Giants' Question Marks: Jerome is no Sopho-Mirage

Is Jerome Williams destined for the sophomore jinx as many people fear? This article analyzes why that is not probable, or at least not as probable as Brandon Webb succumbing to it.

Some have questioned whether Jerome Williams will succumb to the sophomore jinx. While expectations should always be tempered with any young pitcher in his second year, people just naturally lump high achieving players together and say that they are all suspect. And historically, there have been players like that who just implode in their second full season. But in today's Internet world where a player's minor league and sometimes college stats are available on the web, it would behoove people to take a deeper look, to see what's real and what's mirage, before coming to a conclusion.

Williams' Minors Performance

Jerome Williams has done well in the minors his whole career. He was the top prospect in the Giants system in 2001 and 2002 and would have been it again in 2003 had Foppert not vaulted so highly. Plus he did all this while he was not even 21 years old against players who were up to 10 years older in AAA.

In the hit-happy PCL, he had a 3.59 ERA in 2002 with 140 hits in 160.2 IP, WHIP 1.18 (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched) and a 2.68 ERA in 2003 with 53 hits in 57.0 IP, 1.19 WHIP. Then for the Giants in 2003, he had a 3.30 ERA with 116 hits in 131.0 IP, 1.26 WHIP. And if you think perhaps it is only two years of success, here's his WHIP over his professional career: 1999, 1.08; 2000, 1.09; 2001, 1.15; 2002, 1.18; 2003, 1.19 and 1.26. He has followed a normal career and level progression throughout his career, having a slightly higher WHIP as he moved higher but still stellar, no matter what level.

He's No Webb

He is unlike Brandon Webb, for example, who was a non-heralded soon to be 24 years old in Spring Training 2003 but then pitched well enough to win the Rookie of the Year award (and should have won). When he started doing well, I scanned all the pre-season minors preview for the D-Backs and none of them mentioned him as a possibility for the majors in 2003 and I don't think any of them even mentioned him as a dark horse or as a MLB possible contributor for future years. He was totally off the radar of all the prospect rankings that I saw.

There's a reason for that, just look at his stats: 2000, 1.46 WHIP in college and in pros 1.19 WHIP but in 17.2 IP; 2001, 1.34 WHIP; 2002, combined WHIP 1.31; 2003, 1.50 WHIP in 18 IP at AAA and 1.15 WHIP in 180.2 IP with D-Backs. Here is his progression: 2000, 1.42 WHIP combined college and pro; 2001, 1.34 WHIP; 2002: 1.31 WHIP; and 2003, 1.18 combined WHIP, minors and majors. And he has never pitched a full season of AAA either, he only had a full season in AA-ball in 2002 plus cups of coffee in AAA in 2002 and 2003, doing nothing of note either times he was in AAA.

The D-backs apparently called him up because he was next in their depth charts and they needed starting help. They went to John Patterson first, then Andrew Good, both doing very poorly in their one and only chance before Webb came on and dominated. They and Chris Capuano got other chances to start later but for the most part were ineffective.

So he basically had good but only slightly above average WHIP (1.30 or so), always giving up a lot of hits (about 1 hit per IP for his career), only had relatively good control in terms of limiting walks and striking out a lot of batters, then goes to the majors and dominates? He, if anyone, deserves attention for a possible sophomore jinx. But because of his dominance, some discussions of the D-backs lists him as their #2 without reservation.

Crystal Ball: Jerome's 2004

First take a look again at when Jerome repeated a year at AAA. People talk about all the scouting today, how weaknesses are found and exploited quickly as the league learns about you. Jerome in his first year in AAA had a 3.59 ERA. The next season he got it down to 2.68 ERA. Instead of the league learning him, he learnt them. And for those questioning his ability to pitch a full season, he pitched 198.2 innings last year between the minors and the majors and did not exhibit any arm problems last year. It should get better as his body matures. He is, after all, only 22 years old this season.

And it was not smooth sailing for him in 2003 either. After pitching well for about a dozen starts or so, he hit a rough patch in August, with an ERA of 4.55 and a WHIP of nearly 2, as teams figured him out. But he then fought back to win a spot in the playoff rotation and showed his advance maturity in overcoming his bad August by compiling a 3.23 ERA and WHIP of 1.07 in September. Unfortunately, this maturity was not enough for him to do well in the playoffs, but I think, based on his past performances, that he will learn from his experience, so I am glad that he got to start.

So Jerome looks prime for a great year like 2003 again, and if he pitches 3rd in the rotation as expected, he will probably win somewhere in the 15-20 games range, as he will probably outclass most other 3rd starters. He is a mature young man, a maturity forced upon him by the death of his mother a few years ago. He was mature enough to not only do well in the offense oriented PCL at under age 21 but to then top that the next year when he was still only 21. Jerome looks very likely to repeat his stellar 2003, with a good chance that he may even better his 2003 performance, given that he seemed to learn as he advanced leagues and repeated leagues.

Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fanatic's View' for when the mood and muse strikes him. He wants to teach and share his love of baseball and, in particular, his love for the San Francisco Giants. He will believe to his dying days that Bobby Bonds was robbed of being the first 40-40 player and should be in Cooperstown. Please feel free to e-mail him at (remove the "nospam." if you wish to e-mail me) if you have a question or comment.

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