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Is Jerome Williams A Good Rotation Option?

I’m not generally an optimistic person. Unless bourbon is involved, then I believe I can count cards and convince women I was in Dawson’s Creek. So imagine my surprise when I read this LA Times article on Jerome Williams and felt good about him as the Angels fifth starter. Williams played winter ball in Venezuela going 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA. He wanted to work on his control and focus. The 25 strikeouts and 12 walks in 36 innings wasn’t too bad then. And apparently Venezuela is full of distractions…

“The stadium is like a triple-A park — it holds about 25,000 fans — but it sounds like 60,000 because there’s so much noise, so much commotion,” Williams said. “There’s music, drums, horns. It’s so loud that sometimes the catcher would come to the mound and I couldn’t hear him.”

Throw out the clunky relief outings with the Angels in 2011 and Williams had a 2.31 ERA and a 3.44 FIP as a starter.

Why, that glass looks half full.

Okay, that is going off 39.0 starting innings with the Angels and 36.0 innings of winter ball. It would be easy enough to file that away in the small sample size cabinet and ignore it. We are talking about a guy who started 2011 pitching in an Independent League.

In the Baseball Prospectus 2012 Almanac, they say “Williams is the rare dude who used to be a pitcher and now he’s a thrower.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the 30-year-old. But at 30, I went from a writer to a typer and look at me now! BP does note that he perfected a cutter and dropped his arm slot to get more movement on his two-seamer and changeup.

So maybe that glass is still half full.

Then. Well, then I looked at the projections.

System IP K BB ERA FIP
Bill James 88.0 54 25 5.11 4.78
Cairo 80.0 48 26 4.67 4.60
PECOTA 114.0 68 43 4.96 5.39*
ZiPS 103.2 65 30 5.04 4.52

*I used FRA for PECOTA instead of FIP

There were 11 pitchers in 2011 who started 80+ innings with an ERA of 4.95 or higher.

Randy Wells
Edinson Volquez
Brad Penny
Derek Lowe
John Lackey
Rich Harden
J.A. Happ
Danny Duffy
Fausto Carmona
Bronson Arroyo
Jake Arrieta

I should note that not all of the projections for Williams have him starting for all of his innings but this at least gives you an idea. The Braves traded Lowe and $10 of the $15 million owed to the Indians. Penny signed in Japan. Lackey had 2012 season ending Tommy John. Carmona, or should I say Roberto Hernandez Heredia, aged three years and was put on the restricted list. And arrested. Volquez was traded. Harden is still a free agent. I could go on but this is starting to read like the tragedies on the Simpsons episode “Homer at the Bat.”

Glass half empty.

Of course, Williams isn’t being asked to be a front of the rotation starter. He just has to throw every fifth day behind Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana. Without the pressure of being a former first round pick and new found focus, Williams could be a new pitcher in 2012. Or Garrett Richards will be starting by May.

There’s definitely some water in that glass.

I’m rooting for Williams because it would be a nice story and Richards needs a little more seasoning. I’m more optimistic than the projections too. Over 41% of men reinvent themselves at 30-years-old according to a survey I made up. I’m glass half full on Williams.* I know, I’m surprised too.

*I reserve the right to change my mind everyday day during Spring Training and every fifth day once the season starts.

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Tags: Five Spot In The Rotation Jerome Williams

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