Trevor Williams signed a two-year/$13M deal with the Washington Nationals after a season and a half in New York and a 2022 campaign in which he made nine starts and 30 appearances overall for the Mets, putting up a 3.21 ERA, a 3.88 FIP, 23 walks, 84 strikeouts, and a .253/.307/.413 line against over 89 2⁄3 innings pitched, mostly in relief (51 IP).
Williams was back and forth between the bullpen and rotation during his time with in NY, with a total of 53 appearances and 24 starts in 2021-22. Between 2016 and 2020, the 30-year-old pitcher made 94 starts in the 106 games he appeared in.
As a free agent this winter, Williams had a decision to make: Sign somewhere he could start or take offers to continue pitching in relief?
“I think it was a decision for my career,” Williams explained after his deal with the Nationals was announced.
“Do I want to follow down that path? Do I want to be a swing guy for the rest of my career? Do I want to prove again that I can be a serviceable starter?
“And because I’ve shown both in the past, I preferred starting.”
Having experience in both roles, he said, he could make an informed decision on how he wanted to move forward in his career.
Trevor Williams, Filth.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 8, 2022
5th and 6th Ks. pic.twitter.com/bq1Znma1U4
“I’ve always been a starter for my entire career,” he told reporters.
“Until I was traded, I kind of had to learn on the fly with the Mets, learning how to swing, how to go multiple days off without throwing, how to cover innings, and I liked the role. I did. Especially doing it for that team last year, I was glad that [manager] Buck [Showalter] trusted me in that spot. But as far as the preference goes, I like preparing for my one day every five days.”
In addition to the scheduled outings, he said, getting an opportunity to watch his rotation mates attack hitters up close is a clear benefit of watching from the dugout.
“I love watching the other starting pitchers from the side and not from the bullpen,” Williams said.
“I love being in a rotation and posting up for those five guys. It’s something that I’ve always loved to do. My preparation — I didn’t like preparing for games last year, preparing for series and then not being able to pitch. So, for me, to prepare every five days knowing that it is my day, and it’s my day to go to work is something that I’m looking forward to.”
That being said, Williams added, he’ll do whatever he’s asked to do, and he knows he can handle it.
“If the Nationals asked me to be the swing man, I know that I can do it,” the pitcher said. “If the Nationals are telling me to be in the rotation, I know I can do it. So, I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out and getting that consistent five days, and posting up for a team is something that I take great pride in, and filling innings and being able to be some sort of source of stability is something that I take pride in.”
The experience in the bullpen, Williams told reporters, added to his knowledge of what he’s capable of doing and how he has to adjust his stuff to the role he fills.
“I think what I learned last year was the different asks that were asked of me: Like if I had to cover innings, I knew that I had to get quick outs, and I knew what pitches to throw to get these quick outs,” he explained. “If I came in a situation where I needed to get strikeouts I knew — like if I was coming in for one inning you empty the tank a little bit more, and know that you have these three hitters and you need strikeouts because there’s men on base. I learned a lot about what in my repertoire works best for those, so I’m looking forward to now preparing to get guys out one time through the lineup, get guys out two times through the lineup, and pitch through the third and a fourth time.”
His new manager has talked since late last season about the need to get more innings out of the Nats’ starters to help keep his bullpen arms healthy and not tax them as he had to at times last year.
“That’s where pitching becomes fun and that’s why I like preparing for starts, and that’s why I like preparing to do that 30 times, 30+ times,” Williams said.
“As far as like my pitchability, I’m looking forward to seeing how it translates back into the rotation.”
Trevor Williams, Nasty 91mph Sinker. pic.twitter.com/Orlw09le2I— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 20, 2022
Williams’ pitch mix didn’t change much in the last two seasons, with the righty relying on his four-seamer (52.8%) more than any other pitch, and in addition to his 91.2 MPH heater, he worked in a changeup (13.1%, 84.4 MPH), sinker (12.6%, 89.0 MPH), slider (11.7%, 83.2 MPH), and curveball (9.7%, 78.6 MPH), in line with what he was throwing when he was starting exclusively.
“I’ve mainly been a fastball pitcher my entire career, mainly four-seam and sinkers,” Williams said. “I throw different sliders, I throw a curveball, a changeup, and I’m working on different pitches this offseason right now to get left-hand hitters out. So it’s always trying to tinker, to mess with to see what works best, and I’m looking forward to getting down to Florida and using it on big league hitters.”
Williams also said pitch trackers on the internet help obscure what he’s actually doing.
“TruMedia tags all my different breaking balls as like — it tags one of my sliders as a curveball, so that’s good though, that means the other teams don’t know what it is, right?”