2019 Regression Risk: Why Fantasy Owners Shouldn’t Buy Into Trevor Williams’s 2nd Half “Breakout”

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

It seemed like a breakout season for the Pirates’ Trevor Williams, as he was especially good in the second half (1.38 ERA, 1.07 WHIP).  Just how real is the performance, or should it be chalked up to an aberration and be ignored?  First let’s take a look at the overall line:

170.2 IP
14 Wins
3.11 ERA
1.18 WHIP
126 Strikeouts (6.64 K/9)
55 Walks (2.90 BB/9)
40.8% Groundball Rate
.261 BABIP

His first half ERA of 4.36 alone would be a red flag, but as we start digging into the numbers it becomes clearer and clearer.  Just consider that he benefited from a 90.8% strand rate after the All-Star Break, and while he did do a good job of limiting the hard contact all season long (29.3%) his BABIP also seems unsustainable:

  • First Half – .261
  • Second Half – .262

Those numbers alone indicate that things are unsustainable, but outside of solid (yet unspectacular) control what skill does he possess?

His strikeout rate is pedestrian, at best, courtesy of a 7.9% SwStr%.  He also lacks a true put away pitch, with a 13.20% Whiff% on his slider being his “best”.  Considering he only threw it 15.02% of the time while averaging 91.80 mph on his fourseam fastball, it’s no surprise that the strikeouts are lacking.

Williams’ groundball rate took a significant step backwards (48.0% in ’17), which does make sense as he utilized his sinker less (22.42% to 17.99%).  While he didn’t struggle with home runs, despite the drop off (0.79 HR/9), does anyone believe that he’s going to be able to maintain that?  We saw the issues in the first half, with a 1.65 HR/9 in May and 1.52 in June, and that’s something that could plague him over the course of an entire season.

So let’s put this all together.  Williams was a:

  1. Lucky pitcher in the second half
  2. Has little upside in strikeouts
  3. Could be plagued by home run issues
  4. Has pedestrian control

Does that sound enticing at all?  It was an impressive second half, but don’t be misled by the numbers.  There’s little chance that Williams can maintain last year’s success and is a disaster in waiting.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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