Phillies put down the Vanimal
by Scott Butler 9/9/12

Vance Worley’s season is over before it needs to be.  Shouldn’t that be big news?

Vance Worley was set to have off season surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow, but the Phillies decided to have the surgery right now for, well, no real reason at all.  You probably paid the announcement little attention due to the Phillies masterful job of burying the story.

See, the Vance Worley story just so happened to come out on the same day that Utley was “unexpectedly” caught fielding ground balls, Cole Hamels developed a sudden gastrointestinal illness, Tyler Cloyd made his major league debut, and a day before Rollins was benched for not hustling.  Awfully big coincidence or a giant cover-up?  Hmmm, that’s actually pretty juicy.

It’s doubtful Oliver Stone will be directing a movie based on this conspiracy, but at the bottom of all the rubble is a troubling development which needs to be addressed.

Worley could have the surgery after the season with no problem at all. He would not miss any time in Spring Training or the regular season and the loose bodies were not affecting his pitching this season, so there is no physical justification for having the surgery now.  It certainly wasn't a problem for Cole Hamels or Scott Eyre who both had the procedure after the season with no setbacks.

So why do the surgery now?

Worley has claimed all along that the loose bodies in his elbow had nothing to do with his recent poor performance.  In one my favorite quotes all year, when asked after a rough outing if the elbow was an issue, he said, "Quit crying. It is what it is. I'm just not locating when I need to get the outs. That's why I'm getting hurt."  But after the Phillies' decision, Worley responded, "I mean, the way I've been pitching the last seven or eight games, it's almost like it needed to be done." 

Wait, it is a formula of pitch poorly, get surgery?  I’m a little confused. 

Let's hit up Rich Dubee for some clarification. Hey Dubs, why is Vance Worley going on the DL?  “His demeanor has changed. He doesn't look right. He lost that good look on the mound."

That’s why he went on the DL?  Because his demeanor changed?  Maybe you didn’t understand the question, Rich. 

Let me rephrase. If he doesn’t need the surgery now and off season surgery won’t be a setback, why do it now?  "His demeanor was different.  His personality was different. His mound presence was extremely changed. And those aren't good things. Those aren't things we want engrained in him for the rest of his career for sure. It was a good time to stop him and get him straightened up."

Straightened up?  Huh?  So when the going gets tough the tough gets…placed on the DL?

Dubee is not trying to sideswipe the question.  In fact, nobody from the Phillies is trying to use the injury as an excuse for his recent pitching and that is exactly the problem.  According to a line in The Mental ABC’s of Pitching, "If you want to know who I am, watch me when things aren't going my way."  Especially on a team in which wins and losses don’t matter much, this is the perfect time to observe how Worley handles the first real adversity he has faced in his Major League career.

Which brings us to the haunting aspect of the situation: the Phillies watched Worley when things were not going his way and they did not like what they saw. Worley had a 3.01 ERA in 2011 and a 2.92 ERA through June this season, but his final 11 starts yielded a 5.80 ERA and .350 batting average against. His struggles increased over his last five games in which he posted a 6.75 ERA, pitched six or more innings just once, and averaged 4.8 innings per start.

Equally as alarming is the notion that the league has finally caught up to Vance Worley. Midway through his second season, it seemed like Worley might have avoided the dreaded "sophomore slump." After 44 games in 2011 and 2012, Worley was an impressive 17-12 with a more than respectable 2.92 ERA. 44 games is plenty of time, one would think, for teams to have enough video and charts on Worley to figure him out. As it turns out, maybe 44 games was exactly enough time.

Hopefully there is more to Vance's elbow issues than the Phillies are letting on, but that is almost besides the point. Composure and demeanor is an enormous factor in the success or failure of a pitcher, and it seemed that Worley's mental toughness is what allowed him to enjoy such success in the first place. Without his mental edge, Worley is a just another pitcher with below average velocity, mediocre stuff, and pedestrian control.

We can only hope that Sir Vancelot has not simply reached the same inevitable shelf life like that of his predecessors before him like JA Happ and Brandon Duckworth...

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