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2 Critical Steps for Jose Berrios in 2020

Jose Berrios balances excellent raw stuff with an unrelenting work ethic. What does the Twins only returning starter need to do to take it to the next level in 2020?
Image courtesy of Sam Navarro, USA Today
Berrios' Development and Work Ethic

Aspiring to greatness. Since the day Jose Berrios was drafted by the Minnesota Twins, the simple phrase sums up, more than any other, the thirst with which Berrios has sought to hone his craft. Berrios has always been easy to root for. His offseasons are punctuated by social media postings of workouts more typically found in the CrossFit Games than in midwinter conditioning. His in-season goals balance the tantalizing tension of attainable and barely out of current reach that all impactful targets should. Berrios has filled a void for the Twins vacant since the early 2000s: a talented, likable, hardworking, and homegrown starting pitcher.

Berrios’ output for the Twins has matched his work ethic toward his game since an ugly debut in 2016, a slow but relentless grind towards improvement. Finishing his second full season for the Twins in 2019, Berrios hit career highs in IP (200.1) and fWAR (4.4) leaving fans to question how he will develop in 2020 and asking if he can continue to develop into an elite starter.

So here are the basics on Berrios since has has been a big league pitcher. He’s improved his control, consistently achieved an effective to good strikeout rate. Conversely, he gives up more home runs than you’d want and has some exploitable weaknesses. Overall, he’s a top 20-30 starting pitcher in MLB.

Trouble with the Curve

One of Berrios’ calling cards since being called up has been his curveball. When it’s on song, it’s a thing of beauty, generating a 16.3 SwStr% in 2018, with opposing hitters managing just a .363 SLG against the pitch. Berrios’ curveball is an unusual one, taking a slurvy action with massive horizontal break and below- average vertical break. It’s notable that it was significantly less effective in 2019, generating around 30 fewer Ks and opposing hitters batting 60 points higher on the pitch than in 2018. Comparing Berrios’ curveball location in 2018 (right) and 2019 (left), he left more curveballs over the heart of the plate, and buried fewer down and away, particularly to RHH.

Attached Image: Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 9.08.13 PM.png

Attached Image: Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 9.09.01 PM.png

Developing Pitch Mix

Berrios’ pitch mix has developed since the beginning of 2018, more frequently throwing a changeup to add to his four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, and curve.

Attached Image: Brooksbaseball-Chart.jpeg

In order to increase his effectiveness in 2020, Berrios needs to tweak his pitch mix situationally. In 2019, Berrios’ threw his curve around 35% of the time to RH hitters and just 23% of the time to lefties. In spite of this, Berrios enjoyed greater success throwing the pitch to LH batters. The massive horizontal action on the pitch frequently jammed lefties and generated weak contact, while the lapses in command against righties resulted in greater struggles with the pitch in 2019.

Conversely, Berrios threw his changeup twice as much to lefties (approximately 10%) as he did to righties, yet his results against RHH were far superior. Opposing RHH generated just a .212 average against Berrios’ changeup, while enjoying a vastly superior whiff% than against LHH.

Berrios then, has a pitch mix challenge ahead of him heading into 2020: How can he use an increasingly effective changeup and find the right mix to keep opposing hitters off balance.

It’s uncertain if Berrios can build on his excellent 2019 (although I’m not going to bet against him). What is certain is that in order to continue his climb amongst AL starters, he needs to live on the fringes of the strike zone (he gets hammered in the heart of the plate), refine his curveball command, and alter his pitch mix to take advantage of what has worked well against both LHH and RHH. What do you think lies ahead for Berrios in 2020?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook.

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9 Comments

Nice analysis. The section on how Berrios can better utilize his change up next season interested me the most as I thought that was a really decent pitch for him this past season.

 

The thing I think Berrios needs to do is add a few MPH to his fastball, and find a way to sustain his velocity throughout the course of the season. His annual August swoon seems to coincide with lower fastball velocity. I don't have any numbers to support my claim, so take it for what it is worth.

 

His off-season workouts look great, but he might need a slightly more focused approach to pitching than flipping tires on a beach to elevate himself into the upper echelon of MLB starting pitchers. I am excited to see what steps forward he makes next year.

