I admittedly don't know a ton about Dave Williams, but I did a little looking and thought I would share what I found.
First, a little background info. Dave Williams is lefthanded, 26 years old, 6-2, and weighs 230 lbs. He was born in Anchorage, Alaska but went to Delaware Tech Community College. He was drafted in the 17th round (#508 overall) of the 1998 draft by the Pirates. I haven't found a scouting report for him, but from the MLB.com highlights I've seen, he appears to feature an 88-90 MPH fastball, a nice 10 to 4 curveball, and either a cut fastball or a little slider.
Some career highlights/lowlights of note:
"1999: Split season between Rookie League and A ball. Went 7-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 16 starts for the two clubs.
2000: Led the minor league with 201 total K's.
2002: After receiving a few opinions, underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder on 7/11 (the surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, AL)
2003: Resumed pitching in June after recovering from shoulder surgery ... In 16 games (16 starts) with Nashville, went 7-4 with a 4.19 ERA in 77.1 innings.
2005: Was one of only 27 left-handed pitchers in the majors and one of 12 in the National League with double-digit wins."
Unfortunately, Williams underwent the dreaded labrum surgery in 2002. If memory serves, it isn't as bad as rotator cuff surgery, but shoulder injuries are typical much more difficult to bounce back from than elbow injuries.
I thought it might prove interesting to compare his pre-injury MLB stats against his post-injury MLB stats.
2001 & 2002
07/2002: Surgery to repair a torn labrum.
2004 & 2005
The general rule of thumb in pitching injuries is that if it is a shoulder injury, the pitcher loses velocity. If it's an elbow injury, the pitcher loses control.
But, there doesn't seem to be much evidence of a lose of stuff or control. His K/9 and BB/9 are actually better post-injury.
Given the stats and his ability to bounce back and pitch, it would appear that Williams isn't feeling any ill effects from his shoulder surgery.
But, from a pure performance standpoint, Williams needs to cut down on his walks. He seems to rack up a significant amount of strikeouts, but his K/BB ratio is 1.51, which isn't very good. Also, he has the reputation of having flyball tendencies, but he seems to be a pretty neutral pitcher in that regard. His career GB/FB ratio is 1.05, but his 2005 ratio was .90.
So far, to me, it would seem that Dave Williams is a solid pitcher with the chance to take a step forward or at least be a solid backend of the rotation pitcher.
Up until this point, I was feeling ok about Williams and his chances to be a solid pitcher in 2006. But, I wanted to check one last item and I think it revealed some disconcerting facts about Williams' performance.
Here is the part that I find to be rather disturbing, Dave Williams' career batting average on balls in play (BABIP). For those who don't know, .281 (which is Williams highest BABIP), is still below the average BABIP range. Which means, that that number is likely to increase. If it increases, as it is statistically VERY likely to do, you have more balls falling in for hits. Williams seasonal BABIP is ALARMINGLY low.
Now, Williams has posted some respectable WHIPs over the course of his career.
But, if you put it all together, I think we are looking at a pitcher with control problems, who has been "hit lucky" in the past. Below is the year, batting average on balls in play, walks per nine innings, and whip.
Now, the reason this is troublesome. If you look at Williams WHIP in 2001 and 2004, you'd be impressed. Those are good numbers. But, when you look at his BB/9 and his BABIP, I think you can see the real story. WHIP is made up of walks and hits. We can clearly see that Williams isn't very good at limiting walks (For comparison, Harang in 2005 posted a BB/9 of 2.2. 1.6 fewer walks allowed per 9 than Williams). So, his low WHIP has been driven by his hits allowed. And, when we look at his BABIP it becomes clear that Williams is very "hit lucky". His poor walk rate has been offset by his lucky hit rate,which is statistically unlikely to last. Williams hasn't posted good WHIPs through good pitching, but rather by luck. And, sadly, his luck is about to change.
Dave Williams' luck is about to change, because he is about to meet up with the law of averages and the Cincinnati Reds' defense all at the same time. As we all know, this team is very poor defensively. And, their limited range will only serve to increase Williams' 2006 BABIP even further. The limited range of Griffey, Lopez, Freel, and Aurilia will definitely work against Williams.
Pair the statistical probability that Williams' "hit luck" will run out (meaning his BABIP will regress to the statistical mean) with the inept and stationary Reds defense and you have a recipe for trouble.
So, to summarize, it would seem likely that Williams will be allowing his usual high number of hitters to reach via the walk and will be allowing a significantly higher percentage of hitters to reach via the hit. That's a lot of baserunners on base, which typically means a lot of runs and a lot of losses.
I'm no longer very optimistic of Williams' chances in 2006. To be successful in 2006, Williams will likely have to reduce his walk rate, increase his strikeout rate, and hope that the bounce in BABIP and the Reds inept defense doesn't kill him.
If I'm right, then the Reds have continued their recent habit of acquiring "hit lucky" pitchers (see: Milton, Eric), only to see them get unlucky in a big hurry. A practice which they need to stop in a big hurry, it's bad for business.