Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus coined the phrase, "There is no such thing as a pitching prospect", or TINSTAAPP. It was the coy distillation of what internet baseball nerds had preached since the early days of Usenet and Listserv; young pitchers are like praying mantis babies, with only a select few avoiding their ultimate fate as a bedtime snack.
Young pitchers excite, young pitchers get hurt, young pitchers fade away. It doesn't matter how talented they were to start. Take a look at the career of now-outfielder Rick Ankiel, and imagine the palpable excitement we all would have had if he were in the Giants system. He crashed and burned, and the more ghoulish of sabermetric types screamed, "TINSTAAPP!" with a know-it-all titter like a Trekkie might scream, "Resistance is futile!".
Like all of the theories and ideas surrounding natural selection, just because it's simple to grasp, doesn't mean it's simple to accept. The Giants had the Big Three: Jesse Foppert, Jerome Williams, and Kurt Ainsworth. The optimist would have seen 2005 as the year those three would have anchored the rotation, providing a cheap foundation for an eventual dynasty. The realist tried to take the Moirae out to T.G.I. Friday's for drinks, pleading for a healthy career of just one of the three. It seemed like we were granted our wish. Ainsworth has suffered serious injuries, and became a spokesperson for the TINSTAAPP Foundation by retiring. Foppert is running hot and cold against AAA hitters after coming off a major injury, never really flashing the incredible arm he once had. But there was always Williams, who was precociously giving the Giants league-average pitching with only a few injury scares to speak of. He was the chosen one of the Big Three.
Now Williams is back in Fresno, getting his hat handed to him by the Kevin Ories of the baseball world. There is no injury that we're aware of. He was a good major-league pitcher at age-22, and now he's a question mark. The situation isn't dire enough to shrug our shoulders and write him off, as this has only been going on for about two month's time. The spectre of TINSTAAPP leers over our shoulder, though. One of the more subtle footnotes of the axiom is that it doesn't have to be an elbow or shoulder to play Professor Plum in the kitchen with a wrench. The elbow and shoulder are the obvious culprits, but Ankiel's example proves anything can derail a prospect's career. It has been intimated by one or more of the prospect mavens of this site that Williams has several mechanical flaws contributing to the ugly stretch. Without knowing too much more than that, it's hoped they are the kind of flaws that can be fixed. But what if they can't?
Williams became dependable so fast, it was easy to forget he was still a young, unreliable pitcher. The Giants have historically developed pitching, but it had to be preceded by long, torturous stretches of abysmal control problems. Williams bypassed that whole requirement, and just did his thing. Now, he's stuck in Fresno with the San Francisco blues again. Bonds is out, Benitez down, Schmidt ailing, but the struggles of Jerome Williams are fast becoming the most horrific sideshow of the young season.