    • Jamie Cameron likes this

Solid look at a young man who may be more important than any other player on the team.The reason is that he could become that ACE that you can throw out there in game one of any playoff series.

 

Have always seen him as potentially becomming another Pedro Martinez.Will he?That remains to be seen.But if he can make those adjustments you reference, he just might.Whether he does or doesn't, still believe he is a valuable member of the Twins rotation and should be extended this winter even if it requires a million or two more per year than they would like.Let's get creative, front load a few million and keep this young man a Twin for his entire career (no, I am not talking about a 10 year extension, but 5 would be nice).  

    • Jamie Cameron likes this
Photo
nicksaviking
Nov 11 2019 02:03 PM

Excellent write up and encouraging data. More efficient pitch usage sounds much easier to remedy then say control or velocity.

    • Jamie Cameron likes this
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Richard Swerdlick
Nov 11 2019 06:59 PM
I suspect that the Twins analytic department can provide the data needed to help Jose with his pitch mix. I believe that Jose's pitching motion should be simplified so as to provide more consistency.
    • Jamie Cameron likes this
Photo
puckstopper1
Nov 12 2019 12:20 PM

Thanks for the analysis Jamie!

 

The pitch mix is interesting to me.I understand that the Pitching coach, catcher, pitchers etc put together a game plan as to how to attack the hitters, but who actually calls each pitch?

 

My feeling is it is not necessarily Jose that typically decides what pitch he throws, so any improvement done via a change in the pitch mix would need to be a "team" effort.

    • Jamie Cameron likes this
Photo
Jamie Cameron
Nov 13 2019 01:37 PM

 

Nice analysis. The section on how Berrios can better utilize his change up next season interested me the most as I thought that was a really decent pitch for him this past season.

 

The thing I think Berrios needs to do is add a few MPH to his fastball, and find a way to sustain his velocity throughout the course of the season. His annual August swoon seems to coincide with lower fastball velocity. I don't have any numbers to support my claim, so take it for what it is worth.

 

His off-season workouts look great, but he might need a slightly more focused approach to pitching than flipping tires on a beach to elevate himself into the upper echelon of MLB starting pitchers. I am excited to see what steps forward he makes next year.

Thanks for reading. It's hard to know what Berrios' off-season approach is with pitch design. That would be a fascinating question for someone to ask him.

Photo
Jamie Cameron
Nov 13 2019 01:39 PM

 

Solid look at a young man who may be more important than any other player on the team.The reason is that he could become that ACE that you can throw out there in game one of any playoff series.

 

Have always seen him as potentially becomming another Pedro Martinez.Will he?That remains to be seen.But if he can make those adjustments you reference, he just might.Whether he does or doesn't, still believe he is a valuable member of the Twins rotation and should be extended this winter even if it requires a million or two more per year than they would like.Let's get creative, front load a few million and keep this young man a Twin for his entire career (no, I am not talking about a 10 year extension, but 5 would be nice).  

Thanks for reading! I don't think he'll ever ascend to that level, but Berrios has always been a pitcher who seems determined to get every ounce out of himself as possible. I know the Twins have broached extension talks with him multiple times. Hopefully they can be successful this offseason.

Photo
Jamie Cameron
Nov 13 2019 01:39 PM

 

Excellent write up and encouraging data. More efficient pitch usage sounds much easier to remedy then say control or velocity.

Thanks for reading. Agree with your comment. It's essentially a math problem for the Twins to work on this offseason. Looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

    • nicksaviking likes this
Photo
Jamie Cameron
Nov 13 2019 01:40 PM

 

Thanks for the analysis Jamie!

 

The pitch mix is interesting to me.I understand that the Pitching coach, catcher, pitchers etc put together a game plan as to how to attack the hitters, but who actually calls each pitch?

 

My feeling is it is not necessarily Jose that typically decides what pitch he throws, so any improvement done via a change in the pitch mix would need to be a "team" effort.

Agree on team effort. Berrios threw his changeup a lot more this season so I'd envision part of the offseason process is stepping back and analyzing how his mix played situationally throughout the season and using that data to inform scouting and plans of attack for hitters in 2020.


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