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Woody? Could He?
2003-06-06 10:14
by Mike Carminati

The Cardinals' Woody Williams held his old team, the Blue Jays, hitless until an Orlando Hudson single to right with a 1-2 count and one out on the eighth. Williams ended up allowing just that single and a walk in eight full in the 13-5 win while contributing a triple that scored four in the third, putting the Cards up 7-0 at the time. His record for the year is 8-1 with an 1.99 ERA and leads the league in wins and ERA.

Williams is now 24-6 with a 2.28 ERA in his 40 starts since joining the Cardinals on August 2, 2001-a couple of weeks before his 35th birthday-when he was traded by the Padres for Ray Lankford. Williams a career junkballer has gotten his cut fastball into the low 90s with the Cardinals and perfected his excellent changeup. Williams was 58-62 with a 4.32 ERA (still 9% better than the park-adjusted league average) in 245 games in parts of 9 seasons prior to joining the Cardinals. Lankford had a nice two months in San Diego in 2001 but dropped off severely last year and the Padres decided to decline his $7.5 M option for this season. He is currently looking for work.

Williams' turnaround has been downright Koufaxian. Sandy Koufax was a better than average swingman for the Dodgers for his first 7 seasons. He always had the "great stuff" tag but control problems limited his effectiveness. Then the Dodgers moved into Dodger Stadium and he became a legend. Here is a breakdown of these two eras in his career:


Here are Williams' numbers in his Cardinal and pre-Cardinal careers:


Wow, Williams is a completely different type of pitcher than Koufax-righty versus lefty, finesse as opposed to power, etc.-but his turnaround is very similar. In the first period, both were part-time starters with ERAs slightly better than the league average, a .500 record, under two strikeouts per walk allowed (though Koufax had about 50% more strikeouts), and one and a third baserunners allowed per inning (WHIP).

In the second, even though neither severely increased his strikeout-per-inning totals, their number of strikeouts per walk increased precipitously. The both allowed about one baserunner per inning, saw their ERAs cut by about 50%, had ERAs at least two-thirds better than the park-adjusted league average, and had winning percentages close to 80%.

Koufax did it longer and more impressively, but Williams' turnaround has been no less spectacular. Koufax became a legend. Williams is largely unknown. It'll be interesting to see if Williams can stay healthy for another five or six years and if he can continue to perform at this level. Right now, he is probably the leading candidate for NL Cy Young award. That may get him some notoriety.

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