In 2010, Williams graduated from Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego. He had been team captain as a senior, going 10-2 and hitting .432. Trevor then accepted a baseball scholarship to Arizona State, majoring in secondary education and history.
As a freshman, Williams excelled in Arizona State’s bullpen. And went 12-2, 2.05 ERA as a sophomore. But he struggled to a 6-6, 4.12 ERA as a junior, and his WHIP jumped from 0.94 to 1.35.
In his spare time, Trevor likes to surf or go fishing. Williams says Denzel Washington is his favorite actor. And he lists Good Burger as his favorite movie.
Trevor has a magnetic personality. He is a leader in the clubhouse. His makeup increases his value.
- In 2013, the Marlins drafted and signed Williams (see Transactions below).
In 2014, Baseball America rated Williams as the 11th-best prospect in the Marlins organization. And they moved him up to #9 in the winter before 2015 spring camps opened. He dropped to #23 in the offseason before 2016 spring training. In 2017, he was back up to #14 in the Pirates organization.
- In 2016, Williams provided one of the most emotional movements of the season when he notched his first win with three scoreless innings of relief vs. the Cardinals. He then celebrated with a long, emotional hug in the stands with his father, who was battling lymphoma.
Trevor watches the video once a week, he figures—maybe more often than that. It was the first time he saw his father cry. "Ever," Trevor said. "He's emotional, but he's not a crier."
Richard Williams made an exception after Trevor's Major League debut, the Pirates' 4-3 victory over the Cardinals on Sept. 7, 2016. Trevor met his family near PNC Park's home dugout. He kissed his wife, Jackie, who was holding their sleeping 11-month-old son, Isaac.
Then Richard stepped forward to hug his son. Trevor surprised his father, who was unable to contain his emotions, with the ball from his first Major League win. As Trevor retreated to the Pirates' clubhouse, Richard lamented to Jackie that he didn't take any pictures. The next day, they realized they didn't need any. The whole thing, captured on camera, went viral within hours.
What captured the Internet's attention? It was raw and relatable, emotional and unscripted. It was the best moment of Trevor's young career. It was a representation of baseball's impact, generations brought together by their love for the game and each other. But it was so much more than that. "It was a culmination of a lot of things," Richard said. "I remember looking at him and being so proud. And I was so happy to be alive." (Berry - mlb.com - 3/14/17)
Trevor's father, Richard, was raised by his mother in Chicago, where he grew up a diehard baseball fan and a Cubs supporter. He skipped a week of school in May 1970 to see Ernie Banks hit his 500th home run. His mother grounded him for life. "Then she said, about two weeks into it, 'Was it worth it?'" Richard recalled. "I said, 'Mom, it was so worth it.'"
He joined the Marines in 1974 and served until 1977. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Eastern Illinois University, he went to law school at Drake University in Iowa, and settled in San Diego. He's had Padres season tickets since 1991, and Trevor was born on April 25, 1992. Richard said he has pictures of Trevor in his car seat on the railing at Jack Murphy Stadium.
In 1997, Ken Caminiti wished Trevor a happy 5th birthday. The Williams family went to games whenever the Padres were in town, watching Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman from right behind home plate.
"That's how I fell in love with baseball," Trevor said. "My dad encouraged me in that aspect, because he loved baseball. When you're around baseball this much, how can you not fall in love with it?"
Richard was never Trevor's coach, but he was his son's biggest fan. He was the baseball team's public-address announcer at Rancho Bernardo High School. When Trevor pitched on Friday nights for Arizona State University, Richard hit the road from San Diego to watch him pitch, then drove back through the night. In the summer of 2012, Trevor went to Cuba with the United States' Collegiate National Team. Riding to the park, Trevor spotted his father's face amid the crowd of Cuban fans. The day before the trip began, Richard got a ticket.
"He just loved watching and didn't want to miss watching me play," said Williams. "My dad's always around baseball. Loves it."
