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Jose Berrios and the Impact of a Short Season

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 13 July 2020 · 693 views

minnesota twins jose berrios
Major League Baseball is going to try its hardest to play a 60-game season in 2020. Starting on July 24, the Minnesota Twins will look to repeat as AL Central Division champs, and this time they’ll hope the Postseason run is a bit longer. If Rocco Baldelli’s club is going to take that next step, they’ll need a big contribution from staff ace Jose Berrios.

For the past few years, I’ve wondered about the possibility of Berrios winning a Cy Young. Certainly, there’s plenty of strong competition, and Gerrit Cole now being with the New York Yankees likely makes him the frontrunner. Berrios’ own chances haven’t been thwarted by the opposition in recent years as much as they’ve been of his own doing.

Coming into 2020 Bovada lists Berrios as a middle-of-the-road candidate with 14/1 odds. Despite two consecutive All-Star game appearances, the Puerto Rican has never garnered a Cy Young vote. For that to change consistency will be key and avoiding a late-season fade is a must. In a 60-game sprint though, should that even be a fear?

Over the offseason Minnesota reworked Berrios’ training plan and helped to institute goals resulting more in endurance with season-long stamina in mind. June has routinely been Berrios’ best month, but August comes with a career 5.96 ERA in 21 starts, with another mediocre 4.64 ERA mark across 20 in September/October. Last season Jose was strong out of the gate, saw a brief two game speedbump, then dialed in before his routine slowdown.

What if the Twins can capture just that middle ground in the year ahead?

Minnesota obviously plays the beginning of its traditional seasons in less than sweltering heat. That didn’t seem to hamper Berrios in 2019 however, as he posted a 2.97 ERA across his first six starts. By start eight he was back down to a 2.53 ERA prior to an ugly outing against the Angels. Focusing on a snapshot of the mid-summer months of June and July, Jose put together a double-digit dipping of 10 outings that would turn plenty of heads.

Across ten starts from June 6 through July 31 the Minnesota hurler owned a 2.23 ERA with a .609 OPS against. He had a 61/16 K/BB in 64.2 IP. It was also the only two-month stretch of the season that he went back-to-back starts without allowing a homer more than once. The question for Wes Johnson to help solve is how can both the pitcher and the team extract that exact performance.

There’s a ton of differences that 2020 will present due to playing a season during the midst of a global pandemic. While it’s a positive to have nice weather out of the gate, there won’t be any room for tune up type outings. Summer Camp has provided intrasquad action but will only feature one exhibition game and given the proximity to the Opener, Berrios would be unlikely to pitch.

As a fast starter, maybe the best of all worlds can come together for Jose and he’ll be able to provide the calming presence a true ace brings to the mound. Whether or not that results in a Cy Young will be determined by a whole host out outside factors. Focused only on the guy wearing number 17 for Minnesota, it’s hard to see this shortened season as a negative.

We may not yet figure out if the new training tactics bear fruit without the rigors of a traditional 162-game marathon, but the hope would be that there aren’t questions about declining velocity or uncertain effectiveness. The Twins pitching staff in its entirety is now better than it’s ever been, and it’s time for the smiling 26-year-old to lead the charge.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • DocBauer likes this

Let us continue to remember how good Berrios has been, how much he has flashed, and remember he only turned 26yo in May.

Not sure you could ask for better stuff, better determination or work ethic. But it is that work ethic I and others have commented on. Berrios and the Twins have all commented that he needed to learn to dial things down a bit in his regiment to simply maintain endurance for a full season. That began in 2019 when he again slipped in the 2nd half only to rally and pitch better than he bad before. And there was talk all during the off season and during the initial ST he would dial back his routine the 2nd half to maintain endurance. (Immense workouts don't always mean endurance for a full ML season).

I was, originally, looking forward to the still only 26yo Berrios to adjust his routine, grow as a "pitcher" with experience and very probably have his best season to date. But right now, with a 60 game season, this whole idea sort of gets thrown out the window for 2020.

He is right at the precipice where talent meets knowledge to become his best, I've spoken of this before. He might even be a year or so early. I think Oddo hit the spot last season. Maeda is probably already there, based on previous results and the best year against LH hitters. Hill is beyond that point but not yet "hanging on" based on 2019. He appears to have one more season in the sun on his side.

Trust me, Berrios will lead this team in 2020 and beyond with Oddo right behind...who WILL re-sign IMO...with Maeda and a group of talented arms to round things out going forward.

Berrios needs to be re-signed long term. Even with the weird economics of baseball right now and future speculation, you have to keep what you have at some point. And not all great pitchers are 6' 2" and 215lbs plus.
    • mikelink45 likes this

With the season being only 60 games long, I don't think we'll see the same issues Berrios has had with August/Septembers in the past. And with an easier schedule than usual... Jose should put up some good numbers.