Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Potential rule change: require different DH for each pitcher

Other Baseball Today, 01:21 PM
I just read this potential rule change on Twitter and I am intrigued:   https://twitter.com/...4091739136?s=20     For th...
Full topic ›

White Sox make changes

Other Baseball Today, 01:05 PM
Both Manager Rick Rentaria and pitching coach Don Cooper were let go.     Was a bit surprised by this, because the White S...
Full topic ›

Nelson Cruz wants 2 years

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:31 AM
https://www.mlbtrade...-year-deal.html
Full topic ›

Target Field Tax Status

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:35 AM
Been reading about all the losses (alleged or not) that MLB has (and maybe will again) taken with the pandemic, and wondered how the tax...
Full topic ›

What to do with Lewis Thorpe?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 01:05 PM
Lewis Thorpe is out of options. The Twins either need to keep him on the MLB team as their 5th starter or as a reliever out of the bullpe...
Full topic ›

Jose Berrios, Velocity and Where Do We Go From Here

During the third inning of his Opening Day start, Jose Berrios reared back on a 3-2 pitch to Chicago’s Eloy Jimenez and fired a two-seam fastball down in the zone which Jimenez promptly spoiled, sending a foul ball back to the screen.

The score chyron flashed the velocity at the upper left-handed coroner of the broadcast: 97 MPH.

It was a very exciting development for the Twins pitcher.
Image courtesy of © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Berrios failed to run his fastball up past 96 miles per hour in 2019.

For somebody with fanatical dedication to training combined with a pitching coach known to be a velocity whisperer, it was a strange development.

During spring training in 2019 Berrios tried to make some mechanical changes - such as keeping his chest closer longer and driving through his heel instead of his toes -- during his preseason outings. He would hit 96 on the Hammond Stadium gun. When the regular seasons started however, the promised heat remained in Florida.

In reviewing Berrios’ outings from 2019 on Baseball Savant, one would find he hit 95 and ran it up to 96 twice yet there were other outings where he threw fastballs that didn’t even crack 90 (40 times). For the entire year, he averaged 92.7 on his fastball. His fastball velocity was in the 45th percentile (that’s bad). This year it is in the 73th percentile (that’s...better than average!).

Fastball velocity matters for Berrios because when he has thrown his fastball under 94 miles per hour, opponents have posted a .287 batting average. When traveling 94.1 and above however he has a .161 average.

That is one reason why being able to maintain that elite level of velo can be one key to his success.

Here we have two examples from 2019 and 2020. The action on the left is a 91.3 mph fastball and the one on the right is at 95.8.

Attached Image: FSFrameGIFImage (14).GIF


While a high frame rate Edgertronic camera would be better suited for this type of analysis, we can still see several key points in his mechanics that have been improved upon. The first is the sink into his back leg.

Attached Image: IMG_6202.jpeg


By sinking into his back leg, as he does in the example on the right, he’s activating his big leg muscles and feeding the engine to rotate faster. Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer had a great explanation of hip rotation in this drill video. Rather getting too dominant on his front side, Berrios maintains connection to his back leg a bit longer now. That stores some force when he pops his hips open and generates better hip speed.

Additionally, when his front foot lands, his hips are now more open which, compared to last year, when Berrios would land with his hips slightly closed off and have to throw around it, leading to drift in his hip direction.

This is an important factor considering that research has shown that when pitchers have their hips closer to 45 degrees of home plate (assuming perfectly inline with home and second base is 0 degrees), they are able to generate more hip speed when they rotate.

Attached Image: IMG_6204.jpeg


Another reason why Berrios has been throwing harder this year is because he has more elbow spiral to his arm action. Again, a high definition, high frame rate slow motion camera would provide a better perspective but in lieu of that, you can see some of the action in this grainy clip.

