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2007 Rotation Preview: Dave Williams

Mike SteffanosWednesday, January 10, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Dave Williams was drafted out of high school by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the seventeenth round of the 1998 draft. Although never considered a big prospect, Williams made it up to the major leagues by age 22, starting 18 games for the Pirates in 2001. He began 2002 in the starting rotation, but hurt his shoulder and underwent season-ending surgery for a torn labrum in July. He didn't pitch again until the following June, and didn't notch any major league innings at all in 2003. (Note -- see correction at bottom)

Williams spent most of 2004 in the minors also, but finally returned to the Pirates to pitch out of their bullpen in August. After spending a couple of weeks on the DL with a rib cage strain, Williams returned to start six games in September. In 2005, he made the Pirates out of spring training and spent the entire year in the rotation, although he did miss most of September with another rib cage injury.

That winter he was traded to the Reds for Sean Casey. As desperate as Cincinnati was for pitching last season, Williams managed to pitch badly enough in eight starts to earn a ticket out of town. He was traded to the Mets along with cash for a minor league pitcher. The Mets sent him directly to Norfolk where he missed some time with injuries, but then returned to pitch effectively in Triple-A. A mid-August call-up to the Mets got off to a fine beginning as he went 3-0 with an ERA just over 3 in his first four starts. He tailed off some after that, but had pitched well enough to earn a contract and compete for a job in 2007.

Here are Williams' lifetime major league numbers:

Major League Stats -- Dave Williams
Year - Team Age Starts Innings Hits/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA AVG SLG
2001 Pittsburgh 22 18 114.0 7.9 4.5 3.6 1.2 3.71 .244 .433
2002 Pittsburgh 23 9 43.1 7.9 6.9 5.0 1.9 4.98 .232 .463
2003 24Did not pitch in majors
2004 Pittsburgh 25 6 38.2 7.2 7.7 3.0 0.9 4.42 .217 .378
2005 Pittsburgh 26 25 138.2 8.9 5.7 3.8 1.3 4.41 .261 .453
2006 Cincinnati 27 8 40.0 12.2 3.6 3.6 2.0 7.20 .321 .548
2006 NY Mets - 5 29.0 12.1 5.0 1.2 1.6 5.59 .333 .521
MLB Totals - 71 403.2 8.9 5.4 3.6 1.4 4.64 .261 .457

Just looking at the raw numbers, several things jump out. Before this season, Williams always had good numbers as far as giving up hits, averaging less than one per inning. The high number of home runs against, however, speak to a pitcher who makes more than his share of bad pitches. The walk rates were a tad high for someone who isn't an overpowering hurler, but that was one thing that he successfully addressed after coming over to the Mets. Williams was extremely aggressive in the strike zone, and should continue in that approach going forward. I thought the aggressiveness was the best thing he brought to the table as a Met.

If there's one other thing that's obvious from both the numbers and the brief career history that I outlined, it is that durability is not a strong suit for Williams. His career high in major league innings was the 139 from 2005, and he has missed time with various injuries from minor to severe every year.

Williams features a fastball that sits around 90, but he has a deceptive motion that makes it seem a little faster. He has a very good changeup that sets up his fastball, but he is somewhat prone to making mistakes with it. He also has an effective breaking ball that he doesn't always control. His splits actually show a slightly better record against right-handers than lefties. He pitches much better with the bases empty than with men on. I'm not sure whether that speaks to difficulty pitching out of the stretch or a lack of concentration in those situations.

Williams can be a very effective pitcher if he would learn to limit his mistakes. If he can cut down on the gopher balls, get his hits back down to where they were before last season while cutting down his walks, he has as much of a chance as anyone of taking the fifth starter job. I honestly liked watching him pitch last year when he was working quickly and attacking the strike zone. It was a nice change of pace from some of the others on the staff, and it gives me hope that he can help this team as a starter or replacing Darren Oliver in that important swing man role.

As much as I like him, though, I have to be realistic. There is a reason why the pitching-starved Reds gave up on him and why the Mets considered not tendering him a contract this winter. Although only 28 going into the 2007 season, he has enough service time to earn a $1.2 million contract for 2007. Williams needs to take a step forward and prove that he can be more effective than the talented young pitchers in the Mets organization who would be making a quarter of that if they were on the major league roster. He has to be that pitcher he was in his first four starts with the Mets, and not the one who was absolutely pasted by Florida in his last start. He needs to be consistent rather than great, and he also needs to stay on the field. Looking back at his record, I have real questions about Williams' durability.

Even though the Mets did tender him a contract, I wouldn't think that Williams has a guaranteed job with them at all in 2007. He'll have to earn a spot out of spring training. Provided he is fully healthy, I believe he will. I think Williams is right there in the mix to seize the fifth starter's job this spring with his experience, but the durability question make me believe that the Darren Oliver role would make more sense -- provided one of the younger pitchers steps up and earns a starting job. My best guess is that he will be a swing man, with 8-10 starts and the rest of the time in long relief.

Note (4/30/07): The first paragraph is incorrect. I received an email from Shane, a high school teammate of Williams, who informed me that Dave played one year of college ball before being drafted by the Pirates. Shane says:

If you want to accurately document his career then you need to add that he was scouted by the Florida Marlins as a Senior in high school but turned them down for college. Then as a freshmen in college was drafted by the Pirates.

