The 2011 Major League Baseball season was a season of comebacks. Ryan Vogelsong made a magical comeback for the San Francisco Giants after not pitching in the majors since 2006. A few hours south of San Francisco, Jerome Williams came out of nowhere to post a 4-0 record for the Angels in six starts and ten total appearances after not pitching in the majors since 2007. Williams, who famously was homeless for parts of the past couple of years, became a sensation after winning three of his first four starts at a time when the Angels were still relevant in the American League West and wild card races. When Williams recorded his third win in his fourth start, the Angels were only two and a half games behind the Texas Rangers in the standings. Now pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League, Williams is 5-0 there in six starts. The wild ride continues.
Williams was so successful in his brief number of starts for the Angels that he has made that team's 40 man roster and is actually eligible for arbitration for the first time for 2012. That means that he could be making the best money of his career as well. But what will the Angels do with him? Is he their fifth starter? Will the Angels be comfortable with that? Or is he even the fourth starter with the uneven season that Tyler Chatwood just endured? Joel Pineiro is a free agent, so he's probably out of the picture. If 2011 showed one thing, it showed that starting Williams can be a successful venture but him coming out of the bullpen is dangerous.
There is a crying need at this point to shout, "SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!" So take these next stats with that grain of salt. In six starts, Williams was 4-0 with an ERA of 2.89. In four relief appearances covering five total innings, Williams gave up thirteen hits and eight runs. That wasn't pretty. Those five innings of relief yielded three homers which ballooned his per nine rate to 1.2 for the season and along with his 3.07 walks per nine pushed his FIP to 4.62 for the season. Take out those relief appearances and we get a totally different picture.
Jerome Williams had gone 7-2 in the Angels' minor league system and since the season has made six strong starts for Novegantes del Magallanes in Venezuela. That makes him 16-2 for the 2011. Not a bad year. Williams is sort of amazing. His fastball averaged 91.3 MPH for the Angels. He had never before averaged over 89.5 and that was way back in 2004. He averaged under 88 on the gun in his last two major league seasons in 2006 and 2007. His 11.1 percent swinging strikes in 2011 was also the most of his career.
Williams is a ground ball pitcher and fifty percent of his ball in play were of that trajectory. That gave him a nice 1.49 ground ball to fly ball ratio. That's a good thing because 2011 was no different than his previous big league experience as a lot of his fly balls go over the walls in the outfield. But he also had a nice 14.9 percent infield pop up rate and was much more effective in 2011 at inducing batters to swing at pitches out of the strike zone than ever before.
There is a lot to think about when considering Jerome Williams. His winter league success following his storybook season with the Angels leads to a lot of interest (at least for this author) in what kind of pitcher he is going to be in 2012 and if the Angels will have enough confidence in him to give him thirty starts.