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Dust off that antenna, folks: the Twins 2020 postseason debut is over the air on ABC (albeit at 1 PM on a Tuesday, pre-empting some soap...
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The Perfect Length of a Baseball Season?

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Leaders Have Become Laggards on Twins Pitching Staff

On Opening Day last year, Jose Berríos pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings against Cleveland before giving way to Taylor Rogers, who notched the final four outs in perfect fashion to slam the door on a 2-0 victory.

It was a fitting start in another season where Berríos would be the rotation's frontman and Rogers would anchor the bullpen. This year has been a very different story for the two. What gives?
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson and Benny Sieu, USA Today
When the All-Star Game rolled around last summer, Berríos was there representing the Twins, thanks to his 3.00 ERA and 1.11 WHIP through 18 starts. The closer Rogers easily could have joined Minnesota's No. 1 starter on the All-Star roster with his 1.82 ERA and 2.84 Win Probability Added, which ranked fifth among MLB relievers.

Since the 2019 All-Star break, Berríos has a 4.93 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 19 starts. Rogers has a 3.96 ERA with six homers allowed and a negative WPA (-0.18) in 38 2/3 innings.

It's been strange and saddening to watch these former stalwarts stall out and show their warts. Both are great stories who've earned their way into the hearts of Twins fans – Berríos a scrappy spark plug known for his heart and relentless work ethic, Rogers a washed-out starter who reinvented himself as an elite bullpen arm. They were rightfully viewed coming into this season as the entrenched leaders on a staff poised for championship contention, but both have come up noticeably short during the first month of action.

Whatever is afflicting these hurlers, the symptoms are similar. They're getting hit, hard. A look at their batted-ball profiles shows a clear shift away from soft/medium contact and toward harder contact.

Berríos
First Half 2019 – Soft: 21.0% | Medium: 43.7% | Hard: 35.3%
Since Then – Soft: 15.4% | Medium: 44.2% | Hard: 40.4%

Rogers
First Half 2019 – Soft: 18.4% | Medium: 52.0% | Hard; 29.6%
Since Then – Soft: 22.0% | Medium: 43.0% | Hard: 35.0%

Last year, batters barreled up 6.5% of offering from Berríos, this year it's up to 12.3%. Rogers is up from 6.4% to 11.1%.

What is at the root of these struggles? In neither case has there been a significant drop-off in velocity or stuff. Quite the opposite in Berríos' case; he's up a couple ticks of MPH across the board (perhaps to his detriment). Physically, these guys both seem okay, and whatever issues they're going through look to be correctable. Rogers in particular has been overtly a victim of bad luck, paper-cut to death by bleeders and bloopers in a couple of his rough outings. His 2.29 FIP and 2.36 xFIP, compared to a 4.82 ERA, serve as evidence.

I can't say I'm especially worried about the long-term outlook for either of these pitchers. They're 26 and 29 years old, both healthy. The performance dips are ultimately covering small samples in contrast to their impressive bodies of work in years preceding, and neither has lost the ability to reach the mid-90s or miss bats.
The real takeaway for me here is that even with the incumbent ringleaders on the Twins' pitching staff this year both dragging down rather than lifting up their respective units, this team is still shutting down opposing offenses consistently. Entering play Wednesday, Minnesota ranked second in the AL, behind Cleveland, in ERA and runs allowed.

That speaks to the admirable job this front office has done in proactively adding talent to supplement Berríos and Rogers, as well as the coaching staff in developing pieces around him. The emergence of Randy Dobnak and Tyler Duffey during the same period as those two have slid, for instance, has provided a stark counterbalance – not to mention the additions of Kenta Maeda and Sergio Romo.

The Twins now have a variety of "ace" candidates for both the rotation and bullpen, relieving pressure on Berríos and Rogers while also allowing the Twins to be patient as the duo seeks to find their grooves once again.

With that said, it'd sure be nice to see the lapsed leaders of this pitching staff could emphatically reclaim their titles, and soon. I miss watching them dominate, and I know I'm not alone.

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12 Comments

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Channing1964
Aug 20 2020 02:50 AM
im not sure Im That concerned with either one of them really. One of them can be ran out there every fifth day on a short leash. The other one can and should be given the opportunity to get himself back on track in lower leverage situations. No need to panic.
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theBOMisthebomb
Aug 20 2020 06:15 AM
Thinking ahead to the postseason, I trust Romo with the season on the line and not Rogers.

