Right-han­der Woody Wil­liams, left, ranks 81st on Top 100 Car­di­nals

Belleville News-Democrat - - Front Page - BY TODD ESCHMAN [email protected]

NOTE: The BND has en­deav­ored to iden­tify an ob­jec­tive list of the top 100 St. Louis Car­di­nals play­ers of all time, based on sta­tis­ti­cal for­mu­las de­vel­oped through saber­met­rics. We’ll count down the list daily, player by player, un­til April 4, the day of the Car­di­nals’ 2019 home opener. The run­ning list and player bios can be found at bnd.com.

NO. 81: RHP WOODY WIL­LIAMS

With a 10-game win­ning streak in May 2001, the Car­di­nals chugged to­ward Memo­rial Day lead­ing the Na­tional League’s Cen­tral Di­vi­sion. Then they were swept at home by the Brew­ers, swept at Wrigley Field by the Cubs and bat­tered in Kansas City by the lowly Roy­als.

By the end of July, St. Louis sat just a game over .500 and in third place, 8 ½ games be­hind the Hous­ton Astros.

Rookie Al­bert Pu­jols had crashed the lineup with a .320 av­er­age, but needed an ev­ery­day po­si­tion. The Car­di­nals cleared space in the out­field by trad­ing vet­eran Ray Lank­ford to San Diego for right-handed pitcher Gre­gory Scott “Woody” Wil­liams.

At the sur­face, the trade looked mean­ing­less.

Lank­ford was bat­ting .235 and waived his no-trade pro­tec­tion after man­ager Tony LaRussa said pub­licly he no longer had a mean­ing­ful role with the team. And Wil­liams was an 11-year vet­eran with a los­ing record and just about to turn 34. When the Car­di­nals picked him up, he was 8-8 with a 4.97 ERA.

But it was clear from the start that some­thing about St. Louis agreed with Wil­liams.

He lost only once more the rest of the sea­son, win­ning seven with a 0.92 ERA for Septem­ber. Wil­liams picked up the

win in each of his fi­nal four starts, in­clud­ing a two-hit win over Pitts­burgh on Sept. 30 that vaulted the Car­di­nals into a first-place tie with Hous­ton.

The Astros had won the sea­son se­ries over St. Louis, how­ever, and even­tu­ally claimed the di­vi­sion ti­tle by tie-breaker. The Car­di­nals went on to lose the di­vi­sional play­offs in five games to Ari­zona.

But Wil­liams ce­mented him­self in the St. Louis ro­ta­tion, which was fur­ther chal­lenged in 2002 with the tragic death of pitcher Dar­ryl Kile in a Chicago ho­tel room. A re­cur­ring mus­cle strain in his right side lim­ited Wil­liams to 103 in­nings, but he won nine games with a 2.53 ERA and St. Louis clinched the Cen­tral with 97 wins. That in­cludes an­other 3-0 Septem­ber that helped the Red­birds build a com­fort­able dis­tance from the sec­ond­place Astros.

The fol­low­ing sea­son, he led the Car­di­nals with personal bests in wins (18) and in­nings (220.2) and made his only All-Star Game ap­pear­ance. In 2004, his fi­nal sea­son with St. Louis, Wil­liams won 11 games to help the Red­birds win 105 games and the Na­tional League cham­pi­onship, though he was roughed up in a twoin­ning start against the Bos­ton Red Sox in Game 1 of the World Se­ries.

In 11 sea­sons split be­tween Toronto, San Diego and Hous­ton, Wil­liams went 87-94 with a 4.42 ERA. In four sea­sons with the Car­di­nals, he was 45-22 (a .672 win­ning per­cent­age) with a 3.53 ERA and was worth 9.8 wins above re­place­ment.

He also made all but two of his post­sea­son starts wear­ing the Birds on the Bat. Both were losses to the Car­di­nals.

SEA­SONS IN ST. LOUIS: 2001-2004

KEY STATS

.672 win­ning pct. in St. Louis | 9.8 WARl | All-Star in ‘03

TOP 100 SCORE: 2.45

ERIC GAY AP

The Car­di­nals’ Woody Wil­liams won 11 games in 2004, his fi­nal sea­son with the team.

JAMES A. FIN­LEY AP

Car­di­nals start­ing pitcher Woody Wil­liams stretches on the mound after walk­ing the Di­a­mon­backs’ Chris Sny­der on Sept. 17, 2004, in St. Louis.

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