Morning Report: What is Working Right Now For Trevor Williams?

Trevor Williams has put together a pretty impressive run lately. Over the last month he has an 0.62 ERA in 29 innings over five starts. This isn’t the first time Williams has put together an impressive run of starts over the span of a month. During his first month of the season, he had a 2.29 ERA in 35.1 innings.

At the start of the season I felt that Williams would regress. His ERA came with a high walk rate (4.3 BB/9), not enough strikeouts (5.9 K/9), a low BABIP (.222), a high strand rate (80.3%), and an extremely low HR/FB rate (2.6%).

Typically pitchers will be in the .300 range with their BABIP, around 70% with their strand rate, and around 10% (or more in recent years with the ball seemingly juiced) with their HR/FB rate. Williams hasn’t been much of an exception to this. In his career, spanning 286 innings so far, he has a .283 BABIP, a 71.5% strand rate, and a 10.3% HR/FB rate.

None of those stats should be seen as set in stone. Williams has a little more than 900 balls in play in his career, and about 2,000 are needed to have a stable BABIP. The HR/FB stabilization rate is 400 fly balls, and he has 300. But until he hits those stabilization numbers, it shouldn’t be assumed that he’ll perform much better or worse than the typical league average, with a possible exception for his BABIP if you want to give him the benefit of the doubt there that he can maintain a .280-.290 BABIP.

After pointing out earlier this year that Williams was going to regress, he did indeed regress. He had a 5.98 ERA in 58.2 innings from the start of May through the start of July. This time he looked like a guy who would probably regress a bit in the other direction. He had a 55.7% strand rate, a 15.5% HR/FB rate, and a .283 BABIP. He was striking out more (6.9 K/9) and walking fewer hitters (2.3 BB/9), but that wasn’t translating to the overall numbers due to the unlucky strand and HR/FB rates.

His xFIP during that time was 4.54, and that’s a number that normalizes the HR/FB rate, the strand rate, and the BABIP. You can assume that those numbers would be better if you don’t give him a .300 BABIP.

So what about the last month? What is working for Williams, and where is he due for regression?

The good thing is that his walk rate has stayed low, with a 2.8 BB/9 during the last five starts. His strikeout rate has dropped to a 4.3 K/9, which means he’s putting a lot more balls in play. His BABIP is .271, which is a bad combo with putting more balls in play. Either he’s going to see a bit of regression to the .280-.290 range, or he’ll see a lot of regression to the .300 range.

He’s getting extremely lucky with the strand rate, with a 98.3% left on base percentage. The league average result for pitchers — Williams included — is about a 70% strand rate. Williams won’t continue stranding almost every single runner, and that’s going to drive up his ERA when those extra runs come in.

Finally, we’re back to the home runs, where he has a 2.8% HR/FB rate. That’s similar to the start of the year, and as we’ve already seen, it won’t continue.

Williams is having a good run over the last month, similar to the strong run he had in the first month of the season. Unfortunately, it’s not going to last, due to the way he’s getting his results. But it is interesting that he’s had a similar run in two separate months. Perhaps he’s going to be one of those starters who can put up a dominant stretch or two during the season and defy the numbers, while struggling when the advanced metrics bring him back down to Earth the rest of the season.

I think that’s wishful thinking though, trying to create a story from the results, and trying to project similar results in the future. The best indicator of future results is that xFIP, and it has been at 5.17 for Williams in the last month. He’s at 4.85 on the season. Maybe he can find a way to stay under that number by keeping a slightly lower BABIP, or even by keeping a slightly reduced HR/FB rate. But that result leads to a pitcher with an ERA in the 4.00-4.30 range, and not a pitcher with ace-like numbers.

In order to make significant changes to his future numbers, Williams will need to find a way to strike out more hitters, while continuing to severely limit the walks, which is a combination that should put fewer runners on the bases, and leave him less vulnerable to the BABIP, strand rate, and the HR/FB ratio.


The Pirates are in fourth place in their division, trailing by eight games with 43 games left on the schedule. They trail the second wild card team by five games.

Indianapolis is in first place and they lead by two games with 21 games left in their schedule.

Altoona is in second place and trails by 2.5 games with 22 games left in their schedule. They lead the race for the second playoff spot by 2.5 games.

Bradenton is in sixth place and trails by 14 games with 21 games left in their schedule.

West Virginia is in fifth place and trails by nine games with 22 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team by 1.5 games and could make the playoffs if Lakewood wins the second half title and they finish second.

Morgantown is in sixth place and they trail by 12 games with 20 games left in their schedule.

Bristol is in third place and trails by 5.5 games with 17 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team, which also gets a playoff spot, by two games.

The GCL Pirates are in fourth place and they trail by nine games with 12 games left in their schedule.

The DSL Pirates1 are in fourth place and they trail by 11 games with 12 games left in their schedule.

The DSL Pirates2 have been eliminated from the playoff race.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 4-3 to the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. The Pirates have off today, as they travel to Minnesota for two games against the Twins, before returning home. On Tuesday, Jameson Taillon will get the start, coming off of his outing on August 7th when he allowed two runs over nine innings against the Colorado Rockies. The Twins will counter with right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who has a 4.50 ERA in 120 innings, with 120 strikeouts and a 1.41 WHIP. In his last start, he allowed one run over 4.2 innings against the Cleveland Indians.

