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Four Ways the Twins Could Avoid a Jose Berrios Second Half Slump

Jose Berrios has been a first-round draft pick, a two-time All-Star and a leader for the Twins pitching staff. However, his Achilles heel seems to be his second half performance as his ERA is more than a full run higher from the first half to the second half. Entering his age-26 season, here are four things the Twins could attempt to improve his second-half performance.
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
1. Alter His Workout Routine
According to the Star Tribune, Berrios altered some of his workout routines between starts at the end of last season and he saw some positive results. He worked throughout the offseason to develop his stamina and the Twins are hoping this stamina carries throughout the 2020 campaign. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson was influential in this end-of-season metamorphosis.

In his six starts from August 6 through September 4, he got knocked around to the tune of a .971 OPS and an 8.07 ERA. After his meeting of the minds with Johnson, he pitched six innings or more in his final five starts with a 3.08 ERA and opponents being held to a .631 OPS.

2. Extra Rest in the Second Half
There was talk throughout last season of giving Jose Berrios extra rest in the second half, which could include skipping his spot in the rotation or being strategic in his second-half usage. In the second half, his ERA was over a run and a half higher than the first half with opponents posting a .268/.328/.428 batting line.

There were still some positive signs in those poor second-half numbers. His 9.8 SO/9 was a full strikeout higher than his career mark and he might have been unlucky with a .335 BAbip. Also, Minnesota’s perceived rotational depth could make it easier for Berrios to get extra rest. Rich Hill and Michael Pineda won’t start the year in the rotation and younger players like Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe will want an opportunity.

3. Add an Early Season Innings Limit
Innings limits are usually associated with younger prospects or players coming back from injury, but it could be a strategy utilized by the Twins to save Berrios for the second half. This could allow him to pitch more innings in the second half and keep him fresh. If his entire season as a tube of toothpaste, you don’t want everything squeezed out by the end of July.

Historically, August and September have been his worst months. His ERA in August is nearly 6.00 for his career with batters hitting .279/.355/.456 with 42 extra base hits in 21 games. His September ERA is a more respectable 4.64, but that’s still over half a run higher than his next highest month.

4. Throw More Pitches Out of the Zone
This might seem like a counterproductive option for a player if you want to be pitching better in the second half, but Berrios threw 50% of his pitches in the zone last season, a career high. His 33.4% chase rate was also a career high, but batters were making solid contact when they weren’t chasing the ball.

When it comes to his four-pitch mix, could any of his pitches be thrown out of the zone on a more regular basis?
Attached Image: Berrios Pitches Out of the Zone.JPG
Being in the zone also likely caused Berrios to post a 6.5% Barrel % and an 86.5 mph Exit Velocity, which were both the highest since his rookie season. Granted the juiced-up baseball might have helped increase the exit velocity for all players. His 36.3% Hard Hit rate was the highest of his career and it was 8.4% higher than his career best mark in 2017.

What do you think the Twins need to do with Berrios? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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4 Comments

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Doctor Gast
Feb 20 2020 09:49 AM

I`m not for giving Berrios a break the 2nd half, skip a turn or extend the time between starts. He likes his rhythm & throw that off, throws him off. So I`d limit his pitch count to what is optimum to get him through the season rested & hungry & if they can change his mechanics to help him reduce fatigue great.

Great Twins are recognizing this as an issue for Berrios and coming up with a plan to address it instead of just hoping it will be better this year. Appears Twins are putting more thought into how to get the most out of their players and willing to try new approaches.

If you give Berrios a Jake Odorizzi workload (160 innings vs 200)...and his performance doesn't pop significantly...he becomes less valuable than Odorizzi. At this point in his career, no numbers stand out in driving value more than his innings-pitched numbers....his ability to give the bullpen a relative break on a consistent basis....and his ability to provide something close to decent even on bad days, as opposed to having to mix in 6, 7, 8 extra starts for a #5 or #6 guy...who's top-end is only decent...and short, at that.

 

If limiting his innings doesn't move the bar big-time on effectiveness, you've simply taken a guy who's a number 2 because he can't consistently dominate...and you've made him a 3 because now, he doesn't eat innings, either. Let's hope for a different solution.

I think a modified workout will go a long way. I don't think he needs to necessarily have a reduced workload but skipping a start around the all-star break with a break from working out as well could help charge him up for the second half. I don't think anything else would be required.

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