“Your job as a pitcher is to obfuscate” — Trevor Williams

The Washington Nationals got to a point that they have not seen in the standings since July 1 of 2021. That point is being over .500, and it is thanks to Trevor Williams and his bullpen shutting out the Orioles by a score of 3-0 tonight in front of a crowd of nearly 30,000 stunned fans.

Before the game, I wrote that, “Manager Dave Martinez has Trevor Williams on the mound today, and he will face the best of the Orioles in Corbin Burnes. This is the day that Williams has to throw up all zeroes.” He delivered all zeroes in his 5.0 innings of work while Burnes gave up three. Mission accomplished. That is always the formula for beating an ace. Williams can’t get beat giving up zeroes, right? of course you need the bullpen to keep the lead, and Robert Garcia, Derek Law, Hunter Harvey, and Kyle Finnegan did just that.

“Your job as a pitcher is to obfuscate.”

— Williams said after the game on MLB Network

You can do your analytics and wonder how Williams has been so effective in his seven starts, and part of it is manager Davey Martinez is getting more with less, and what that means is they are trying to keep Williams at 80-pitches or less per start. His pitches have more movement, and his changeup sometimes looks like a screwball. He is tunneling well, and not trying to overpower batters with his low-90s fastball that topped out at 91.8 mph in tonight’s game. That is a soft-tosser, and he is fine with that. The righty is a finesse pitcher. He is obfuscating.

After this scoreless night, Williams drove his ERA down to a scant 1.96 which seems like a misprint. No, that is an accurate number. He is about a quarter complete on his season with another 20+ starts to go. Last year, fatigue got to him in the mid-season. This year, they are keeping him fresh.

“He already had 77 pitches. We’ve talked about that 80-pitch mark, for [Williams], is where he needs to be. He gave us five really good innings. I didn’t want to send him back out there.”

— Martinez said after the game

Does that sound like a team sticking to their analytics on Williams? Other teams have done that for years, and when you look at how he was used last year, the righty threw four starts at or over 93-pitches just in the month of April. Williams threw five times in 2023 at over 100 pitches and one time at 110 pitches which seems crazy in this day and age. Last year, Williams pitched over a pitch count of 80 a total of 24 times last year. This year Williams has only gone over 81 pitches one time.

How many times a year did I crush Martinez for redlining pitchers in the past? This year, I haven’t mentioned it until now because I didn’t have a need to complain. This is what I talked about, and especially with Patrick Corbin. It is maximizing through having a plan on each pitcher’s fatigue levels. Instead of diminishing returns, you get increased returns. Last year, Williams averaged just 4.75 innings and this year is at 5.25 innings — a full-half inning more. This is what I used to pound the keyboard about, and now you finally see what I was talking about. You get more with less. How nice is it to give relievers clean innings too?

The Nationals are now 16th in MLB for starter’s ERA at 4.18, and just 7-points from the top-half in baseball. Remember, those numbers include Josiah Gray‘s ERA at 14.04. Take his numbers out, and this team has an amazing 3.71 ERA. That would peg the Nats as the 12th best starter’s ERA in baseball.

Could the 32-year-old Williams be a clone of the Ivy League finesse pitcher, Kyle Hendricks? A few differences in that Hendricks hasn’t averaged over 90 mph on his fastball since 2016 when he was 26 years old. They do throw a similar repertoire except Hendricks has the curveball and Williams the slider and slurvy pitch known as the sweeper. Hendricks once talked about obfuscation and the need for X and Y axis movement when you have lower velo. That seems to be a key in Williams new successes is tunneling and lots of movement and an unpredictability of making everything look like a fastball out of his hand.

These Washington Nationals, general manager Mike Rizzo, Martinez and his staff, and the analytics people deserve praise for putting together some great game plans this year. If it continues, this Nats team could be the positive surprise of baseball. From the third Wild Card spot on Sunday to over a .500 record today. This is why we play the games.

This entry was posted in Analysis. Bookmark the permalink.