It’s official. Make it three straight seasons that a Milwaukee Brewers reliever took home the NL Reliever of the Year award.
As MLB’s 2020 Spring Training was beginning to wind down, there was a relatively good chance that Brewers rookie reliever Devin Williams would start his season in the minors. That’s what makes his most recent honor that much more incredible.
MLB awards season continued on Saturday with the announcement of the AL and NL relievers of the year. And to the surprise of exactly no one who paid attention to baseball this season, Williams brought home some hardware that has become very familiar in Milwaukee.
Williams was joined by Liam Hendriks of the Oakland A’s who wins the award as the representative from the American League.
Brewers relievers winning NL Reliever of the Year is becoming a bit of a tradition around these parts. Williams makes it three consecutive seasons that a Brewer won the award, joining Josh Hader who won it in 2018 and 2019.
Williams still has a chance to bring back another piece of hardware next month when the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year awards are announced. Finalists for that award haven’t yet been announced, but Williams is expected to be among the nominees.
Competition for that award will be a bit more stiff, though Williams is as deserving as anyone to win it. Regardless of whether he wins that award, though, Saturday’s honor is just more proof that Williams has emerged as one of the most dominant pitchers in the league.
As impressive as Josh Hader’s seasons were when he won the award, Devin Williams was downright masterful in 2020.
The reasons why Devin Williams was deserving of the Reliever of the Year award have been well-documented. But hey, let’s take one more look in honor of his shiny new trophy, shall we?
Williams led all qualified National League relievers in fangraphs WAR at 1.4, in ERA at 0.33, and in stikeouts per nine innings at 17.67. If his mid to high-90s fastball wasn’t scary enough for opposing batters, his changeup, arguably the best in baseball, was terrifying and nearly completely unhittable.
If you didn’t see this coming before this season, you weren’t alone. While Williams was the 13th ranked prospect in the Brewers’ system going into 2020 per MLB Pipeline, his eight earned runs given up over five Spring Training innings had him far from a lock to make the Opening Day roster.
The 2019 stat line for Williams didn’t exactly foreshadow his award-winning season either. While his 3.95 ERA over 13 2/3 innings wasn’t that bad, he compiled a less impressive 1.756 WHIP over that period and allowed opposing hitters to hit .310 against him.
But everything came together perfectly for Williams once the shortened 2020 season began. It saw him give up an earned run in just one of his 22 appearances and combine with Hader to form one of the most talented back ends of a bullpen in all of baseball.
The Brewers enter this postseason with plenty of speculation around whether they will make the decision to trade Hader, their current closer. Should they decide to do so, Milwaukee would be in good hands with Williams at the helm.