Jerome Williams has been a lightning rod of hatred for Astros fans recently due to his poor performances out of the bullpen. This is my attempt to answer the question that keeps popping up all over this site: why is Jerome Williams on this team? Please don't misunderstand this to be my defense of his placement on the team, because I cannot speak for the front office or their decisions. But rather, I'm going to try and look at this from an objective point of view and make sense of why he's still on the roster.
- He's not as bad as he's currently throwing. Jerome currently is sporting an ERA of 5.91 and an ERA+ of 69. Both of these numbers are horrible. But his FIP is a full run lower than that at 4.70. Further, his BABIP is .331, which is WELL above his career number of .284. Bottom line, he's unlucky. Very unlucky. Astros are hoping he's able to turn around the luck and be a serviceable reliever for them.
- It's not as easy as "cut Jerome and and replace him with….." Roster spots are commodities to not just be handed out to anyone. We've discussed in detail on this site the looming roster crunch that we're about to run into this offseason. We know we're going to need to add several players, both pitchers and position players, to prevent them from being rule 5-eligible. So, to just DFA Williams and replace him with whomever you're currently pining for, isn't a simple move. You have to take into account that the person you bring in to replace him has to fit several pieces of a puzzle: A) He must already be on the 40 man roster, or be someone you're planning on keeping on the 40 man for many years to come. B ) He must be someone you believe his value is nothing more than a long reliever, and therefore don't mind calling him up to never start games, and C) He must be someone that is ready to throw in the major leagues and not bounce up and down. The last one is perhaps the most important because it's not as easy as "Call this guy up, and if he sucks, call THIS guy up…" Again, roster crunch. You can't afford to be wrong about this. You can't waste a 40 man roster spot on a whim and just hope the guy works out. We all realize Williams is probably not on this team all season. But because someone isn't ready to fill his role permanently, you can't just throw him out yet. Give it time.
- A reputation has to be formed. The Astros, for the first time in many years, gave away some money to free agents this offseason. They signed Feldman and Qualls to multi-year deals, and they also, for better or worse, brought Williams in on a deal more than the league minimum. These are relatively small moves, but moves that indicate to the players association that the Astros are willing to pay money and commit to players. By cutting Williams (or trading Feldman, for all of you calling for that move as well), you send a message to future free agents that the Astros can't be trusted when they commit to you. How hard do you think it's going to be for the Marlins to get good value out of their future free agent signings after their fiasco a few years ago? This cannot be understated. Williams might have been told in his contract proceedings that he'll be on the active roster for a minimum amount of days. The Astros would do well to uphold their end of the bargain in order to help themselves sign guys in the future without drastically overpaying for them.
This has already gotten too long for a player I don't care one way or another for. I realize this team and this game make us emotional beyond rationality, but sometimes we need to step back and recognize we're still in "The Process." We aren't playoff contenders. We're probably not even a .500 team yet. Patience, friends. Williams isn't costing us a trip to the Series here.
PS: On a side note, I just have to say if I still have your attention, I love how the mood switched around here from last year's "Team Rodon" approach of "it's ok that we lose every game, it's not like we're going to the playoffs this year anyways" to the new approach of "I just hate losing! Let's do what we can to win today!"