I’ll admit I often confuse him with Chris Carpenter. They both ended up in St. Louis, after leaving the Jays (Williams had a stop in San Diego first). They both pitched better with the Cards (Carpenter was much better). They were teammates in St. Louis.
Woody was a 28th round draft pick in 1988 (Joey Hamilton was picked in the same round, a few spot earlier by the Orioles), out of the University of Houston. I can’t imagine much was expected out of him but he was pretty great in the minors, and in May 1993 they brought him up to help out in the bullpen. He pitched in 30 games, had a 4.38 ERA.
He spent the next couple of seasons in the back of the pen, then in August of 1996, he got his chance in the rotation. Paul Quantrill started the season in the rotation, but they decided he was better used in the pen, Marty Janzen and Huck Flener didn’t pan out, so Williams got a shot. He made 10 starts and was 4-5 with a 4.35 ERA.
The next season he put in a full year in the rotation, went 9-14 with a 4.35 ERA. In 31 starts he pitched 194.1 innings, allowed 201 hits, 31 home runs (back in the good old PED days), walks 66 and struck out 124. Not great, but he fit in well in a rotation topped by Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen. Baseball has changed a lot in the last 20 years, Woody was our 3rd starter and he threw nearly 200 innings.
In 1997 Woody went 10-9 with a 4.46 ERA. In 32 starts, he pitched 209.2 innings, allowing 196 hits, 36 home runs, 81 walks and 151 strikeouts.
Then came the trade. A stupid trade. Williams and a couple of minor leaguers were shipped to San Diego for Joey Hamilton. Gord Ash took the word of Dave Stewart, who we had hired as an assistant GM. Stewart had played with Joey and saw something in his eyes or some stupid thing like that, and figured he would be a star. Ash signed Hamilton to a 3-year $16.5 million contract (a lot of money then) and he went 14-17 for them with a 5.83 ERA.
Williams went on to have a pretty good career. He pitched 5 seasons for the Padres, going 51-45 with a 4.32 ERA. From there he was traded to the Cardinals. He was terrific in St. Louis, going 45-22 with a 3.53 ERA in 4 season. His best season was 2003, when he went 18-9 with a 3.87 ERA in 34 games, 33 starts.
As a Blue Jay he was 28-34 with a 4.30 ERA in 166 games, 76 starts. Career he finished with a 132-116 record with a 4.19 ERA in 424 games, 330 starts. How many guys picked in the 28th round go on to a career like that?
I see a line that he says he used an ‘occasional knuckleball’. I don’t remember that.
Wikapedia tells us that Woody has five kids and lives in Alvin, Texas.
Happy birthday Woody, hope it is a good one.