Milwaukee Brewers reliever Devin Williams won the National League Rookie of the Year award on Monday night.
Featuring a devastating changeup and a four-seam fastball that gets into the upper 90s, Williams was practically unhittable during the pandemic-shortened campaign. The 26-year-old right-hander went 4-1 with a microscopic 0.33 ERA, striking out 53 in just 27 innings.
Williams is the first pitcher to gain the award without recording a save or making a start during his award-winning season — reflecting the increased importance of the bullpen in today’s game. He is the first reliever to take home the honor in either league since Craig Kimbrel did so for Atlanta in 2011, and the first Rookie of the Year for Milwaukee since Ryan Braun in 2007.
“I don’t really think that saves are the end-all be-all,” Williams said on a conference call during a vacation in Jamaica. “If I come up in the seventh inning and I go through one through five, I think that that can be pretty valuable, as well.”San Diego Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth and Philadelphia Phillies infielder Alec Bohm ended tied for second in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
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Williams permitted just one run in 27 innings in the shortened season and struck out 53% of the batters he faced, the highest percentage in MLB history by a pitcher with at least 20 innings pitched.
His changeup was arguably the most dominant pitch in all of baseball in 2020. Opponents batted 2-for-62 (.032) against it, the lowest opponent average on a single pitch this season (minimum 50 plate appearances against).
Williams missed Milwaukee’s loss to the champion Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs because of shoulder soreness.
“I’m doing a little bit of rehab still, but it’s feeling good,” Williams said.
Williams, a St. Louis native, was selected by Milwaukee in the second round of the 2013 draft. Williams teamed with closer Josh Hader to form a shutdown tandem at the back end of the Brewers’ bullpen.
Williams broke into the majors last year, finishing with no record and a 3.95 ERA in 13 relief appearances. He struck out 14 in 13⅔ innings. Cronenworth hit .285 in 54 matches for San Diego, helping the Padres reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Bohm, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft, batted .338 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 44 games for the Phillies.
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