In September 2016, when the Pirates promoted Trevor, Richard flew to Pittsburgh and waited for his son's debut. One day, three strong innings, and a Jung Ho Kang home run later, it became his first win. "How many guys get to watch their son in their first Major League game, first Major League win?" Richard asked. (Berry - mlb.com - 3/14/17)
Ten months before Trevor's father, Richard, lived every Little League dad's dream at PNC Park, seeing his son's Major League debut. He was advised to get his affairs in order, write letters to his children and draft a will. Doctors told him he had Stage 4 B-cell lymphoma. On Nov. 1, 2015, he was given 60-90 days to live. "My goal was to make it to Christmas that year," Richard said, "not to Spring Training."
Richard always made his children a priority, attending all of Trevor's games and his other sons' swim meets. He tried to live selflessly and make a difference, starting a fund for injured Marines and escorting them to Spring Training for years. He had no regrets. "You do some evaluations in a rather quick setting," Richard said. "When I was diagnosed, I said I've had a good life. I had a really good life. I wasn't sad—well, I was sad, but I had my priorities straight."
With tumors on three organs, Richard agreed to an aggressive treatment plan and signed "about 80 pages of releases" to authorize it. Six months of inpatient chemotherapy. Spinal taps. Another 2 1/2 months of radiation.
Richard wasn't out of the woods that night in Pittsburgh, but he felt better. He was nearing the end of his treatment. He'd lost weight, but his hair and color were coming back. He gets goosebumps every time he watches the video, he said, because it reminds him of what he went through. "I got to be there, and I wasn't supposed to be there, statistically," he said. "I'm on borrowed time, but my attitude is you can stay busy living or stay busy dying."
He's still busy living. His most recent CAT scan was negative. In November 2016, doctors told him he was in full remission. No tumors, no cancer. "It's a freaking miracle," Trevor said.
Richard still lives in three-month intervals, he said, from blood draw to blood draw. That window will soon expand to six months, and eventually a year, if all goes well. With help from Barry Zito's Strikeouts for Troops Foundation, Richard leads about a dozen injured Marines around Arizona's Spring Training ballparks each year, a product of the Marine Corps League Injured Marine Fund that Richard started in 2003. One of the Marines, Nick Kimmel, met Zito in Arizona and threw out the first pitch before Game 2 of the 2012 World Series.
"I'm just so proud and happy that I can take them to Spring Training games," Richard said. "I'm happy that the Major League Baseball players, who have such class, are changing lives one at a time with these Marines." Walking around the A's Spring Training facility, though, Richard said he was the happiest man there. He feels great now. How could he not?
"I'm at Spring Training!" Richard said. "There's 12 Marines with us, and one of them is a triple amputee with one arm. We've got three double amputees here. These guys got their legs blown off, and I'm going to complain about a little cancer? Not gonna happen." (Berry - mlb.com - 3/14/17)
Trevor will sit down someday with his son Isaac, now nearly 1 1/2 years old, and watch the video again. He hopes he'll play long enough that Isaac will grow up around baseball—like Trevor did. Trevor will probably still be making fun of his son—as he does now—for not wearing pants during his first appearance on national television.
Then Trevor can explain the rest—the work it took to get there, why grandpa was crying and what that night meant to both of them. "It's something that I'm going to show him to show that this is what I had with grandpa. This was a cool moment for us," Trevor said. "This was a moment for all of us, you know?