The minor league schedule includes Nick Kingham making his second start since returning to Indianapolis. He allowed two runs over five innings in his first game back. Ike Schlabach gets his eighth start for West Virginia. He allowed two runs over 5.1 innings in his last start on July 26th.  Altoona has off today. Morgantown has off today and tomorrow for the NYPL All-Star game. Travis Swaggerty, Mike Gretler and Cam Alldred will represent the Black Bears in the game.

MLB: Pittsburgh (61-58) @ Twins (54-63) 8:10 PM 8/14
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (3.63 ERA, 119:35 SO/BB, 134.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (65-54) @ Scranton/WB (60-56) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (2.32 ERA, 53:15 SO/BB, 54.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (63-52) @ New Hampshire (67-48) 7:05 PM 8/14 (season preview)
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (2.81 ERA, 32:9 SO/BB, 57.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (50-61) @ Clearwater (63-54) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mike Wallace (5.10 ERA, 61:16 SO/BB, 90.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (60-54) @ Rome (62-55) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Ike Schlabach (3.99 ERA, 57:23 SO/BB, 70.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (21-35) @ Batavia (24-30) 7:05 PM 8/15 (season preview)
Probable starter: Osvaldo Bido (4.73 ERA, 39:14 SO/BB, 51.1 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (25-26) vs Johnson City (21-27) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (19-22) vs Tigers West 12:00 PM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (29-31) vs Rays2 10:30 AM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (24-36) vs Colorado 10:30 AM  (season preview)


From Altoona on Saturday, three videos. Starts with Cole Tucker, then Ke’Bryan Hayes and Jordan George (?).


George…err, that might be Bryan Reynolds MiLB, but George did hit a two-run double in the game, so they didn’t just pull that title out of thin air.


8/12: Miami Marlins acquire Christopher Bostick for cash.

8/12: Pirates recall Jacob Stallings. Option Jordan Luplow.

8/12: Stephen Alemais placed on the DL. Jin-De Jhang added to Altoona roster.

8/11: Pirates recall Michael Feliz and Buddy Boshers. Clay Holmes and Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.

8/11: Jin-De Jhang placed on temporary inactive list.

8/10: Pirates recall Clay Holmes. Option Dovydas Neverauskas to Indianapolis.

8/10: Afredo Reyes assigned to Altoona. Dylan Busby assigned to Bristol.

8/8: Luis Nova and Denny Roman promoted to Bristol. Yerry De Los Santos promoted to GCL Pirates.

8/8: John Pomeroy promoted to West Virginia. Alec Rennard and Argenis Romano promoted to Morgantown.

8/8: Rodolfo Castro activated from West Virginia disabled list.

8/8: Josh Bell activated from disabled list. Jose Osuna optioned to Indianapolis.

8/7: Pirates claim Buddy Boshers off waivers. Christopher Bostick designated for assignment.

8/7: Jackson Williams placed on Indianapolis disabled list.

8/7: Jin-De Jhang activated from Altoona DL. Bralin Jackson placed on disabled list.

8/6: Pirates acquire Adeiny Hechavarria and cash considerations From the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Seelinger.

8/6: Domingo Robles Promoted to Bradenton. James Marvel promoted to Altoona.

8/5: Dario Agrazal assigned to Altoona. Pedro Vasquez assigned to Bradenton.

8/5: Pirates recall Casey Sadler. Option Alex McRae to Indianapolis.

8/5: Zac Susi assigned to Bristol.

8/4: Pirates released Yair Babilonia and Garrett Brown.

8/4: Corey Dickerson activated from disabled list. Christopher Bostick optioned to Indianapolis.

8/4: Ben Bengtson and Deon Stafford activated from West Virginia disabled list. Raul Siri promoted to Bradenton. Jhoan Herrera assigned to Morgantown.

8/4: Austin Coley placed on disabled list.


Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a day in 1926 that changed the franchise. Since this day is so big, I’m just going to list the players and remind you that the link at the beginning of this section has a bio for all eight players.

Jonah Bayliss, 2006-07 pitcher

Tom Prince, catcher from 1987 until 1993, and the acting manager the last two days.

Jeff Ballard, 1993-94 pitcher

Mudcat Grant, 1970-71 pitcher. He turns 83 today. Grant won 145 games during a 14-year career.

Vinegar Bend Mizell, 1960-62 pitcher…two great nicknames in a row and both played on World Series teams.

Sid Gordon, 1954-55 3B/OF

George Susce, 1939 catcher

Steve Swetonic, pitcher from 1929 until 1933

On this date in 1926, the Pittsburgh Pirates released pitcher Babe Adams and outfielder Carson Bigbee, while also putting Hall of Fame outfielder Max Carey on waivers. Not only did they put Carey on waivers, they also suspended him until another team picked him up so he wouldn’t get paid. They were getting rid of one of the best outfielders in team history, one of the best pitchers in team history (and the only player from both the 1909 and 1925 WS winners), plus Bigbee, who spent his entire 11-year career in Pittsburgh. This was such a big deal, that it became front page news in Pittsburgh for four days straight.

The Pirates had brought in old manager Fred Clarke to be a bench coach and the players claimed that they were getting conflicting signals from Clarke and Bill McKechnie, to the point they questioned who was in charge. When players started getting fines due to these mix ups, they held a player meeting to vote on whether to get rid of Clarke. The vote came back 18-6 in favor of keeping him and Adams, Bigbee and Carey were three of the votes against, along with three rookies, all of whom were supposedly swayed by the veterans. So instead of getting rid of Clarke, they cut the three veterans. It was an extremely unpopular move for the fans, especially when the Pirates dropped out of first place and finished the season by going 23-24 after August 13th. It was known as the ABC Affair, for the first letter of each last name.