Attached Image: FSFrameGIFImage (15).GIF


There are multiple ways to achieve this arm action but one effective method would be the pivot pick drill in order to implant this movement into his system which, in addition to the arm path, helps reinforce the necessary hip and shoulder separation needed to gain velocity. It is not known if Berrios actually incorporated that drill into his offseason regiment but it is a drill that Kenta Maeda uses regularly to keep his arm path consistent.

What most fail to understand is how in-depth this process is.

The Twins have a network of brain power at work trying to unlock additional velocity -- from the front office to the training room to the coaching staff.

In addition to their Rapsodo, Trackman and Statcast data, the Minnesota Twins are armed with the latest motion capture technology like Simi Motion systems and Newtforce ground plates, allowing the organization to see the unseen. While most viewers just see velocity readings or -- for those who dig into Statcast data -- spin rate and pitch movement data, the Twins can tell how a pitcher is moving and where things can be optimized. There’s the hip speed, chest speed, pelvic tilt, arm action and more. These metrics can indicate where deficiencies exist.

Increasing hip speed and arm path takes work. It takes time with the training staff to build those muscles, balance, and flexibility. It takes time with the coaches working on technique. We have seen this process in action with several players now. Pitchers like Jake Odorizzi (91.1 in 2018 to 92.9 in 2019), Trevor May (94 to 95.5), Martin Perez (92.8 to 94.2), Zack Littell (92 to 93.8), and Taylor Rogers (93.5 to 94.8) all showed gains from 2018 to 2019.

One of the few that didn’t follow that trend was Berrios but that is looking like it is changing.

When they review his last four outings from their massive data collection system, the Twins will likely see these signs of progress for Berrios. They will see how his hip speed increased aiding in the transfer of energy through the baseball. They will see improved arm action and other various movement patterns changes which entices more velocity.

So it’s not as if he is just throwing harder based on some early season adrenaline rush. It’s possible that the results of the Jose Berrios velocity overhaul project were just delayed a year.

And while that is all fine and well, the real concern is the actual performance. The velocity is up, which is a good thing, however the results have been average at best. His souped up four-seam is heading in at 94.2 but it’s coming back at him at 96.2 miles per hour and opponents have amassed a .792 slugging percentage off of it. Velocity is great and increases a pitcher’s margin for error but that margin evaporates quickly when you miss your spots that badly.

Last year with less velocity on his fastball he had lower exit velocities, hard hit averages, fewer barrels, more whiffs, basically everything a pitcher needs to sustain success.

What it may come down to with Berrios is a matter of pitch direction. There was a fervent push to re-haul some of Berrios’ pitch mix, including getting him to throw his four-seam fastball more and adding a more north-south breaking ball to complement the sweeping version. The four-seam fastball is definitely in vogue but the right-hander has struggled to elevate his and he uses that pitch 40% of his mix. Meanwhile, the combination of his sinker heading to the east and his curveball heading to the west have hitters posting a .125 average. The sinker, in general, won’t be thrown quite as hard as the four-seamer but it’s been one of his most effective pitches thus far.

So rather than trying to squeeze Berrios into the north-south mode, he might be better served working east-west with the occasional upstairs showpiece. He's been one of the team's most promise yet hard to solve projects.

  • glunn, birdwatcher and rukavina like this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

26 Comments

What does Wes say?

 

    • Minny505 likes this
Command of his pitches is a far bigger problem than velocity. The focus on velocity in modern analytics is overblown. Berrios is the perfect example
    • Dantes929, PDX Twin, IAMNFan and 1 other like this

The previous game, Jose's stuff seemed to be electric but he couldn't locate it. In today's game, location was consistent, but without movement those fastball strikes looked like meatballs from here (and apparently from the batters' perspectives too).

 

So what I would be trying to figure out is how to find the happy medium. Enough movement on his fastball, with sufficient control over the breaking stuff, even if that meant not optimizing velocity and break. I'm not sure that fits in with your framework, though.