"You work hard in the offseason and work hard your entire life to become a big leaguer. I wasn't working hard so I could share a moment with my dad. I work hard so I can help a big league team win. But there's a moment after that where, like, you know what? Maybe I was doing it for this moment. If I never get to the big leagues ever again or I never have success anywhere else, I got that moment with my dad." (Berry - mlb.com - 3/14/17)
Nov. 22, 2017: Williams announced that he will wear No. 34 next season to honor Cory Hahn, his former roommate and teammate at Arizona State University. Hahn, who wore No. 34 at ASU, had his career cut short on Feb. 20, 2011, when he fractured the C5 vertebrae in his neck and was paralyzed from the chest down while sliding headfirst into second base. Hahn, selected by the D-backs in the 34th round of the 2013 draft, works in Arizona's front office as its coordinator of pro scouting. As Williams wrote on Twitter, "34 is more than just a number to me." (Adam Berry - MLB.com)
Dec 22, 2017: You probably know Trevor Williams the pitcher, the guy who came out of the bullpen and locked down a spot in the rotation during a solid rookie season. You also probably know Trevor Williams the social media presence, otherwise known as @MeLlamoTrevor, the guy who occasionally goes viral with, as he would say, "average to above-average jokes." MLB.com caught up with Williams from his home near Phoenix to discuss Trevor the offseason dad to Isaac, husband to Jackie, and still-prolific tweeter for everyone else.
MLB.com: So what is the offseason like around the Williams home?
Williams: The first part of the offseason, it's a lot of family time, relaxation time. The offseason is also wedding season, so it feels like every other weekend, you're flying somewhere for somebody's wedding. We like to lay low. We didn't take a trip this year because we moved into a new house. We wanted to enjoy our house together as a family unit. My workouts started at the end of October. I have my workouts in the morning, then the afternoons and nights are just family time. We have our routines here. We have a lot of parks that we frequent. It's been good, just the three of us. This time of the offseason, now it's planning for the season time.
MLB.com: It's the baseball offseason, but we all know social media season never ends. You've gone viral at least once this offseason. How often are you checking your feeds, and how different is it for you now than during the season?
Williams: I've really tried to practice fasting—not necessarily food, but fasting certain things. One day I'm not going to check my social media. Today I'm not going to have a drink. Today I'm not going to watch TV. I've been trying to do that this offseason. I like to keep my phone away when I'm hanging out with my family. It's more fun in the offseason. There's fewer people saying, 'You should be worrying about the game instead of your Twitter. Get ready for your start.' Less of that and more enjoying the offseason Twitter-sphere. It's funny stuff.
MLB.com: Does your family have any specific Christmas or holiday traditions?
Williams: It's different now that Jackie and I are married and we have Ike, so we're constantly trying to bounce between my family and her family during the holiday season. My family doesn't have huge traditions, really. Hers is a big Mexican family, so they make tamales every year. We make them after Thanksgiving. All of her tios and tias and her grandma go to her house, and we make like 90 dozen tamales. They make them for Christmas time to hand out to neighbors and parishioners and what-not.
MLB.com: If you could give your teammates a gift, whether it's someone in particular or the group as a whole, what would it be?
Williams: Maybe an instrument for everybody. I think we would have a great team band. If you were to put our team up against any other team, and we had like a battle of the bands between 30 teams, I firmly believe that we would crush everybody. Hopefully that can translate to baseball as well. I think as a team, as a whole, we're very musically talented. There's a few secret rock stars on our team. That's what I've got. I'd give everyone an instrument of their choosing so we could start a band. [Steven] Brault, he's the ringer. (Note: Brault was a vocal performance major at Regis University.) He's the obvious superhero on our squad. (A Berry - MLB.com - Dec 22, 2017)
"PROJECT 34" is the name of the charitable nonprofit foundation that is dedicated to benefiting people who suffer from spinal cord injuries. Trevor is wearing No. 34 as his uniform number this season, a change inspired by his friend and Project 34 president/co-founder Cory Hahn. "It just made sense," Williams said. "I think it's cool that way."
Williams changed his number to honor Hahn, who is now the D-backs' coordinator of pro scouting. Hahn suffered a career-ending, life-changing spinal cord injury after a headfirst slide into second base while playing with Williams at Arizona State University in 2011. Together, through Project 34, they are committed to providing funds for physical therapy, medical equipment, and further assistance for those living with spinal cord injuries.
