No longer a rotation candidate, Jerome Williams will have to reinvent himself as a reliever in 2013 if he wants to keep his great comeback story alive.
2012 Stats: 137.2 IP, 6-8, 4.58 ERA. 4.15 FIP, 139 H, 35 BB, 17 HR, 98 SO, 1.90 GB/FB, 1.1 fWAR
2013 ZiPS Projections: 129.2 IP, 6-8, 4.58 ERA. 4.31 FIP, 140 H, 33 BB, 17 HR, 86 SO, 0.8 fWAR
2013 Bill James Projections: 118.0 IP, 6-7, 4.58 ERA. 4.38 FIP, 132 H, 29 BB, 16 HR, 77 SO
2013 CAIRO Projections: 129.0 IP, 7-7, 4.60 ERA. 4.36 FIP, 150 H, 35 BB, 17 HR, 83 SO
2013 MWAH Projections*: 80.0 IP, 2-5, 4.61 ERA. 4.73 FIP, 86 H, 24 BB, 12 HR, 53 SO
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA and FIP calculations are approximate)
2012 in Objective Review:
After extracting himself from baseball purgatory in 2011, Jerome Williams' feel good story added another chapter when he beat out Garrett Richards for the fifth starter spot out of training camp. His time in the rotation ended up being an up-and-down ride before he was finally shifted to the bullpen partly due to ineffectiveness but mostly because the Angels acquired Zack Greinke before the trade deadline.
After posting a 4.83 ERA in the rotation, Williams found a bit more success working mostly in long relief by registering a 4.08 ERA in that role and one could argue that number was inflated because he was hung out to dry on a few occasions so that he could soak up some innings in a lopsided games. He certainly didn't do all that much in the role, but it was apparently enough to convince the Halos to tender him a contract to return to the team in 2013.
It is worth noting though that Williams did miss almost a month of the season after he suffered some sort of asthma and/or anxiety attack on the mound.
2012 in Revisionist History:
While Williams' did not stick in the rotation, it looked like he really could have for awhile last season. I know this because in June I kept readying myself to write an article about how sneaky good Williams had been, as his number had been grossly inflated by a disastrous outing in his first start of the season. However, Williams fell apart in June, as did the narrative of the post I intended to author. The thing about that is that it may not have been all his fault.
Jerome had strung together eight consecutive quality starts at one point before a small hiccup in Seattle to start June. He followed up that start with a performance against that Dodgers that was looking quite good but ended up becoming his ruination. Williams had cruised through seven innings in that game but was starting to show fatigue. The problem though was that the Angel bullpen was taxed, so Mike Scioscia stuck with Williams for the eighth inning, which he would normally never do. Jerome ended up imploding in that inning and threw away the game. In his very next outing, Williams suffered that anxiety-triggered asthma attack and was never the same the rest of the season.
Eventually Jerome did find new life in the bullpen, working mostly in long relief at first, but then eventually earning himself some middle relief work in August before he again fell out of favor, for no real reason, in September. Williams posted a 4.08 ERA in that role, but that really isn't fair. One of his relief outings was really a start since he took over for C.J. Wilson in that suspended game in Texas. He went 6.2 innings in that game and allowed six runs. He also had two other long relief outings where he gave up five and four runs, respectively. Add them all together and those three games account for 15 of the 21 earned runs he allowed in relief. Remove those games from his relief split and he actually had a 1.67 ERA, which is kind of shocking. It isn't a true representation of his ability either, but it does show how effective he was in the rest of his relief work, which is not a surprise because Williams was able to really cut down on his walks and upped his strikeouts while in the bullpen.
Three Lingering Questions for 2013:
1) Can Williams actually be an effective reliever?
Jerome was effective in short bursts last season, but doesn't really profile as a guy who is much of anything in relief since he doesn't miss bats. However, he also doesn't give up many walks and can generate a lot of groundballs. That can be useful in the right situation and Scioscia has definitely shown a desire to have a go-to guy to come in and induce a doubleplay ball and Williams is pretty well-suited for that duty as well as being a longman when needed.
2) Will he see any time in the rotation?
Maybe, but let's hope not. Working as a longman, he should be stretched out enough for spot duty, but it is a real problem if he is still higher up on the rotation depth chart than Garrett Richards, so if he does see extended time in the rotation, it probably means multiple starting pitchers are on the DL.
3) Is he a lock to make the roster?
His $2 million contract says yes, as does the Angels need to maintain some rotation depth, but it still isn't a 100% guarantee. Garrett Richards could slot into the same swingman role that Williams is penciled into if the Halos decide they want to keep more young relievers on the roster. His contract is also pretty affordable, so if by the end of spring some other team is desperate for starting pitching, the Angels could offer him up via trade. On the other hand, $2 million is a drop in the bucket for the Halos, so shedding his salary really isn't much of an incentive.
Three Irrelevant Questions for 2013:
1) Did you know he was from Hawai'i?
Because, you know, they never bring that up on the broadcasts, especially the opponent's broadcasts.
2) Did you know that he wears a pink glove to honor his late mother?
Because, you know, they definitely never mention that either.
3) Will I ever get tired of the story about Jerome's early career when even his own team thought his name was pronounced like "Jeremy?"
No, never and I suggest you review it yourself if you missed that awesome anecdote.
2013 in Subjective Projection:
Just look at those projections for Jerome, it is uncanny how similar they all are. Clearly there isn't a whole lot of faith in Williams out there. My gut feeling with Jerome is that 2013 will just be a more compressed version of his 2012 year. He'll spend a lot less time in the rotation this year, but he'll also still have several outing scattered throughout his game log where he is forced into going long in a game to take some lumps in a blowout to spare the rest of the relief corps for another day.
The real problem is that I don't see him sustaining that same level of performance in shorter outing that I quoted earlier with that 1.67 ERA sample. He just isn't that good. Some converted starters find new life in relief because they can cut it loose with their fastball and scrap their third and/or fourth pitch so they can focus on using their two best pitches. Jerome though doesn't really have that good secondary pitch. For the most part he is a sinker-cutter guy who pitches to contact and occasionally mixes in a changeup or curve, neither of which is a special pitch. He can find a modicum of success with that profile, but he isn't going to be one of those Wade Davis types that goes from scuffling in the rotation to dominating in relief.
One of the additional struggles Jerome might face is being used sporadically. The Halo bullpen is much deeper this season, so Williams could find those one inning outings harder to come by, meaning he could often go four or five games between appearances on a pretty regular basis, which makes it very hard to keep sharp.