NL Rookie of the Year
For just the 11th time in league history, the National League Rookie of the Year belongs to a relief pitcher. That happened as Milwaukee Brewers‘ Devin Williams earned the honor, besting Alec Bohm of the Philadephia Phillies and Jake Cronenworth of the San Diego Padres. Williams officially became just the third Brewer in franchise history to earn the award. The last Brewer to claim the award came in 2007 with Ryan Braun.
The Golden Pitch Earns a Rare Feat
It’s a feat almost as rare as can be. Since the Rookie of the Year award was established, the ten prior relief pitchers to earn the award were all closers. Since the Reliever of the Year award was established in 1976 across both leagues, 87 of the 88 winners were closers. When you dive into the numbers, it’s not hard to believe the hype. Williams burst onto the scene and wowed the crowd with a high-90’s fastball and a dominating changeup that produced 53 strikeouts in 27 innings of work. Williams allowed just one run across the 2020 season largely due to that now-famous changeup. Opponents were 2-for-62 against Williams’ changeup marking the lowest opponent average against a single pitch all season.
For his efforts, Williams recorded an ERA of 0.32 with that changeup which was even better than Trevor Bauer‘s strong slider (0.75 ERA). All of that is a far cry from how Williams entered the league with a 3.95 ERA in 13 appearances. That changeup of Williams was thrown 218 times in 2020 according to Statcast with just one hit off of it.
A Wild Beginning
The Georgia native had quite the inauspicious start to his career. Two years ago, Williams wasn’t able to reach the Double-A ranks through his first four seasons. Then Tommy John surgery cost him the entire 2017 season. That didn’t set Williams up well in 2018. He ended up with a 5.82 ERA in 14 starts in his Class-A return. Then came the 2019 campaign where he surged through moving to the Double-A bullpen in Biloxi. From there he made the Futures Game and before anyone could blink, he was in the major league ranks by August.
It’s been quite the ride for Williams but now he stands among a rare group, forever etched in history as Rookie of the Year in 2020.
AL Rookie of the Year
On the American League side of things, Seattle Mariners star Kyle Lewis earned the Rookie of the Year honor. Lewis ran away with it, becoming just the 12th individual in AL history to do so by unanimous decision. Lewis becomes the fourth Mariner in franchise history to win the award. He beat out fellow outfielder Luis Robert of the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros right-handed pitcher Cristian Javier.
Paving the Way to the Honor
Although it was a shortened season, it was a standout season for Lewis. The 25-year old led all AL rookies in runs (37), total bases (90), and on-base percentage (.364). Lewis also slugged 11 home runs and 28 RBI through 58 games played in 2020. He tied Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes for best WAR mark among rookies at 1.7. He had a top-five launch angle among rookies at 11.1 degrees.
Lewis was pretty effective hitting the ball, striking a .341 average on balls in play, and made pitchers pay for using the fastball, striking a home run on 22 percent of fastballs thrown his way.
A Strong Journey
The Mercer University product has made a lot of strides in his time. Originally drafted in 2016, Lewis made big strides during his time as a professional ballplayer. He quickly rose through the ranks and made quite a splash during his major league debut on Sept. 10 of 2019. There he went 1-for-3 and struck his first-ever RBI during his initial outing with the first home run of his MLB career.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images