    • DocBauer likes this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Aug 09 2020 08:32 PM

Command of his pitches is a far bigger problem than velocity. The focus on velocity in modern analytics is overblown. Berrios is the perfect example


No, it’s not.

No, he’s not, that’s cherry-picking an example.

That said, he does need to improve his command.
    • birdwatcher likes this

Command of his pitches is a far bigger problem than velocity. The focus on velocity in modern analytics is overblown. Berrios is the perfect example

Our posts arrived at about the same time, and we are saying something similar. I would caution, though, that focus on velocity may be only because it's one of the things that writers can express most easily about analytics to a general audience. I take for granted that Wes Johnson balances any number of considerations, among which is tweaking an extra MPH or two on the fastball. I very much doubt anyone in the analytics team has boiled pitching success down to Moar Velo!!!1! :)
 

    • jbooth2367, IAMNFan and SkyBlueWaters like this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Aug 09 2020 08:35 PM

The previous game, Jose's stuff seemed to be electric but he couldn't locate it. In today's game, location was consistent, but without movement those fastball strikes looked like meatballs from here (and apparently from the batters' perspectives too).
 
So what I would be trying to figure out is how to find the happy medium. Enough movement on his fastball, with sufficient control over the breaking stuff, even if that meant not optimizing velocity and break. I'm not sure that fits in with your framework, though.


Good thoughts.

And, again, not to continue to beat this drum but the shutdown and short ramp up period may be hindering him too. Hard to say.
    • ashbury likes this

No, it’s not.No, he’s not, that’s cherry-picking an example.That said, he does need to improve his command.


Yes it is. He has the stuff and sufficient velocity. He lacks the ability to consistently locate. He ends up with 25 pitch innings way too often
    • PDX Twin, IAMNFan and SkyBlueWaters like this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Aug 09 2020 08:44 PM

Yes it is. He has the stuff and sufficient velocity. He lacks the ability to consistently locate. He ends up with 25 pitch innings way too often


The notion that the “focus on velocity is overblown” is not accurate. Velocity is one of the most significant keys to success. It’s not everything, to be sure, but it certainly isn’t an overblown factor.

Again, I agree with you that Berrios needs better command and part of that may be due to the shutdown and late start to the season but both things — need more velocity and better command — can exist in the same space.
I'd like to see him scrap the 2 seam and throw the 4 seam almost exclusively. He can't command the 2 seam. It gets him behind in counts, or it wanders to the middle and often gets hit hard.
    • IAMNFan likes this

Thanks Parker...Well thought out and well presented as always. Love the side by side comparisons.I think everyone is essentially saying the same thing on this one. Velo makes a huge difference, but only if you maintain commanand

    • IAMNFan likes this

If Berrios is ever to be a playoff caliber 1 or 2 he is going to have to master north/ south break.

 

His 2 seam/ slurve are incredible horizontal break but minus a hitter having to worry about a high fastball or bottom dropping change/ traditional curve they can sit on one side of zone for their pitch and let Berrios nibble and waste pitches or throw something fat. 

 

Mastering his velocity with a 4 seam he can spot or his break with a 12 to 6 curve to make hitters chase are is key to his success.Berrios has nasty stuff but he is either too predictable or his pitches are too easily defined from one another.

 

Add the true high 4 seam fastball and some version of a 12 to 6 curve or splitter and his horizontal break stuff becomes the weapon it should be.

    • USAFChief and birdwatcher like this
That first pair of gifs supports Ashbury's concern that the increase in velocity came at the expense of a loss in movement. The left one, from last year, moves about eight inches to the right. The new, improved one only moves about an inch. If he's really grooving his four seamer like this now consistently, it is going to keep getting hit even if it is 97 mph.
    • ashbury likes this
(But if he can throw both at will that would be pretty cool. Imagine those two pitches in succession--first get them to swing at a pitch that starts over the plate but ends up way outside, then freeze then with a cake strike that could the corner!)
*called strike
    • Hosken Bombo Disco likes this
Photo
stringer bell
Aug 10 2020 05:44 AM

My two cents--Berríos is a nice pitcher and on occasion he is dominant, that is when he a) has great command, B) good velocity and c) confidence in his pitches. We have seen all three factors negatively in play for Jose in the past year. 