You might find Williams and his Pirates teammates wearing black Project 34 T-shirts around the ballpark before games. Several other clubs have joined the effort, and Williams said Manny Machado recently ordered shirts for the Dodgers and their wives. Their hope is that all 30 teams will eventually get involved, picking a representative and visiting patients rehabbing spinal cord injuries in each Major League city.
"The outpouring of love and financial commitment we've received from people already is unbelievable," Williams said. "We're looking forward to seeing how it grows over the years to come."
On June 23, 2018, Williams and his wife, Jackie, hosted patients with spinal cord injuries and their families during the first Project 34 Day at PNC Park. The patients played catch on the field, met with players and then watched the game from a suite at the ballpark.
During the event, Williams met a few people who play wheelchair rugby for the Pittsburgh Steelwheelers. They invited him to attend one of their practices, and he took them up on it. "I give into peer pressure easily. I wasn't going to play, but then they were just peer-pressuring me, like, 'Come on, let's get you in a chair,'" Williams said. "It was a blast. I look forward to doing it again." (Berry - mlb.co - 8/23/18)
Being a pitcher in the Major Leagues often requires cat-like reflexes. After all, they're the players closest to the batter, and line drives tend to sail in their direction faster than anywhere else on the diamond. As it turns out, those instincts remain intact even when they're not pitching.
For example, take Trevor Williams. He was off and sitting in the dugout for the Pirates' 7-3 win over the Reds, so the Pirates' TV booth did an in-game interview with him in the third inning. So when Jordan Luplow grounded a foul ball that bounced right at Williams, he had no problem handling it. It was a no-hesitation play. (Mearns - mlb.com - 9/4/18)
Trevor is a pitcher for the Pirates. [Another] Trevor Williams is a cornerback for the Los Angeles Chargers. This has become a bit of a thing in recent days in 2018, as MLB Trevor pointed out in amusing fashion as the NFL season was drawing near.
Trevor [Pirate] wrote: "I had to get a Trevor Williams @Chargers jersey because he doesn’t have a Twitter and I get his tweets every Sunday. I will now answer all Chargers CB Trevor Williams related questions on Twitter on his behalf. Thx have a gr8 day."
Williams (Pirates version, a San Diego native) even put together a video showing off his football skills, while wearing his Chargers counterpart's jersey. On Sunday, September 9, 2018, the Chargers arrived at the StubHub Center for their season opening game against the Chiefs. And there was Trevor Williams [Chargers] in a Trevor Williams [Pirates] jersey, again! (Garro - mlb.com - 9/7/18)
2018 season: Across the board, Williams set career highs in many categories. He tossed a total of 170.2 innings and compiled a record of 14-10. His ERA of 3.11 and FIP of 3.86 were both the best marks of his young career, along with his WAR of 2.5, trumping the 2.3 he put up in 2017. While his K/9 did drop to 6.64 from 7.00 last season, he became better at limiting free passes as he allowed just 2.90 per nine innings compared to the 3.11 he issued in the previous season. But it was the second half of the season that saw Williams really turn the corner as a starting pitcher.
In his 12 starts after the All-Star break, Williams allowed just three home runs in 71.2 innings and had an ERA of 1.38. Of those 12 starts, Williams allowed no runs in seven of them and one run in two of them. The most runs he allowed in a start in the second half was when he gave up four runs over five innings against St. Louis on September 10. Williams was a workhorse in the second half too, giving the Pirates a quality start in nine of those 12 starts. To say that this performance was unexpected is an understatement. (ethanobstarczyk -MLB)
Dec 27, 2018: While the world anxiously awaits his free agency decision, Bryce Harper has kept awfully busy this offseason—from perming his hair to hanging out with Nelly to channeling his inner Charlie Conway. But he kept things simple, sitting down for a nice quiet dinner, err, wait, sorry, turns out that was actually Pirates starter Trevor Williams: "Our waiter tonight thought I was Bryce Harper so of course I played along and told him I was signing with the Yankees. He was very happy because he was from the Bronx."
