I've been reading the 2006 Hardball Times Annual and came across a couple of interesting tidbits. I thought I'd take a look at Dave Williams' stats and see if it is possible to determine what we can reasonably expect from Williams. My previous post on the subject wasn't optimistic and this more detailed look isn't much better.
The first tool we can use is DER(Defense Efficiency Ratio), which is simply the percent of times a batted ball is turned into an out by the team's fielders, not including homeruns. It is similar to BABIP, but from the defensive team's perspective.
As a team, the Reds were tied for second to last in the NL in DER in 2005. The Reds and Marlins posted a .678 DER, while the Rockies posted the worst at .671. Given the altitude problem, I think it is fair to say that the Reds had one of the worst two defenses in the NL. Houston was the best at .706.
Now, if we look at Pittsburgh, Dave Williams' 2005 team, they posted a DER of .695. So, Pittsburgh at .695 was much better at converting balls in play into outs than was Cincy at .678. Pittsburgh had the better defense in 2005.
If we take it one step further, we can see what the DER was for Dave Williams during his 2005 starts. In 2005, the Pirates DER when Williams was pitching was .725. So, in 2005, the Pirates posted a .695 DER overall, but a .725 DER while Williams was pitching. The Pirates had a significantly higher percentage of outs on balls in play while Williams was pitching than when he wasn't.
For comparison, here are Pittsburgh's other main starters and their respective DERs in 2005:
None of the other starters for Cincy or Pittsburgh approaches Williams' lofty .725 DER. Chalk it up to random variation, the heavens above, or just dumb luck. Whatever the reason, a greater percentage of the balls that Williams allowed to be put into play in 2005 were turned into outs than should have been, statistically speaking.
The second tool we can use is FIP(Fielding Independent Pitching), which is a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible (HR, BB, HBP, Ks). FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded. The FIP stat is on an equivalent scale to ERA (2.00 is HOF quality, 3.00 is very good, 4.00 is league average, etc).
In 2005, Dave Williams posted an ERA of 4.41, but a FIP of 5.02. The four events that are totally within the control of the pitcher (HR, HBP, BB, K), weren't controlled very well by Dave Williams. This is another example of Williams being bailed out by random variation/luck and good defense.
For comparison sake, here is how he stacks up in FIP with some of his 2005 and 2006 teammates:
O.Perez: 6.22 (No wonder he killed my 2005 fantasy team!)
In essence, Williams wasn't very effective in the events that he could control and was lucky to receive better than average defensive play from a defense, that was itself, already above average.
In 2006, Williams will say hello to the Cincy defense, which was significantly worse in 2005 than Pittsburgh (.678 to .695). And, a case could be made that the Reds defense in 2006 will be WORSE than it's 2005 incarnation. As such, it is HIGHLY unlikely that Williams will receive as much help as he did in 2005 from the Reds defense. For comparison, here are the following DER for the Reds starters in 2005:
It's very likely that Williams will be unable to have the defense bail him out. And, with his poor FIP, it's not likely that he'll be able to offset the poor defense by controlling those four events which occur independent of defense.
With a lesser defense behind him to make up for his shortcomings, an inability to dominate a game on his own, and the likelihood that he won't a DER that is so much higher than the team's DER Williams looks likely to struggle. If his "luck" deserts him and he posts a DER that isn't higher than the team's overall DER in 2006, while playing for a team that will already have a significantly lower DER, then Williams is likely to struggle. In 2006, a combination of bad "hit luck" (or, random variation, if you prefer) and a less rangy defense will result in a huge increase in the number of hits allowed. More hits means more baserunners, more baserunners means more runs allowed.
In short, it still looks like it'll be a LONG year in Cincy for Williams. Let's hope this isn't Eric Milton Part II.
Of course, I could easily be wrong. And, I hope I am.