Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Giants Pitching Preview 2005: The Kid From Honolulu
From his very first start last year, Jerome Williams was about as inconsistent as Michael Cimino's film resume. In one start we'd get a masterful Deer Hunter-esque performance, then in the next we'd get a Year of the Dragon-caliber piece of crap, in which opposing hitters would mash taters at will like a group of hungry Irishmen. Williams struggled through a particularly crummy first half before finally turning it on after the All-Star Break. Just when it looked like the Giants were getting the stable Jerome from 2003, he hurt his elbow in a start against St. Louis and was effectively done for the season.
According to every report I've seen, Williams is committed to washing away the relative disappointment of 2004. He has reportedly come into camp at a svelte 238 pounds, a year after coming into spring training at a bloated 260. He was even heard gloating about his newfound six pack abs. Apparently he had picked up some bad eating habits from Sidney Ponson in the 2003 offseason, but has since learned to lay off the burgers (or whatever the delicacy is in Hawaii....boiled conch shells??) and is in tip-top shape. I'm just thankful he didn't also pick up Ponson's penchant for beating down helpless judges. By the way, what is it with this recent trend of plus-sized pitchers going all loco upside some poor doofus' crainium during the offseason? We have Ponson beating on a judge in Aruba, we have Livan Hernandez giving some old guy the Michelle Wie treatment with a golf club before the '03 season. David Wells gets in drunken bar fights seemingly every winter. Inflated former pitching prospect Bobby Jenks apparently got into some trouble with his fists, which helped lead to his ouster from the Angels. What is this? Are lean pitchers just more pacifist or something? Do they punch walls instead of other peoples' mandibles? Is it something in the hamburgers that these guys are eating? Do they have an inferiority complex that makes them act out upon even the slightest hint of ridicule? If that's the case, how the hell does David Wells live without going on a killing spree every week? Am I yet again rambling about something irrelevant while offending a chunk of the population with an anti-fat people diatribe? I think my work here is done.
A lot of Giants fans (mostly casual, undiscriminating ones) believe that Jerome Williams will be a star pitcher, and have bought into the media hype (mostly brought on by that robotic rascal Rich Draper) that he's comparable to a young Doc Gooden. I'm sorry to be the pessimistic Paulie here, but I have a hard time believing Williams will ever be a star, and about the only things he has in common with Gooden are that a)the two sorta look alike, b)they both reached the majors at a very young age, and c)Jerome is from Hawaii, and Gooden I'm sure has visited Hawaii at some point in his life, and no doubt snorted lots of stuff up his nose. Williams will no doubt be a successful pitcher, a guy who will put up year after year of 200 innings/15 wins/low-to-mid-3 ERAs, and who knows, should have a couple 20 wins seasons in him if the Giants are good enough, as well as some All-Star season. But he doesn't have the overpowering stuff to be a dominant hurler. While his velocity was up a bit last year (he basically topped out at 88-90 mph in his rookie season), he generally relies on finesse and hitting corners rather than overpowering hitters to succeed. His strikeout rates are decent and foretell a long career, but at this point I'd say he's destined to become basically 1988-1993 Dwight Gooden instead of the electric, pact-with-Satan kind of pitcher Gooden was in 1984-1986.
One thing I do love about Williams is that his walk ratios are terrific for a guy his age. They aren't in Zach Greinke territory (good lord, whenever I hear that guy's name the roto nerd in me gets all giddy), but they are certainly excellent for a guy who is 23 (93 walks in 260+ innings in his two years in the majors), and they should only get better as he progresses. Usually, young pitchers coming into the majors have trouble with control. By comparison, Greg Maddux, the poster boy for control artists, walked 74 batters in 151 innings in his rookie season. Randy Johnson likewise had hideous control problems when he first came up, and look what happened to him. Williams doesn't have the stuff that these guys do, but his ability to keep from handing out free passes to opponents is a nice omen for the future. I think if he stays healthy this year and improves at home (a Tomko-esque 4.85 showing at SBC last year), he should win about 13 games and put up an ERA of about 3.50.