Trevor Williams showed on Monday that you don’t necessarily need to throw breaking stuff 40% of the time to have success. And yes, it was only one start, and small sample size rules apply. But Williams showed a trend I’ve continued to pound: Throw your best pitches more often.
It doesn’t matter if those pitches are breaking pitches, or a fastball, or a changeup. Most pitchers have a breaking pitch or two that would qualify as their best pitches.
In this case, the best pitch for Trevor Williams is a breaking ball. His slider has a .614 OPS against this year. His four-seam fastball has a .672 OPS against, while his sinker has a .713 OPS against, which is actually down a lot after the last start. His changeup has produced a .776 OPS, so his worst pitch, but he’s not getting crushed on anything.
Williams doesn’t have an out pitch like Jameson Taillon or Chad Kuhl, where he has a pitch that is a swing and miss offering, or getting a sub-.600 OPS. The slider is the best pitch all around, and that only gets a 10.4% whiff rate.
His start on Monday saw him throw his two best pitches a large majority of the time. He threw his four-seam fastball 53.1% of the time, while throwing his slider 20.8% of the time. That’s a big change from his approach at the start of the year.
In his first start, Williams threw his four-seamer 41.2% of the time and his sinker 32.9% of the time. He has gradually reduced the sinker usage, and has increase the four-seam usage. In the last few starts, his sinker usage has been 15% or lower, with the four-seam usage over 50%.
The slider usage was around 10% maximum for the first month of the season. He’s gradually increased the usage, getting up to around 20% several times lately. The changeup was being used 18% of the time in most of his starts early in the year. He’s now dropping that usage closer to 10% in most recent starts.
At the start of the year he was throwing his sinker much more than his four-seam, but throwing both fastballs a combined large amount. He’s now using the sinker more like a situational pitch, rather than more of a 50/50 split with the fastballs. He was also using his changeup as his top off-speed pitch at the start of the year, but the slider has (rightfully) taken over.
Since Williams doesn’t have one dominant pitch, it doesn’t make sense for him to go all-in on a single pitch like Chad Kuhl and Jameson Taillon have been doing with their slider usage recently. He’s better off mixing his stuff up. But while he’s doing that, he can still throw his best stuff more often. The good thing is that he’s already starting to do that.
Williams hasn’t had the best results lately. Some of that involves some regression that should go the positive direction. It could also be due to changing up his approach on the fly mid-season, which probably isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. So was Monday’s start a sign that things are starting to click? Assuming he will continue this trend of refining his pitch selection, we’re going to find out over the next few starts.