For the fourth season in a row, the Milwaukee Brewers can boast a finalist for the National League’s top relief pitcher. This year, however, the Senior Circuit’s two-time defending Reliever of the Year winner Josh Hader is not the man up for the honor. Nor is it Corey Knebel, who was nominated in 2017. Instead, rookie right-hander Devin Williams is one of the three hurlers nominated for the award named after the legendary Trevor Hoffman.
Williams, recently turned 26 and a former second round pick by the Brewers, battled his way back from Tommy John surgery to make his MLB debut last season. He made his first Opening Day roster this year and quickly worked his way into a high-leverage role in the back-end of the bullpen. Leaning heavily on his devastating changeup — dubbed the “Airbender” and thrown 52.7% of the time during the year — Williams made opposing hitters look foolish all summer long. Williams was scored upon in only two of his 22 outings, allowing just one earned run and reeling off 18 consecutive scoreless appearances to close out the regular season.
A versatile weapon, Williams went more than one inning in seven of his games and totaled 27.0 frames. His sterling 0.33 ERA was best among all 173 qualified MLB relievers this year, as was his 0.86 FIP. He also struck out batters at the highest rate (17.67 K/9, tied with James Karinchak), allowed the seventh-lowest average exit velocity (83.7 MPH), and was 11th with a 61.1% ground ball rate. Devin finished #1 among relievers with 1.4 fWAR (tied with Liam Hendriks) as well as #1 with 1.4 RA9-WAR. Williams did not record a save, but he was credited with four winning decisions and nine holds. Williams will also likely be in consideration for NL Rookie of the Year.
The other two finalists for the award on the Senior Circuit are a pair of players who enjoyed significant bounce back campaigns. Trevor Rosenthal of the Padres posted a 1.90 ERA in 23.2 innings, while Jeremy Jeffress finished with a 1.54 earned run average in 22 appearances for the Cubs after he was cut loose by the Brewers late last season. The winner of the award will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs