Williams returns to Philadephia

By Jim Callis

July 20, 2003

The Phillies originally drafted Mike Williams out of Virginia Tech in the 14th round of the 1990 draft, but he never found success with them. Williams went 13-25 in parts of five seasons with Philadelphia before the club nontendered him in December 1996, and he eventually became an all-star closer with the Pirates. Now he’ll try his luck with the Phillies again, as they traded Double-A lefthander Frank Brooks to Pittsburgh for him on Sunday. Philadelphia also received cash to offset some of the remainder of Williams’ $3.5 million salary for 2003.

A 34-year-old righthander, Williams made his second straight National League all-star team this year despite having his worst season since becoming a full-time reliever. He has gone 1-3, 6.27 in 39 appearances, and has been torched for an 11.12 ERA in July. In 37 innings, he has posted a 20-22 strikeout-walk ratio and been touched for five homers and a .282 average. His 25 saves in 30 opportunities are further evidence that saves are an overrated statistic. Williams’ slider is his out pitch but it hasn’t baffled many hitters in 2003. His fastball has been sitting in the upper 80s. For his career, he has gone 32-50, 4.40 with 141 saves in 439 games. The Phillies will have to either pick up his $4.0 million option for 2004 or buy him out for $1.5 million. Williams, who saved a Pirates-record 46 games last year, will setup Jose Mesa in Philadelphia. Williams also switched from closer to a secondary role when he was involved in a July 2001 trade that sent him to the Astros for righthander Tony McKnight.

Brooks, 24, was a 13th-round pick in 1999 out of St. Peter’s (N.J.). He’s having the best season of his pro career, going 3-4, 2.30 with nine saves in 34 games at Reading. In 59 innings, he has an exemplary 71-13 strikeout-walk ratio and has held hitters to a .194 average. He’s not considered more than a marginal prospect, however, as his best attribute is his deceptive crossfire delivery. He has solid average velocity on his fastball, and backs it up with a curveball.