August 4, 2011
Vance Worley or Kyle Kendrick: Who You Got?
It's a question that doesn't hold a lot of merit as we already know that Vance Worley has been named the starting pitcher for Friday night against San Francisco and Kyle Kendrick will be moving to the bullpen, but it's one worth asking ourselves anyway... All things considered equal, who should be the Phillies number five starter tnow that Roy Oswalt is on the brink of return?
The easy answer is Vance Worley. With a 7-1 record, a 2.33 ERA, and WHIP that has hovered around 1.00 all season, Worley has easily been the Phillies biggest surprise of the season. He's outpaced just about every other rookie pitcher in the league and if not for the resurgence of Freddie Freeman, could be a serious contender for some ROY hardware at the end of the season. But is he good or just lucky? Without diving too deep into statistics that most of you (and to some degree, myself) won't understand, let's look at the basics. Worley sports a .207 BA and .249 BAbip right now. Both numbers place him well ahead of top righties in the league like teammate Roy Halladay and Giants opposition this weekend Tim Lincecum. The two have trophy cases full of Cy Young Awards and a history of making batters look foolish. Worley, however, doesn't miss bats at nearly the same rate. The batting average on balls in play in particular is a number that just isn't sustainable. Every advanced metric out there will tell you that Vance Worley has been impressive, but that a good chunk of his success can be credited to the lucky rabbit's foot he keeps in his back pocket. More importantly, the major league numbers just don't compare to his 4 year averages in the minors. K/9 is down, BB/9 is up and yet his "fantasy stats" look as impressive as anyone over the last few weeks.
And then there's Kyle Kendrick, a man who has heard more than his share of whispers wondering why he's still part of this team in the first place. Here's a guy who for three years has been juggled in and out of the rotation and up and down between leagues, all the while taking the ball whenever he is called upon and doing a fairly admirable job. Entering Tuesday night with a 3.52 ERA, Kendrick was already sporting numbers that are third starter territory for most major league teams. Hell, that would have been ace material for the Phillies of a decade ago. So what does he do with what could possibly be his last start of the year and perhaps even his last start in a Phillies uniform? He goes 8 scoreless and strikes out a career high seven batters in a hitter friendly ballpark. In his 10 starts this season, only twice has he given up more than 4 runs. Comparatively, he's given up less than 2 runs six times. In the last month, Kendrick has thrown three quality starts and seen his ERA drop to 3.19 (a number below Oswalts, and only a hair above Cliff Lee!). Yet he's still found himself playing second fiddle to the JA Happs of the world when stretch time comes. Is he the guy who fans 7 against Colorado on August 2nd or the guy who gives up 5 earned in 3 innings against Colorado on May 19th?
When the season started, no one could have guessed that the embarrassment of riches the Phillies had in their starting rotation depth would include the likes of Kendrick or Worley. I don't recall seeing their names printed on any "Aces" t-shirts that were reluctantly including Joe Blanton instead. And yet here we are with the Phillies coasting 7 games ahead of their nearest opponent with one of the top pitchers in the game about to make his return and bump one of two young pitchers from the rotation. Kendrick is the guy who has been in the post season before, who has a history of facing major league talent with moderate success, and who has withstood the pressures of a number of different roles. Worley is the young hurler who plays with an obvious passion, has baffled major league hitters for most of the season, and shows no signs of slowing down. While both guys will eventually find their way into long man roles for the post season, and while we already know the answer the Phillies have chosen to go with... I still ask the question, who you got?
It pains me to say it, but I ride with Kendrick from here on out for many of the reasons I've mentioned above but most importantly because I'm going with a track record of success over the unknown. Kendrick's gotten himself into and out of as many jams as anyone who's ever put on the uniform, he's proven to be a better starting pitcher than reliever this season, and his last few outings have been just as impressive as anyone elses. Let's not forget that Kyle Kendrick was the 10 win rookie sensation ala Happ and Worley before it was cool. He came in and stole the job from JD Durbin and has given a number of good years to the Phillies fans since then. He'll make you want to pull your hair out most of the time, but in a stretch run, I think it's important to have someone capable of eating innings and keeping the bullpen fresh. Worley is about 25 innings away from a career high for one season and could start wearing down in September. If you need both guys for the playoffs, it makes more sense to me to keep the seasoned arm stretched out and use the young guy in a role that keeps him fresh in the pen. But I'll gladly listen to the opposite take.