The winding way to wins when Vance Worley starts

Jun 9, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Vance Worley (45) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 9, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Vance Worley (45) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Marlins have been asked to go to a spot-starter several times this year. Despite poor performance, the team continues to win when he pitches.

Vance Worley seems like a heck of a nice guy. The Miami Marlins have asked a lot of him this year and he has taken it all in stride. Albeit a stumbling, frustrating to watch stride.

Last night, Worley had another poor outing that was rescued by an explosive night from the Marlins lineup. In four starts, he’s managed only one game score that indicates an above average performance.

His last two outings have been particularly poor. Worley has gone only 3.2 innings before forcing manager Don Mattingly‘s hand.

The Pirates lineup is a sleeping giant. They have sluggers throughout and were expected to compete for the same wild card spot as the Miami Marlins. Both franchises have underperformed, but just as the Marlins have awakened, the Pirates might too.

That isn’t what happened last night. The Pirates lineup was kept in check for the most part after Worley’s departure last night. In consecutive starts Vance Worley has failed to get through the fourth inning without allowing several runs to score.

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When Worley gets the start, the opposing lineup turns into an episode of Chopped Jr. when the clock is about to run out, they start plating in a hurry.

Inexplicably, the Marlins continue to find ways to win those games. Last night Worley was pulled with two outs in the fourth inning while holding a lead. He’d already let four runs cross, surrendered six hits, walked two, and hit a batter.

Thanks to a seven run outburst spread over the three previous innings, the Marlins remained in control.

When Worley starts….

Ironically, Worley’s two best starts were the ones the team lost. With an average game score of 48, Worley’s performance can still be categorized as “below-average”. In those starts, he threw a combined nine innings, allowed five runs, struck out four, but surrendered two home runs.

That’s when the team made the move to recall Justin Nicolino from AAA. Nicolino offered an immediate improvement over Worley in his first start. He threw six innings, allowing only one earned run on 79 pitches.

In a corresponding move, the Marlins moved Worley into the bullpen. He made an appearance in the ninth inning of that game and pitched perfectly, retiring the side on eight pitches.

A twist of fate would thrust Worley back into the starting rotation. Nicolino bruised a finger on his pitching hand trying to lay down a bunt during his third start. With Worley now getting starts against the Diamondbacks and the Pirates, the team trotted him out and hoped for the best.

The best didn’t come in the form of quality starts from the veteran righty, but rather in the form of offensive firepower.

In those two starts, Worley pitched a combined 7.1 innings, allowing nine runs, while walking five and averaging a game score of 32. Considered “poor”.

Offense busting through

In both of those starts, the Marlins found a way to win. Against Arizona, they fought tooth and nail the entire game. Eventually, the decisive run was plated after the best at bat of the season by any batter on any team. A.J. Ellis worked 14 pitches before banging a single over the head of the shortstop.

Last night, it was constant onslaught. The Marlins didn’t relent. Even when they thought they had enough, they continued to pour on. That’s what they’ve had to do to win games when Worley starts, and that’s what they’ve done.

If they are able to keep this mentality when Nicolino returns, and when the other starters find themselves on the mound, they’ll be a tough team to beat. For now, finding ways to win when the starter fails to pitch deep into the game is the mark of a playoff caliber team, and they’re doing that.

Worley will likely be moved back into the bullpen when Nicolino returns. He pitches well in short spans of time where he can go max-effort on every pitch. He possess good strikeout stuff, but struggles to pitch deep into the game.

With the return of Nicolino, they gain a better arm in the starting rotation, and another veteran presence in the bullpen.

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Nicolino is expected to be able to make his next start. It appears the team is all in on him establishing himself at the Major League level this season.