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Phillies Exit Interview: Jerome Williams

After arriving as a desperation waiver-wire pickup in August, Jerome Williams went on to outperform every Phillies starter not named Cole Hamels over the last month-and-a-half of the season. Likely due to both circumstance and his impressive 2 months as a Phillie, he will return in 2015 on a one year deal.

Someone, please, save me from this hell!
Someone, please, save me from this hell!
Mitchell Leff

Our next exit interview features perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2014 Phillies. When the Phillies claimed Jerome Williams off of waivers on August 10th, they were desperate, having recently endured an injury to Cliff Lee. There was nothing in his profile since a promising 2003 rookie campaign to suggest that Williams was anything more than filler.

Before joining the Phillies, Williams spent 2014 in the Astros bullpen, with two starts for the broken Texas Rangers. Between those stints, Williams pitched 57.2 innings with a 6.71 ERA and 4.33 FIP. Basically, there was nothing in his recent or past profile to bank on positive contributions going forward.

Then, a funny thing happened: Jerome Williams pitched well for the Phillies. Really well, actually. In fact, he was the best non-Hamels starter for the Phillies from the time of his signing until the end of the season. In 57.1 innings, Jerome, miraculously, had an ERA of 2.83. As you might expect, this probably doesn't represent a new and improved Jerome Williams. Despite that ERA, his FIP was 3.99 and his batted ball profile didn't depart significantly from his career norms. More likely than not, Williams' success with the Phillies was the result of little more than a lucky run, something the Phillies shouldn't count on continuing going forward.

Nevertheless, the Phillies announced on October 21st that they had resigned him to a one year, $2.5 million contract. While he is unlikely to provide the level of performance he displayed in August and September over the course of a full season, he should be able to pitch 150-200 innings without embarrassing himself. Durability and non-embarrassing performances are all a team, especially a rebuilding one like the Phillies, can reasonably ask of a fifth starter.

Luckily, Jerome Williams joined me for a dialogue about his most recent season and his plans going forward. Dark FIP-defying Magic and non-hypothetical non-trades follow.

If I had traded you midseason, would the team have done better or worse?

Considering I didn't make my first start for the Phillies until August 12th, I don't see how this option was even on the table. Can you imagine calling up a rival GM saying, "Hey buddy, I'd like to trade Jerome Williams, no, not the former NBA player, for whatever the step above organizational filler is. You see, Jerome is 32 years old and doesn't figure in our future or current (or past, for that matter) plans. What are you willing to offer us? Disclaimer: he's not on our team." That rival GM would probably think this is some sort of joke and hang up. Actually, now that I think about it, someone should try this on the Phillies, the same organization that accidentally puts top prospects on PTBNL lists. I could totally see them trading for a made up or non-rostered player.

But I've strayed from the question for too long. Short answer: you couldn't have traded me midseason, don't bother thinking about it.

All my options are open for next year. Should I trade you, release you, or keep you?

You seem to be forgetting that one month ago today, you took all of your options off the table when you promised me $2.5 million if I would pitch a little for you next year. That said, don't count on a 2.83 ERA over 150 - 200 innings next year. I'm entering my age 33 season, and have been pretty much the embodiment of replacement level out of a starting pitcher for my career. What you saw over 57.1 innings last year was probably a fluke, as my peripheral stats profile remained the same. I have a career 4.40 ERA (4.52 FIP) and there are no indications I've departed from that standard. But, then again, you don't need me to actually be what I appeared to be last year. You're rebuilding; all you need me to do is take the mound every 5th day and not look like a complete fool out there.

Do you think you will be part of the next great Phillies team?

I'm not the part of anyone's next great team. I'm soon to be 33 years old with an established track record of borderline major league talent. I'll gladly be part of your next mediocre-to-below-average season though.

Overall, explain to me how your time with the Philadelphia Phillies has been the highlight of your life.

This has been by far the best stretch of pitching I've had in my major league career. With the Phillies, I posted a 2.83 ERA, which is over a run better than my career ERA of 4.40. Even considering how the offensive environment in 2014 is much quieter than when I entered the league with the Giants in 2003, my ERA+ of 132 with the Phillies is better than the 128 ERA+ I had in my rookie season with the Giants. We might not have had the same level of success as those 2003 Giants, but I had fun out there looking good in comparison to my under-achieving teammates.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst, how do you rate on the "it's my fault we're in this freaking mess and finished in last place" scale?"

1. You guys were already screwed before I showed up. I did all I could to help the Great Phillies Wild Card Push of Futility, but, as its name suggests, there was nothing I could do to make that campaign a success. It's not like we had binders full of wins like the St. Louis Cardinals seem to.  You won't necessarily miss me when I'm gone, but you're not going to do better on account of my absence.