 

All of the conversation about being an ace is really nonsense. He hasn't sustained dominance nearly long enough to be considered an ace. That doesn't make him either a disappointment or an underacheiver. 

 

Two All-Star selections add to the hype and I didn't think either was deserved. Again, that isn't to diminish was Berríos has done, but looking at all the numbers, he is good, but not elite.

    • birdwatcher, wabene, heresthething and 1 other like this
Photo
Hosken Bombo Disco
Aug 10 2020 07:42 AM
If Berríos is working on a fastball pitch or grip this year that isn’t getting results, then I expect he’ll eventually abandon it. His best pitch will always be that slider that looks like a fastball and breaks like a curve.

I have zero concerns about Berrios pitching at a high level for many more years—and maybe even turning the corner from good to great at some point.

Berrios' best pitch is his 2-seamer/sinker. However, he's never been able to command it with any consistency start to start. Often times he ends up just scrapping it in games because he can't get it in the zone. When that pitch is working though, is the games he looks like an ace.

Photo
Parker Hageman
Aug 10 2020 08:28 AM
Berrios' best pitch is his 2-seamer/sinker. However, he's never been able to command it with any consistency start to start. Often times he ends up just scrapping it in games because he can't get it in the zone. When that pitch is working though, is the games he looks like an ace.

 

 

I think what has happened this year is just the opposite. The Twins/Berrios are trying to incorporate more four-seamers. In his first start, he fired a lot of those against the White Sox but switched back to the two-seamer when he wasn't able to elevate the other pitch consistently enough.

 

This 0-2 pitch against Edwin Encarncion is a prime example of that. Garver wants it up and it ends up middle-middle (and fouled instead of banging off seats in the outfield). 

 

Last year when he threw his four-seamer he threw it in the upper third of the zone 44% of the time. This year it is just 25%. 

 

What I thought was interesting about the start against the Royals in that Avila was calling for the four-seamer down in the zone on the corners in 2-strike situations instead of targeting above the zone. He did throw some good ones in those situations but most were fouled off, not chased at or crushed when he missed his spot by 2 zones

 

So far he's allowed 8 extra base hits this year and 7 of those have come on his four-seamer. 

 

That first pair of gifs supports Ashbury's concern that the increase in velocity came at the expense of a loss in movement. The left one, from last year, moves about eight inches to the right.

 

 

The takeaways of the GIFs should be not be a loss in movement. He still has an incredible amount of horizontal run in his four-seamer. It's got 4 inches more of run than the average four-seamer whereas a year ago it only had 2.1 inches of movement. 

 

This year's sinker is actually running more and (to Steve's point) may be a bit harder for him to command but he's also getting more swinging strikes on it and throwing it for strikes overall more. 

 

Another -- and final point -- about those two examples, one thing that Berrios struggles with a lot last year was hitting the glove side of the zone consistently. You'd see him trying to hit an inside target to a lefty only to have it run back into the middle. That's one thing that the poor hip alignment did was keep him from hitting that area well.

 

Overall, I believe Jose Berrios has better stuff this year than last year. He just needs to figure out what would make that arsenal most effective and execute. The dude has a hell of a lot of drive and want to win. 

    • birdwatcher likes this

 

No, it’s not. No, he’s not, that’s cherry-picking an example. That said, he does need to improve his command.

Interesting how you forget about a game last week that was very well pitched by the starters where neither starter was clocked over 92, but yet had hitters perplexed,but that is cherry picking I guess.

