveries and our balls broke differently. The conversations were mostly things like, “Hey, did you see how he took that pitch? There‘s a pretty good chance you might want to use that too.”

I probably talked to Doc [Roy Halladay] the most. Him and Cole Hamels. It was usually while the game was going on. We’d try to pick guys apart, whether they were moving around in the box, what swings they were taking on certain pitches, how they were taking a pitch. It’s a game of adjustments.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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scott ziegler
9 years ago

Are there different balls in the minors vs the majors. Seems odd to me.