Jose Berrios and a History of Second Half Swoons
Image courtesy of © Sam Navarro-USA TODAY SportsSecond Half Swoons
Back in 2017, Berrios made 25 starts for the Twins and logged over 140 big league innings for the first time in his career. In the first half, he posted a respectable 3.53 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP. He had a 69 to 19 strikeout to walk ratio along with a 8.7 K/9. As the innings started to mount, he posted a 4.24 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP over his final 15 games. His strikeout rate stayed basically the same, but his walks increased from 2.40 BB/9 to 3.52 BB/9. Batters also saw their OPS increase 74 points in the second half.
The 2018 campaign saw more of the same from Berrios. He earned his first All-Star selection on the heels of a first half that saw him post a 3.68 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP with 127 strikeouts in 127 1/3 innings. He was limited to 12 starts in the second half and had a 4.15 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. His strikeout rate increased from 9.0 K/9 to 10.4 K/9 but he did this in half as many second-half innings. For the second straight year, batters improved their OPS from .644 in the first half to .703 in the second half.
In 2019, Berrios has made six second-half starts, and he seems to be trending the same as previous years. After posting a 3.00 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP in the first half, his ERA has jumped to 4.21 and his WHIP has increased to 1.27. Like 2018, his second half strikeout rate has increased from a first-half 8.0 K/9 to a second-half 9.9 K/9.
Berrios and his fastball velocity have also become one point of discussion among Twins fans. Twins Daily’s Parker Hageman noted on Twitter that one of the biggest differences for Berrios this season is not driving toward home as much. He is more rotational with his rear leg action. This could be something the Twins instructed Berrios to do so that some of his other pitches have more movement.
Back in 2017, his first full MLB season, Berrios was hitting 95 mph with his fastball over 10% of the time. Flash forward to 2019 and that percentage has dropped to less than 4% of the time.
Even with the drop in velocity, Berrios is giving up less hard contact and throwing more strikes. His hard hit % was 34.1% last year and he has posted a 31.6 hard hit % in 2019 which is better than the MLB average. His strike percentage is also a career high 71.5% after topping out at 67.9% one year ago. This is also a large improvement from the 59.8 strike percentage he compiled back in 2016.
Minnesota is only going to go as far as the pitching staff is able to take the team. Berrios is critical to any success this team can have in October so he needs to find a way to end the trend of having second-half swoons.
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