2017 Year in Review: Trevor Williams shows he belongs in Pirates rotation

One of the biggest bright spots in a season that didn’t have many for the Pittsburgh Pirates was the steady improvement of starting pitcher Trevor Williams throughout the season.

I probably like Pittsburgh Pirates SP Trevor Williams a lot more than most people, but the right hander showed the ability to be an effective MLB pitcher this season and that is a positive heading into the 2018 season for the Bucs.

Williams had a very strong spring and while he was in competition for the Pirates fifth starter job, ultimately he found out he made his first Opening Day roster as a long man.

That experiment didn’t go well. Neither did Williams’ first start of the season when he lasted just three innings, allowing six earned runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

There would be some bumps in the road along the way, but Williams continued to evolve as a major league pitcher throughout the season and did enough good things that he should be penciled in for a spot in the rotation next season.

The Numbers

Just looking at what Williams did as a starter this season, you have to be happy with the results.

Sure he went just 6-8 as a starter but he did post a sub-four ERA of 3.96.  However, take out two bad starts, his first against the Dodgers and an August 18 start against the Cardinals in which Williams allowed eight earned in three innings, and he put together a solid 3.20 ERA in his other 23 starts, which spanned 132.2 innings pitched.

I will gladly take those results. There were other positives as well. The league hit just .250 off Williams this season and he had very good success against right-handed hitters, who managed just a .225 average and .688 OPS on the season.

Lefties didn’t exactly mash Williams either, hitting .286 with a .742 OPS.

Overall Williams allowed less than a hit per inning (133) and didn’t walk many (45), which are good signs going forward for Pittsburgh Pirates brass.

Progress

You could see the difference in Williams from late May to the end of the season and the results got better as well.

Williams posted a 4.80 ERA in 75 innings pitched in the first half of the season, but as he got more comfortable in the rotation, posted a 3.35 ERA in 75.1 second-half innings. He posted a 3.86 ERA in four July starts, a 3.93 ERA in six August starts (which includes the one bad outing vs. St. Louis) and was very good in September with a 2.38 ERA in four starts. You want to see young pitchers get better throughout the season when given the opportunity and that is exactly what Williams did in 2017.

Approach

Perhaps the thing I liked the most about Williams this season is the way he went about his business. He throws strikes and is not afraid to pitch inside.

Williams hit nine batters this season and a few of them came back to bite him, but he wasn’t afraid to keep trying to get into right-handed batters kitchen. He doesn’t have any outliers that jump off the page.  He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys (7.0 K/9), his FIP was 4.03 and BABIP of .291.

But perhaps the biggest number that jumps out of you is a hard contact rate of just 28.9 percent. Hew threw strikes, didn’t get himself in trouble with the walks and didn’t leave  pitches over the middle of the plate to get crushed.

That allowed him to start giving the Bucs innings as in 14 of his final 21 starts Williams went at least six innings. In four of the seven he didn’t, Williams went at least five. His approach on the mound also landed itself well to pitching at PNC Park, where Williams posted a 3.45 ERA at home this season.

Overview

I may be a little higher on Williams than most, but I really liked what I saw from him this season.

Of all the Pittsburgh Pirates’ young pitchers, I thought Williams took the biggest step forward in 2017.

Overall Grade: B-

Featured image credit – Daniel Decker Photography

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.

  • JAL 1234

    I found Williams very impressive last season. As pointed out, he got better as the season went on. That is sign of learning how to pitch in MLB.