Trevor Williams Continues His Hot Stretch, But Pirates Can’t Come Away With a Win

PITTSBURGH — In the Pirates’ 5-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, Trevor Williams was near his best.

The Pirates’ right-hander was using his two-seam fastball to get a ton of ground balls and get quick outs. He had a two-hitter going through six innings and one of them was a bunt infield single. At that point, he’d thrown just 77 pitches.

In the seventh inning, Williams’ day turned from excellent to troubling very quickly. He walked Hunter Pence and gave up a double to Buster Posey and was lifted before recording an out in the inning. Tony Watson came in and didn’t help matters much, giving up three singles and a sacrifice fly to yield the lead.

It was a quick end to an otherwise sparking day for Williams, who is now on something of a roll. Over his last three starts, he’s given up seven earned runs in 19 innings for a 3.32 ERA. He’s also pitched at least six innings in three straight after struggling with length when he first moved from the bullpen to the rotation back in May.

After his last start, I compared Williams to Ivan Nova and how he’s used his changeup to keep left-handers from sitting on his fastball and have success to both sides of the plate. Sunday, he did something else that Nova does: had trouble with the third time through the order.

As I wrote back in May, Nova is an interesting case study for figuring out how much the third times through the order penalty is a factor of fatigue versus some type of familiarity benefit for the hitter.

To this point, the third time through the order hasn’t been a big deal for Williams. When he was first moved to the rotation to the bullpen, it was seen as a short-term move while Jameson Taillon was on the disabled list.

When Tyler Glasnow was sent down to Triple-A Indianapolis on June 10, it came with the implication that Williams’ move would be a permanent one. Since then, he’s averaged six innings per start, which usually gets a pitcher at least involved with the third time through the order.

But coming into Sunday, Williams had actually pitched pretty well the third time he faced hitters. Opposing batters went 12 for 42 against him in those situations, for a .286 batting average and a .692 OPS against. As a starter, he’s allowed a .262 batting average and a .720 OPS against, so those numbers represent something of a mixed bag.

Manager Clint Hurdle said that the issue Sunday wasn’t so much the issue of pitching the third time through the order as it was dealing with a jam that late into his start.

“He doesn’t have a lot of experience pitching through a jam in the seventh,” Hurdle said.

Williams thinks that his ground-ball heavy style should be an advantage later into games when hitters get more aggressive.

“First time through the lineup, you’re not trying to show much, but there’s so many scouting reports nowadays where I feel that the hitters know what I’m going to throw before I throw it,” Williams said. “There’s such an information edge now. You just have to pitch to your strengths the third time through the lineup and the fourth time through the lineup. … It’s not necessarily a disadvantage but you just want to be more efficient there and make quality pitches.”

That’s the one place Williams failed on Sunday. His five-pitch walk to Pence came around to hurt him. That was Williams’ only walk of the game.

Williams isn’t regularly pitching deep enough into games for the third time through the order to be as big of an issue as it is with Nova, but as he progresses through his rookie season, it may become something to watch.


John Jaso had a pretty solid month of June. He continued that hot play Sunday, going 2 for 4 with a solo home run.

In June, Jaso hit .319/.385/.660 for a 1.044 OPS. He was hitting third on Sunday and was allowed to remain in the game against a left-hander, which he rarely faces. Hurdle was rewarded for that show of faith with Jaso’s home run.

“John’s seeing the ball well,” Hurdle said. “He’s aggressive in the zone on pitches. Not just hard and some soft. He’s in a really good place. The strike zone command and the aggressiveness within it is making something happen. He’s fouling pitches off, he gets back in there and he gets a little bit better pitch to hit and he doesn’t miss it. We’re seeing some really good things from him.”

Hurdle has also been impressed by the adjustments that Jaso made since his 0 for 17 start to the season. And by that, he means, he didn’t change anything at all.

“He’s one of the few guys I’ve seen in my entire time in ball that the depth of the at-bats he had, the volume of the at-bats he had, where he was and way things were going, he didn’t change anything,” Hurdle said. “Most guys change something. Maybe it’s their shoes, socks or a bat. He changed nothing, He was just steadfast in his approach and what he believed was going to happen. He kept at it. I think in football they use the term keep chopping wood. He just kept swinging at pitches that he thought were good pitches to hit.”

  • Hurdle’s praise of Jaso sticking to a plan is even more impressive when you consider that Jaso completely changed his swing and approach over the offseason. Ballsy move for a 33 yo in a contract year.

    If one is willing to accept an adjustment period for a guy revamping his swing to go from one that pounded balls into the ground to one that lifts them into the air, Jaso has hit .298/.366/.562 (142 wRC+) since the start of May.

    Still can’t hit lefties and has little defensive value, but that’s a legit bat off the bench. He just extended his career by another contract or two.

  • “He doesn’t have a lot of experience pitching through a jam in the seventh,” Hurdle said.

    So, umm, Clint….how is he supposed to GET that experience???

  • We were at the game. Found myself wishing for the old Jared the fireman to come in and get some grounders to get out of a jam. We really don’t have a fireman in the Pen other than that really good guy we fleeced the Nats to get. As much pitching as there is in the minors hopefully our next fireman is lurking down there somewhere. We were sitting above the Clemente wall and i commented that Pence had shifted towards center during Osuna’s at bat then boom Osuna hits it to the right of Pence for the triple. Of course he robbed Jaso with an incredible catch with his next play.

    • Unfortunately, our two highly touted minor league relievers, Santana and Neverauskas, have been disappointing so far.

      • For all the calls to get Santana up he has looked less than stellar. He looked good yesterday and then a ball landed in our section. OOPS.