Thanks to Shane for the heads-up. He also offers the following personal opinion on Dave Williams:

The funny thing about the internet is that it gives a lot of information but it is information that has blinders on. Yes, I agree his numbers don't really reflect a great or even a good career. You have to look a little farther into his numbers though. He was on a team that repeatedly lost around 100 games a year. He had no run support and he had a shoulder injury that many pitchers never recover enough to make it back to the major leagues. People should really look at what he has accomplished with what he had to play with and not base everything on what his numbers are.

This concludes our 2007 Starting Rotation Previews
Thanks for joining us in our look at the eight pitchers most likely to be slugging it out for the final four rotation slots below Tom Glavine. I'll write one more piece summing up the potential starters, and then we'll be taking a detailed look at the bullpen.

Once again, thanks to Anthony from Hot Foot, Ryan from Always Amazin' and Matt from MetsBlog for linking to these previews. And thanks to all of you for taking the time to stop by and check them out.

2007 Starting Rotation Previews:
Orlando Hernandez
Phil Humber
John Maine
Mike Pelfrey
Oliver Perez
Alay Soler
Jason Vargas
Dave Williams (This Article)
Rotation Preview Conclusions

2007 Pitching Previews: Summing It All Up

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (13)

Nice job Mike. That's a lot of info you gather and put into usable form for the rest of us.

Kind of how the Catholic Church used to say, "Don't you worry about reading the Bible. You might not figure it out. We've got trained professionals who'll not only do it for you, they'll tell you what it means. By the way, there are two collections today."

All kidding aside, EL's right. Mike doesn't sugar-coat his analyses, and I appreciate that. Unlike a team-issued media guide, the views presented here attempt to show the whole player, warts and all. That frank view doesn't concern me when looking ahead to Mets 2007; if anything, it makes me more optimistic. Gotta wear shades.

I heard an interesting turn of phrase somewhere recently: "You like someone for their positive attributes, but you love them for their flaws". I sure hope my wife's reading this, because if that's true, there's a lot to love.

Williams has something in common with Oliver Perez, John Maine and Orlando Hernandez: they're all flyball pitchers. Perez is the most extreme flyballer of the bunch of course.

What he DOESN"T have in common with those three is much in the way of stuff. Williams is a modestly talented lefthander who throws the fly balls; as such I have to believe that a graph of his career path is going to be a series of hogbacks, not some steady, predictable rise or decline. He'll do all right when he's on, otherwise he'll be blasted.

The same could be said of Maine, except that Maine's mistakes have more on the ball than Williams.

Not trying to be too negative here; I did find things to appreciate in William's composure last year. But unless he learns to cut the fastball this way and that a la Greg Maddux I doubt he will ever be a pitcher upon whom a contending team can rely.

Looks like the Mets are going to have a flyball staff apart from Glavine (and maybe Pelfrey according to a small sample). Keep those legs in shape, Carlos.

I think Williams would be strong suited for the Darren Oliver role in that he usually performed very well during his first trip through the lineup but then would often falter by the 4th or 5th innings. As a result, I think he'd fit in great as a guy who would need to eat up 2-3 innings if we had to go to the pen early; and if needed, he can make a spot start if someone suddenly goes down with an injury or if there is a random doubleheader or something. But like Mike said, I think we have better candidates for the #5 job in Pelfrey, Humber, and Vargas - and I'd even prefer to see Soler get another opportunity.

EL - You're welcome
NostraDennis - Good luck with your wife, I could never get Lisa to buy that philosophy.
dd - I don't see Williams as a long term solution for the Mets, but I think his stuff is good enough to help them in 2006. I think I probably like him a little more than you in that regard. He needs to learn to pitch to his strengths better. Maine actually does have an effective sinker, and I imagine one thing that Peterson would do would be to try to make him somewhat less of a flyball pitcher.
Glenn - It wouldn't shock me if none of the kids won the job out of camp that Williams would start the year as the #5 starter, but I really do think he'd be more effective in that role you laid out.

Mike, as a Mets fan since '69, I'm only just now hunting down Mets blogs (giving the political stuff a rest for awhile,) and your site is definitely getting us ginned up for the new season. I honestly think Maine and Perez are ready for their full-time shots in the rotation, and would love to see Humber get a chance to justify the organization's faith in him.

Again, great job, and repeat after me: no more Limas.

From one geezer to another, I'm with you on the Lima thing.

All these rotation preview articles are excellent. Nice to have all this info in one place.

Thank you.

Hi Mike, I am on my 2nd pad of notes from your preview articles and first I thank you for all your great info and second I am starting to feel pretty good about our pitching. I know its going to be allot of wait and see what comes out of spring training but I think we will be pleasantly surprised at what we have. I am getting pumped up. Thinking about a trip to Fla. for a s/t game?

Al - Good thing you took notes, because there will be a test at the end. I'd love to go to FLA to take in some spring training some day. If you go, you have to report on the experience.

Appropos of nothing, and in the hope that I'm not stealing some of Mike's thunder: the latest posting at amazinavenue.com is definitely worth a look for a news-starved Mets fan. It's a Youtube clip of Endy Chavez' latest fine, game saving catch, this one in winter league ball.

When am I gonna read that the Mets have resigned Endy, anyway? He was very valuable to the Mets last season; in fact one stat guy had him as one of the top 10 defensive players -- and that was him going against players who played all the time. We're gonna need him again.

I want my Endy back!

I heard they're negotiating with him. They've tendered him, and he doesn't have enough time to declare as a free agent, so it's just a matter of time.

Here's the YouTube link at Amazin' Avenue for anyone who hasn't seen it:

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