This is hardly the first time Williams has been mistaken for another star athlete. And hey, it's not that far off. No word yet on whether he followed through and tipped like he was on the verge of a nine-figure contract, though.
Jan 22, 2019: When Trevor Williams and Cory Hahn were planning the inaugural fundraiser for their Project 34 foundation, they kicked around a few different ideas. A golf tournament would be great, sure. A dinner might be nice, too. But what about something different, something unique to their experience? That was the thought process behind "Dingers in the Desert," the charitable home run derby held on Saturday Jan 26, 2019 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Williams, Hahn and their Project 34 team hosted the event and put all the proceeds toward helping people with spinal cord injuries.
Williams, the Pirates starter, and Hahn, the D-backs' coordinator of professional scouting, officially founded the charitable non-profit Project 34 last March 2018. They are hoping the event will become an annual tradition and a key part of their grant process.
"It's really a fun day of baseball," Williams said. "a fun day and cool for the kids to interact with the players, just enjoying a day of dingers."
There were two tournaments during the event, one for young players and another for the professionals. Williams said the youth division was made up of 10- to 12-year-olds from travel ball teams in the Phoenix area, and they have a handful of Major and Minor Leaguers swinging for the fences in the "main event." They even had TrackMan data on the scoreboard, so the hitters know exactly how far and hard they're launching the ball.
The event featured question-and-answer sessions with players, autographs, food, drinks and Project 34 T-shirts in the color scheme of Williams and Hahn's alma mater, Arizona State University. By the end of Spring Training 2019, Williams said, they plan to have a Project 34 player representative on all 30 big league teams.
Williams has done his part to promote the foundation. He changed his uniform number to 34 last offseason to honor Hahn, who suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury after a headfirst slide into second base while playing at Arizona State in 2011. Through the foundation, they plan to offer financial support for physical therapy, medical equipment and other assistance for those living with similar injuries.
"We're still in our infancy stage," Williams said. "But from what we've seen, we've seen a lot of support from players, from people that want to support and reached out." ESPN's Pedro Gomez handled the on-field announcing for the home run derby, while Williams served as master of ceremonies. (A Berry - MLB.com - Jan 22, 2019)
July 6-8, 2019: Williams was on the paternity list.
June 2013: The Marlins chose Williams in the second round, and he signed for $1,261,400 with scout Scott Stanley.
- October 24, 2015: The Pirates sent RHP Richard Mitchell to the Marlins, acquiring Williams. Trevor is a true pitching prospect, while Mitchell is not. The deal was arranged because Pittsburgh demanded compensation in exchange for allowing highly regarded special assistant Jim Benedict to take a job with Miami, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
|Birth City:||San Diego, CA|
|Draft:||Marlins #2 - 2013 - Out of Arizona State Univ.|
Williams has an 89-92 mph 2-seam sinking FASTBALL that runs in on righthanded batters and away from lefties. 91-95 mph 4-seam heater with some arm-side run, an over-the-top 83-86 mph SLIDER with late break, a hard 76-79 mph CURVEBALL, and a straight 84-87 mph CHANGEUP with late fade he uses vs. lefties. (Spring, 2018)
The two-seamer is Williams most effective weapon with its sinking action that produces ground balls in waves and a solid changeup that flashes plus. While both curve and slider have been inconsistent, the curve showed improvement in 2015, as evidenced by increasing his strikeout rate to nearly 8 per nine innings pitched.
Trevor's intelligent approach to the game allows for success. His slider sometimes stays on one plane, and his curveball is more of a show pitch. He has good feel for his changeup, but he’ll need to develop a better swing-and-miss offering to be more than a middle reliever in pro ball.
"My slider is something I want to develop into an out pitch, a swing-and-miss pitch.”
Williams uses the same grip on his slider as the Tribe's Corey Kluber.
Scouting Grades: Williams has a 55 fastball, a 50 slider, 45 curve and 45 changeup. And his control is a 50—all on the 20-80 scouting scale.
