2 Critical Steps for Jose Berrios in 2020
Image courtesy of Sam Navarro, USA TodayBerrios' 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.
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.
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.
MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— 2020 Offseason Handbook Now Available for Download