Former Blue Jays pitcher Woody Williams turns 57 today. I have never met a Woody. I don’t know if that’s a name that only comes out of the Southern US or what, but I don’t see them around here.
I’ll admit I often confuse him with Chris Carpenter. They ended up in St. Louis after leaving the Jays (Williams had a stop in San Diego). They both pitched better with the Cards (Carpenter was much better). And they were teammates in St. Louis.
Woody was a 28th-round draft pick in 1988 (Joey Hamilton was picked in the same round, a few spots earlier, by the Orioles) out of the University of Houston. I can’t imagine they expected much out of him, but he was great in the minors, and in May 1993, they brought him up to help in the bullpen. He pitched in 30 games and had a 4.38 ERA.
He spent the next couple of seasons in the back of the pen, then in August 1996. Then, finally, he got his chance in the rotation. Paul Quantrill started the season in the rotation, but they decided he would be better in the pen; Marty Janzen and Huck Flener didn’t pan out, so Williams got a shot. He made 10 starts and was 4-5 with a 4.35 ERA.
The following season he put in an entire year in the rotation and went 9-14 with a 4.35 ERA. In 31 starts, he pitched 194.1 innings, allowed 201 hits, 31 home runs (back in the good old PED days), walked 66, and struck out 124. He was not great, but he fit in well in a rotation topped by Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen. Baseball has changed significantly in the last 20 years, Woody was our 3rd starter, and he threw nearly 200 innings.
In 1997 Woody went 10-9 with a 4.46 ERA. In 32 starts, he pitched 209.2 innings, allowing 196 hits, 36 home runs, 81 walks, and 151 strikeouts.
Then came the trade. Edit that; make it “then came an idiotic trade”. Williams and a few minor leaguers went to San Diego for Joey Hamilton. Gord Ash took the word of Dave Stewart, who we had hired as an assistant GM. Stewart had played with Joey, saw something in his eyes or some stupid thing like that, and figured he would be a star. So Ash signed Hamilton to a 3-year $16.5 million contract (a lot of money then), and he went 14-17 for them with a 5.83 ERA.
Williams went on to have a pretty good career. He pitched five seasons for the Padres, going 51-45 with a 4.32 ERA. From there, the Padres traded Woody to the Cardinals. He was terrific in St. Louis, going 45-22 with a 3.53 ERA in 4 seasons. His best season was 2003, when he went 18-9 with a 3.87 ERA in 34 games 33 starts.
As a Blue Jay, he was 28-34 with a 4.30 ERA in 166 games, 76 starts. Career, he finished with a 132-116 record with a 4.19 ERA in 424 games and 330 starts. How many guys picked in the 28th round go on to a career like that?
I read that he says he used an ‘occasional knuckleball’. I don’t remember that.
Wikipedia tells us that Woody has five kids and lives in Alvin, Texas.
Happy birthday Woody; I hope it is a good one.