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 41.1% of the time; Sinker 25.5% of the time; Change 9.4% of the time; and Slider 24.1% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 49.2% of the time; Sinker 22.4% of the time; Change 10.1% of the time; Slider 16.4% of the time; and Curve 2% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 51.4% of the time, his Sinker 18%; Change 15.4%; Slider 15%; and Curveball less than 1% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 91.8 mph, Sinker 89.4, Change 83.9, Slider 82.1, and Curve 75.8 mph.
Trevor has good arm speed with some jerkiness that makes his pitches harder to read. He has a high arm slot that reminds you a bit of Jason Motte. Williams tends to open up too early and is working to keep his front side closed longer.
He has a drop-and-drive delivery, keeping the ball down, so he rarely gives up a homer. (Spring, 2015)
Williams is a real competitor on the mound. He gets tougher as the game goes on and shows he is a very cerebral pitcher. And he maintains his velocity late into a game.
He is a workhorse strike-throwing machine. He is also a self-proclaimed perfectionist with an advanced feel for the pitching.
Trevor does a good job pitching down in the zone but needs to do a better job coming inside against lefthanded hitters.
- Williams spent much of his offseason, and his time in 2015 spring camp, to differentiating his slider and 12-to-6 curveball. He began experimenting with different slider grips, freeze-framing various pitchers on television to see how they threw it.
At one point Williams came across a still photo of Indians ace Corey Kluber, circa 2009-2010 at Double-A, and tried duplicating that grip. It worked.
"That looked comfortable to me, so I tried it and I think his was the one that stuck,” Trevor said.
Williams can be an innings-eating #4 starter.
First half: 3.61 ERA, .279 BAA, 1.34 WHIP. Second half: 1.55 ERA, .222 BAA, 1.09 WHIP.
The scene of Williams getting the win in his Major League debut and then being able to celebrate it with his wife and understandably emotional father has been one of the highlights of an otherwise disappointing September in Pittsburgh. It was Williams' strong pitching in the second half that set him up for that September callup.
The big drop in walk and hit rates were huge for Williams, and it dropped his season ERA to 2.42, which would have led the Triple-A International League had he accrued enough innings to qualify.
Trevor started the 2019 season with a career record of 22-20 and a 3.72 ERA. He had allowed 33 home runs and 310 hits in 333 innings.
- March 30, 2019: During the final Spring Training workout at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., Melky Cabrera stepped up to the plate inside the fenced-in bullpen area. He tracked a few pitches -- down and in, down and away, up and in -- then turned his head to catcher Jacob Stallings.
“You know this guy?” Stallings asked between pitches. “He was the best pitcher in the National League in the second half last year. He had a one-something ERA."
Trevor Williams' second-half ERA was 1.38, to be specific, and it was 1.29 over his final 13 starts of last season. Only American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell had a lower ERA after the All-Star break. Zane Smith is the only Pirates starting pitcher since 1933 to produce a stingier second half. That run followed the worst stretch of Williams’ young career, a nine-start struggle during which he allowed 37 runs in 41 innings. He knew something had to change.
“I was getting embarrassed,” Williams said, “and I didn’t want to be embarrassed ever again after that.”
But how did he turn it around? How, in this high-velocity era, was a starting pitcher so effective with a 91 mph fastball? And how, after putting up Bob Gibson-like numbers for 13 starts, did Williams decide he can improve?
“The challenge to do that again, I love it. I can pitch up to that intensity,” said Williams, who will make his season debut against the Reds in Cincinnati. “I can’t repeat that. I can only do better or worse."
The tipping point came during Williams’ July 6 start against the Phillies -- a 17-5 loss for the Pirates. In the third inning, he served up a three-run homer to Odubel Herrera. He was out of the game three batters later, but he knew something was wrong after that home run. It wasn’t the pitch. Or the result. It was his reaction.