Just by the eye, and probably someone has the data on this, in both cases their braking ball seems to be flatter. Maybe they are working on something. 

    • USAFChief likes this

Dunno, but the Twins need both pitching well.

 

For all of us that have been expecting/hoping for Berrios to take that last step to become an ACE, maybe that just isn't his destiny. Still doesn't mean he can't be a top line pitcher who has streaks where he is ACE like combined with streaks he wishes went away.

 

But if he can't put this behind him, he may end up wishing he would have been more receptive the past couple winters when the Twins reportedly were interested in a long-term extension. 

    • mikelink45, tarheeltwinsfan and heresthething like this

I am wondering if for Rodgers it is becoming more of a head game.The unlucky hits can start to get to you, thinking I need to be perfect because even when I am good they just find holes.Then you get out there in save spots and over think over throw and falter.I am thinking take Rodgers out of "closer" role, and do the committee thing they did much of first half last year.  

 

Rodgers is striking much like Latrell Hawkins was.A great reliever overall, but for some reason putting in "closer" role eventually they faltered.I am not saying never have him out for the 9th again, but not say he is our 9th inning guy no matter what.I know Rodgers was used in 8th the other day, did well.  

Can't make excuses for either of these pitchers. They've been horrible.Real question is what to do about it?

 

Can't really add much to Berrios discussion, other than to say he will probably never develop into an ace, but Baldelli might look to the Cubs for an answer to Rogers' problems.Earlier, the Cubs had counted on Kimbrel to be their closer.When he started the season with about a 10.00 ERA with multiple blown saves, rookie mgr. Ross quickly demoted him to a late inning reliever, with others closing.This took Kimbrel out of high pressure situations where he seems to have found his rhythm.Yesterday, he came in to save a Cubs win by striking out the side.

 

Ross realized in this shortened season, he could not afford to wait for his closer to rediscover himself; instead, he pulled the plug.With a deeper bullpen than the Cubs, Baldelli should follow suit.Let Romo close, use Rogers in non-save situations until he straightens himself out.The team cannot afford another near disaster like Tuesday nite!

    • Danchat, mikelink45, tarheeltwinsfan and 1 other like this

Actually the rotation with Berrios struggling is no longer the strength we thought it would be except for Dobnak and Maeda.Hill has pitched twice now, Bailey has disappeared, Pineda is still 11 days away.I still do not know why we have not called someone from the St Paul roster.

 

The BP without Rogers has relied on Wisler and Duffey as much as anyone to save us.Thorpe should be replaced. Thielbar is a good story, but not ready for the playoffs. Acala has been the best story so far - is anyone else at St Paul that we can bring in?

    • h2oface, Ben Noble and tarheeltwinsfan like this

Berrios has mostly been good for 5 innings then becomes a question mark. Maybe we are expecting too much of him. He made the All Star team but his 3.0 ERA wasn't that great. Rogers is going through what all closers go through and some of his better pitches have been dropping in for hits. It's his hanging pitches that are alarming right now and seeing him blow a great game by Maeda really hurt. I don't think anyone else can really close but if his next opportunity is not successful we may need to take him out of there for a bit.

Actually the rotation with Berrios struggling is no longer the strength we thought it would be except for Dobnak and Maeda.Hill has pitched twice now, Bailey has disappeared, Pineda is still 11 days away.I still do not know why we have not called someone from the St Paul roster.
 
The BP without Rogers has relied on Wisler and Duffey as much as anyone to save us.Thorpe should be replaced. Thielbar is a good story, but not ready for the playoffs. Acala has been the best story so far - is anyone else at St Paul that we can bring in?


I’d like to see Duran up in one role or another, and sooner rather than later.
    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this
Berrios' curve seems to be flatter. More gliding off the plate without getting swings and misses. Lacking in downward drop. I think we have seen this struggle before too.
    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this
Berrios' curve seems to be flatter. More gliding off the plate without getting swings and misses. Lacking in downward drop. I think we have seen this struggle before too.

 

Rodgers is striking much like Latrell Hawkins was.  

 

Rogers and LaTroy, too.;)

    • Dantes929 and tarheeltwinsfan like this

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