  • Just when Pirates look like they are turning a corner and looking like a decent team with a realistic shot at competing for division title, they have a run of crappy games.

    Whether it’s bullpen meltdowns or inability to get a hit w RISP, this team lacks the ability to do what’s needed to win games the really good teams win.

    No joy in Mudville.

    • The path forward is obvious. The table was set before the season started with terminations of long term CH coaches/friends, and a new Manager prospect, Joey Cora added to CH’s staff. Now all that is left is for the President or GM to make the announcement, thank CH for all that he has done for the Pirates and the community, and wish him well.

      • You may be right. Although I thought it was reported last month NH & CH we’re both given extensions?

        As for yesterday, the problem is unlike past seasons, Pirates middle relievers are inconsistent at best. Maybe going w Rivero vs Belt and Crawford in the 7th, and giving ball to Watson in 9th if still ahead was right play. Hindsight is 20/20 you know.

  • DFA Jaso

    • piraterican21
      July 3, 2017 12:08 am

      Awesome trade piece.

    • Why in the heck would you DFA this: 319/.385/.660 for a 1.044 OPS? Is it the hair? Do people hate his hair so much that the results don’t matter at all? Seems like it.

  • Problem is not the pitcher’s third time through the order, it’s the horse shit pen that keeps making matters worse or just straight up blowing games. If NH was serious about this team (which he should be because the central is awful this year) then he would have used the Kang / Marte savings (like he said he would) to sure up an awful bull-pen. This team would be well over .500 if they had a competent pen. Again, NH lied (so far) and the savings have not been spent and, to the skeptics eye, it sure looks like he was given the mandate to sell Cutch (possibly and hopefully Cole instead of Cutch) prior to the begging of the season.

    • You have an unrealistic expectation. NH didn’t know about Marte and Kang financial savings until it was too late to do anything about it this Spring. I took his comments about spending the money saved by not having to pay them to mean he could add salary at trade deadline if team was contending.

      With every loss, it becomes more likely team is a seller, and not a buyer this month. Making these savings meaningless for this season. Maybe they’re put into future years?

      As for bullpen, I can assure you nobody is more pained by their failures than him. It’s easy to bitch about it, but finding a solution is much tougher.

      What, or more specifically, who should’ve NH acquired to shore up bullpen?

      • There are very few teams who are not looking for BP help, and I agree with you that the Pirates will be sellers this year. We tried for Robles and Bellinger in trade talks prior to the 2017 season – here’s my mid-season pick – Kyle Tucker (Astro’s).

        • Scott Kliesen
          July 3, 2017 9:09 am

          It’s almost as if some fans think NH can just open up his Amazon Prime account and order up the next Mark Melancon in the middle of April.

          There’s a Grand Canyon sized chasm between expectations and reality in the comments section on this site sometimes.

          • Al rjgrinde is saying is NH said after the Marte suspension that he had excess money to spend and at this point has chosen to do nothing. I look at the sorry Braves and they lose Freeman for 2 months and within days they pick up two quality 1B. NH siad we could find a single OF to help this team at the right cost. The Brae gave up there 30th rated prospect and nothing more for Matt Adams (who has hit 12 bombs batted over 300 and happens to have been raised just outside of Pittsburgh). Its not that we fans think NH can order up a pitcher we just think he can do better then sitting on his butt do nothing at all or bringing back Bastinko in the mist of a decent run.

            • Scott Kliesen
              July 5, 2017 7:23 am

              Cardinals did Adams a huge favor when they traded him. He was languishing in LF like a duck out of water w Cards. However, they nor anyone else suspected his bat would be resurrected to this degree, or they would’ve held onto him.

              Furthermore, it’s apples and oranges, b/c no team has a set up RP playing out of position.

          • michael schalke
            July 3, 2017 11:17 am

            You’re right Scott. How about putting the blame on the players who are actually messing this thing up. Polanco, Watson, Hudson and Cole are the big contributors.

          • It’s July, Scott. Turn the calendar, buddy!

            The April defense has expired. Time to hold somebody accountable or find a new excuse.

      • “What, or more specifically, who should’ve NH acquired to shore up bullpen?”

        You’re defending the man who just willfully forced Antonio Bastardo back into a disaster of a bullpen.

        • Scott Kliesen
          July 3, 2017 2:42 pm

          I’m not defending that particular decision. There’s no reasonable defense for him being in organization at this point.

          However, I will gladly debate the points made in the original comment.

          • Your original comment?

            Debating specific names of middle relievers for trade is a fool’s errand, Scott. We’re talking about the most fungible asset in the game.

            • Scott Kliesen
              July 4, 2017 3:54 pm

              No the comment made by who I responded to is what I meant.

              After last 4 days, Pirates could acquire Andrew Miller to address their middle relief and it likely wouldn’t mean a division title.

      • And how does this team contend? They have a reliable bullpen. There is a mysterious transaction that the Pirates rarely partake in unless it unloads salary called a trade. My point was, they are showing little desire to contend because, the only way they can contend is with with a reliable pen which they do not have and, must spend money to get. Catch 22 my friend.

        • Scott Kliesen
          July 5, 2017 7:26 am

          If it was so easy to acquire one, don’t you think the Nats would’ve done so by now? To criticize NH for constructing this bullpen is fair. To criticize him for not trading for a better arm once the season started isn’t.

          • The Nationals are the third best team in the league and have a nine game lead for the Division.

            They have absolutely no reason to go out and get relief help until the deadline.

          • Na I’m done critiquing him for assembling a shitty pen and , have moved on to why Max Moroff continues to get at bats even though he strikes out almost every plate appearance. I guess he’s way better than Alan Hanson, that’s sarcasm.