“It was the first time I gave up a homer in my career where I wasn’t [upset],” Williams said during an interview with MLB.com. “I wasn’t angry. I was kind of like, ‘Aw, man, here we go again.’”
Williams’ intensity helped get him to the Majors. But he convinced himself to “pitch bored,” he said, after being over-amped and giving up eight runs in three innings at Dodger Stadium in his first start of 2017. Over time, his intensity faded.
“I didn’t recognize it, but I could feel my intensity getting lower and lower and lower and lower,” he said. “I was afraid to pitch ‘up’ again. I was afraid to pitch like a madman, like I was.”
Williams throttled his energy more than ever pitching in his hometown of San Diego on June 30. He felt like he was going through the motions that night -- a far cry from the pitcher who grunted and grinded his way through the second half. Then came the Phillies start and the Herrera home run.
After that outing, Williams sat in Pirates manager Clint Hurdle’s office at PNC Park and considered his options. He talked with pitching coach Ray Searage in the outfield during batting practice and they came up with a plan. Williams, admittedly in fight-or-flight mode, vowed to “pitch angry” again.
“In his mind, it was all fight,” Hurdle said. “There wasn’t any flight.”
On July 11, Williams pitched five shutout innings against the Nationals. It was the beginning of a 21-inning scoreless streak. He allowed just 11 runs the rest of the season.
“From pitch one, I’m throwing the first punch. I’m not waiting to see how they’re going to attack me. I’m going to attack them with my stuff,” Williams said. “They know what they’re going to get. It’s no secret what I throw. This is what you’ve got. See what you can do with it.”
Williams’ success is a study in contrasts. He was one of baseball’s best stories in the second half, but he probably received more media attention when a waiter in San Diego confused him for Bryce Harper this offseason. He’s a heavy metal aficionado who listens to classical music during his early morning drives to the ballpark during Spring Training. He has a bulldog mentality and a game built around finesse. And his competitive pitching persona doesn’t align with his affable attitude in the clubhouse or amusing commentary on Twitter.
“Super chill, super low key. Very easy to hang out with off the field, easy to have conversations with,” Pirates starter Jameson Taillon said. “But there definitely is something about his start day. He’s a different animal.”
When Williams gets to the ballpark, he turns up the frenzied metal music on his headphones and … sits down with a crossword puzzle. Or a Sudoku. Or a game of Spades on his phone.
“What I want to create is a controlled chaos,” Williams said.
That’s the essence of pitching -- hyper-focus amid all the noise -- so Williams attempts to simulate that “controlled chaos” hours before he takes the mound.
“He eliminates everything else, everything around him,” Pittsburgh catcher Francisco Cervelli said. “His focus is on the catcher and hitter, that’s it.”
He studies scouting reports, then talks to Searage and his catcher. Two hours before his start, Williams turns on a more mellow playlist and spends 15 minutes in stillness, breathing and visualizing his outing. He used to carry that zen-like mentality onto the field to help him “pitch bored.” That changed last season, too.
Before he leaves the clubhouse, Williams cranks up the volume on two heavy metal songs: “Back Burner” by August Burns Red and “Omerta” by Lamb of God. Now, he said, he’s ready to roll the moment he steps onto the field.
“It’s scientific,” he added, dryly. “But not really.”
Williams’ competitive edge only extends so far. He’s intense when he needs to be, but he’s not racing anybody to red lights in traffic. When he played basketball as a kid, he said, he was an apathetic defender at best.
“I’m really only competitive in certain aspects of my life. In others, I couldn’t care less,” he said. “I don’t care about basketball. I care about baseball, and I care about certain other things.”
That includes card games (much to his wife Jackie’s chagrin), but also his charitable work. Williams’ father, Richard, taught him a lesson that he demonstrated as the founder of the Marine Corps League Injured Marine Fund: At a certain point in life, your responsibility is to help others who are less fortunate.
So Williams is using his platform with a greater purpose in mind.
