Losing a game where your opponent puts up 14 runs is never easy to deal with. Even though it was the first game of a four-game battle against the St. Louis Cardinals, it could have been enough to set the tone for the entire series. De facto staff ace Trevor Williams wasn’t about to let that happen Friday night when the Pirates played their second game of the series at Busch Stadium.
Williams’ start arguably changed the momentum of the series, despite the fact that the Pirates only managed to score two for him (and as many in the following game). With five strikeouts and a wale, he did surrender nine hits, those only amounted to one earned run.
Williams’ pitch chart from Friday exemplifies how he’s been so effective at commanding the strike zone.
His pitch ecosystem is on point- high four-seam fastballs, down and in sinkers (RHB side) and sliders (LHB side), with his changeup peppered in the lower quadrant of the strike zone. Speaking of which, through his last three starts, Williams’ changeup and slider velocities have paired up fairly well, the significance of which I’ll get to shortly.
Let’s talk about how the changeup and slider can work off each other. Further down, I’ve posted the tunneling data for both pitch pairs from 2018 and 2019, the latter of which has a minute sample.
When I talked to Williams, he stated he is making some adjustments on his slider.
“What I have been working on the most in tightening up my SL” Williams said. “I think that was the biggest step forward in my last few starts. If I tightened that up then my four-seam, two-seam, changeup and slider all will look similar. It’ll enhance my curveball separation more too.”
Some of Williams’ 2019 metrics deviate a little from what we have in 2018 and that sample isn’t the greatest either. It should be noted that I don’t believe there are studies on how long it takes tunneling data to stabilize, mainly because the metrics are so new.
Here’s where things get interesting. If we look into the average spin axis of both pitches, it shows that Williams’ change and slider create a conflicting tilt. His changeup averages about 237-degrees while his slider is around 120-degrees. That difference creates an opposite break which further helps facilitate an effective tunnel as long as both pitches can keep on the same trajectory as long as possible.