Velocity is important if you can't locate.Location is important if you don't have velocity.In Berrios case, he doesn't have great command, therefore velocity would be more important, especially if he just can't corral his stuff.

It's funny how those who haven't seen a lot of baseball think that the current trend is the only way.

    • PDX Twin likes this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Aug 10 2020 08:56 AM
Interesting how you forget about a game last week that was very well pitched by the starters where neither starter was clocked over 92, but yet had hitters perplexed,but that is cherry picking I guess.

 

 

I don't think I've once said velocity is more important that location. I don't understand this black and white stance on the issue.

    • ashbury likes this

 

My two cents--Berríos is a nice pitcher and on occasion he is dominant, that is when he a) has great command, :cool: good velocity and c) confidence in his pitches. We have seen all three factors negatively in play for Jose in the past year. 

 

All of the conversation about being an ace is really nonsense. He hasn't sustained dominance nearly long enough to be considered an ace. That doesn't make him either a disappointment or an underacheiver. 

 

Two All-Star selections add to the hype and I didn't think either was deserved. Again, that isn't to diminish was Berríos has done, but looking at all the numbers, he is good, but not elite.

The term "Ace" is so overused.You are right, he is not an Ace, and probably never will be.There are only about 8-10 Ace quality pitchers right now and unfortunately the Twins don't have 1 of them.He is a very good pitcher, but too few times has he been able to match up with another top pitcher and be better.

Velocity means nothing if you don't know where its going. The location of his fastball isn't ideal, a lot of them down the middle of the plate. K% down, BB% up. Teams are hitting a whopping .406 with a slugging of .844 on his four seamer. I think he may need to dial the velo on the 4 seamer back to where it usually is, and work on control and command.

https://baseballsava...mlb&season=2020

    • IAMNFan likes this

 

I don't think I've once said velocity is more important that location. I don't understand this black and white stance on the issue.

I agree,its not black and white. Its 50 shades of grey.A few years ago Santana was throwing upper 90's in theplayoff game against New York. He didn't have very good command with it but whatever mechanics change that was causing him to throw 4-5 mph more than the rest of the season was also messing with his bread and butter slider.I don't know how increased velocity affects Berrios. Maybe these are just growing pains while he figures stuff out. Maybe he is better off leaving the fastball be and getting a little more north south on his curve ball. Heck, there's 50 shades of gray with Berrios alone. For myself, I don't think velocity is the be all, end all. I get more excited when I hear a pitcher has command and "stuff" of which velocity is just one of the components. Significant, yes but just part of the package.

    • DocBauer likes this
Not going to further debate whether Berrios is a pending ACE or not or what constitutes what an ACE is.

And to be real, this entire season has been so weird and probably will end up being so weird, that I'm not sure we can or will ever be able to conceptualize the entirety of this season.

IMO, I believe Berrios did deserve his 2 All Star appearances. I believe we still have not seen the best of him. I believe be was beginning to make adjustments at the end of 2019 to maintain his stuff for a full season and would have continued to do so if this was a normal year.

I am making NO excuses for a poor/decent but not great start to 2020. But each and every player is still an individual. And each and every one of them has had to deal with an interrupted ST and a short summer ramp up. And there just is no way to explain or quantify each and every player and how they have been affected.

If Berrios is average for the first month with velocity and poor control but settles in and finishes really strong, will we be happy and re-visit this arguement later?
    • Parker Hageman likes this

Pitching is too complex to just look at velocity or lack of it.Command is essential no matter what the velocity is.But we are seeing curve balls and sliders starting to rise at least to the level of velocity.Then there are the pitchers like Dobnak that win without the massive Ks.Then there are the knuckleballers like Hoyt Wilhelm who lasted until he was 15 days short of 50 years old, and Jamie Moyer who was never a fastball specialist but lasted until 49 and 1/2.It is about location - command and the ability to put your best pitch in the best place. Of course there is Nolan Ryan who made it to 46 2/3 and always had the fast ball.