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Trevor Williams’ 2018 was more interesting than many realize


MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With his 2018 season now complete, it is time to dig in to Pittsburgh Pirates’ starter Trevor Williams’ unique season.

Though he did not pick up a win last night in his final start of the season, Pittsburgh Pirates starter Trevor Williams has turned in a fine year by all accounts.

Though his season is certainly deserving of a deeper dive, a quick glance at some selected peripherals show just how unique of a season he had.

Penalized during the third second time through the order

Fans hear about the “Times through the order penalty” quite a bit these days. The generally accepted rule is that starters will see diminished returns the more times they face batters in a game. The third time through seems to carry the greatest degree of penalization. Not so in Williams’ case. He carries a particularly sparking .238 wOBA against on his third time through the order. Great!

However, he carries a .342 wOBA the second time through, an increase of .082 from his first time through. Which then means that he actually sees a 104 point improvement between this second and third time through.

Base runners? No problem!

Previously a very hittable pitcher, Williams famously turned it on in the season’s second half. He lowered his hits per nine to 7.15, down from 9.55 in the first half.

When he did allow a base runner post-All Star Break, he carried a 90.8 percent left on base percentage. That’s really hard to do. Williams did it better than any other starter who pitched at least 70 innings in the second half other than Mike Clevenger at 91.2 percent. Curiously enough, Jameson Taillon was right behind Williams at 88.3 percent. Both did a great job of impersonating Gandalf as the Pittsburgh Pirates clung to contention.

Crunch time? Pssh.

People like to point to “The Clutch” a lot. “Does he come through in the clutch?” is a phrase often heard to describe a hitter, for example. I still think that term is dubious, but Trevor Williams was quite sturdy in “the clutch” last season.

In “high leverage” situations defined by Fangraphs, Williams actually found more strikeout ability. He struck out 8.38 per nine innings in those situations, as opposed to 6.26 in low leverage and 6.78 in medium leverage.

Again, a deeper dive into how Williams put together such a remarkable season is warranted, as is deeper discussion in to what it means for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019 and beyond.

But in just scratching the surface of these peripherals and others, it becomes clear just how interesting of a season the right-hander was able to put together.