“The gift that God gave me to be a ballplayer right now, what am I doing with that gift as my gift back to God? How am I using baseball to build the kingdom of God?” said Williams, a devout Catholic. “That’s how my wife and I look at it. It started at home, that this is what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to help.”
He created the Project 34 foundation with former Arizona State teammate Cory Hahn to help people, like Hahn, living with spinal cord injuries. He was the first professional athlete to partner with Underdogs United, a company that funds clean water initiatives for schools in Kenya. He and Jackie are involved in more initiatives, but they’re not doing it for the attention.
“We want to help as many people as we can,” Williams said. “My wife and I will always support foundations and charities that understand there is a greater good.”
No matter how well he pitched, Williams noticed, @MeLlamoTrevor would be mentioned on Twitter before every start by fantasy baseball experts warning of an impending collapse.
“Every fifth day, like clockwork. ‘There’s no way he can do this again,’” Williams said. “Then this entire offseason, ‘What’s he going to do? Regression.’
Some metrics call for regression. His 3.86 FIP was higher than his 3.11 ERA. His .310 xwOBA was higher than his .287 wOBA allowed. But the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks, who also relies on pinpoint command more than raw stuff, has spent the last three seasons outperforming his peripheral numbers. Why can’t Williams?
“To say ‘there’s no way’? There is a way. I have done it,” he said. “Will regression happen? Maybe, maybe not. … You have to adapt. It’s adapt or die. Hitters are trying to pick up on me. They’re doing their homework, just as I’m doing my homework. Everyone’s trying to gain an edge.”
Williams is no exception. He’s a habitual note-taker. He can’t listen to certain podcasts while driving, for instance, because he writes down anything he wants to remember. Every year since college, he’s kept a notebook that details his routine and results.
“I call it my brain,” Williams said.
His “brain” includes daily notes -- about his workouts, his bullpen sessions, how he felt throwing on flat ground, what he saw on video, etc. He prints out heat maps of his pitches each year and tucks them into the book. He writes down goals for each start then later notes three things he did right, two things he could have done better and one thing he’s going to work on.
In the second half, Williams carried that attention to detail into his bullpen sessions. He intentionally worked on sequences and pitch execution with a plan in mind. His fastball command became more consistent. He kept hitters off-balance and used their aggressiveness against them.
“A lot of guys go through scouting reports and stuff, and when they get that first punch delivered, they black out and go into survival mode. Trevor really sticks to a plan,” Taillon said. “He never comes out of his game.”
Williams doesn’t miss a ton of bats, so creating soft contact is critical. From July 11 on, Williams posted the sixth-best “barrel rate” (3.6 percent) among 116 qualified starting pitchers (tied with Hendricks and the D-backs' Zack Godley). During that stretch, he held hitters to a .216/.277/.301 slash line despite striking out only 58 in 76 2/3 innings.
“He is a guy that’s diving in to be a master craftsman,” Hurdle said, “and his power tools are different from other people’s power tools.”
Williams didn’t rest this offseason. He wanted to keep his arm active and maintain a feel for his release point, so he never stopped throwing. He only threw six curveballs last year, so he made that pitch a focal point of his Spring Training work. By the time the Pirates left Florida, he was comfortable with his ability to throw it in any situation.
The league is going to push back against Williams this year, so he knows he can’t repeat the second half of last season. He can only be better or worse.
“This is the beauty of sport, finding out where he can take it,” Hurdle said. “That’s a big enough challenge out in front of him this year: Let’s be the best pitcher we can be for the entire season.”
“Do it again and do it better,” Williams said. “We’ll see.” (A Berry - MLB.com - April 1, 2019 -- all of the previous 5 bullets)
July 25-Aug. 6, 2015: Williams was on the D.L. with a right groin strain.
April 14, 2016: Trevor was on the D.L.
- May 17-June 19, 2019 Trevor was on the IL with right side strain. Williams will rest his right side strain for 10 days before he is assessed by the Pirates’ medical staff to determine whether he can throw again.