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#1 Sabir Aden

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 10:20 AM

“Baseball is a relative sport.”

By nature we often remember the really good or really bad things, and not the okay or decent things that someone does. I bet you can vividly remember the last time you won an award, but perhaps not the last time you went to the grocery store, or who your 10th grade history teacher was.

It’s a core principle to how memories are formed. Those that stand out are often fueled by the emotional context the situation derives from.Say me for instance, I remember when Adrian Peterson nearly clipped the 2,100 yards or when Jason Zucker beat the Blackhawks in 2013, and conversely when Blair Walsh's epic failure from 27. These were momentous occasions to me personally, and culminated milestones of jubilee and heartbreak with lots and lots of backstory.

Why is that such an important thing to consider when discussing the plight to Jose Berrios? It’s these disaster moments to fans in a season, where we can get way over our heads and make truly outrageous statements, and during the offseason in retrospect be like -- ”Did I actually say that?”

He began the season on a pristine pinnacle. Logistically, Jose was exerting his mechanical best in how he was driving through his hips along with his delivery, and keeping his hands back in sync with driving those hips, which was a bad tendency he would commit in his youth.

Jose GIf 2

You can in the video how the different the glove placement is imperative to gaining that two to three ticks in velocity to the plate. In hardcore pitching circles they call this the kinetic chain, where the components of one’s mechanics are at an equilibrium, where the joints are in a symphonic harmony, making it all a simplistic, clean, and efficiently repeatable delivery.

And Berrios looked really good. He proved with the results to bear, and added a new wrinkle into that much anticipated pitch mix, the changeup. In that 2019 opening unveiling we saw the changeup being fruitfully showcased 12.5% of the time, more than his total the previous season (9.1%) and the cumulative average during his very short career (10.7%).

He wasn’t deliberately delaying his arm speed, and everything in that start was sublime. Pristine. You could say Berrios was perhaps an “ACE” in that start had things not turned sideways and pear-shaped just a handful of months later.

 

Now fast-forward to today. Fresh (or perhaps rotten) from that second consecutive All-Star appearance, Jose Berrios is showcasing his most agonizing and problematic struggle points of his career. He’s been hittable, hit very hard with declining velocity, and to boot; seemingly single-handedly taking baseball’s third-best offense (in wOBA and wRC+; .348 and 115 respectively) out of critically important games.

What’s even more frightening? That the strength of the opposition over the past four games has sported a 91 wRC+, with 100 being league average. He’s struggling mightily against bad opponents, compounded with the fact that they shouldn’t be hitting him this hard, period.

So far, we as all separate pitching expert entities haven’t found the culprit to what hindering subset of pitching statistics is responsible for pruning our Johan of today, devoid of the attributes that made us reminisce of Johan, the great killer of men, sheep, and those brave enough to step into the battered boxes of right and left.

But jokes aside, what’s really been the inhibitor to Jose’s velocity and coincidentally his release point since his dynamic beginning?

Let’s zoom into one of his particular starts, this one against the Indians on June 6, as the start to our inquiry.

In that one start, Berrios didn’t feature the curveball like we have become expect. He would throw a whopping 25.4% changeups, nearly double his career total and triple his season percentage to that point. But something interesting of note lied in that changeup subgrouping.

In that start he would throw 27 changeups of his entire 107 pitches in those six strong innings. Only one ball was hit harder than 85 mph, and here’s a mapping of those pitch velocities with their extensions metrics.

Screen Shot 2019 08 25 At 1.19.40 PM

Notice anything weird? For a guy throwing from an average release point of 6.5 ft away from the pitching rubber, the extensions point were remarkably scattered and the changeup release points also dropped, along with the average pitch velocity.

Increasing extension would typically incite would velocity, (Josh Hader’s extension would come in mind) and it’s a very peculiar trend into Jose’s portfolio.

If we critically analyze Jose’s pitching approach further, we wouldn't have anything particularly striking about his movements.

Berrios has a unique windup, something of another other beast, where he utilizes his windup as a vehicle to increase the movement and velocity of his pitches. Whereas others use their windup as a balancing point or to find their zen, Berrios uses his windup like a stress ball where he curled himself into a ball. He breaks out of the ball in smooth rhythm to swing his front side, lurch the back end and launch the pitch.

Looking at the progress he’s made since his debut, where his arms and legs need a lot of refinements, he’s made noticeable and encouraging strides. When he was young he would treat his arms and legs as separate mechanism, and he now manages to keep his core in rhythm and not out of motion with his elbows, knees, and front striding foot.

So nothing abundantly different with the windup, and not that much difference in the general technique with his hand placement, etc.

Berrios, technically speaking hasn't changed anything with the conducting of his delivery, until Glen Perkins spoke about it during Jose’s latest start. I’m paraphrasing what Roy Smalley said during the game, but here’s what he said:

“This is what Glen Perkins was talking about in the pregame shows, where (Jose) coils up and then has to uncoil and gets way spun around and his arm either lags or he’s gotta really rush to catch up, and that’s what happens when you spike that curveball ... And just you’ve opened up way to quickly and your arm just whips around.”

“They are trying to get (Jose) to alter his mechanics a little bit, but he’s very rotational and he gets really turned around and can’t get his arm back through, so when his hips come way around behind him he coils up, and his arm has to speed up to catch up. That’s why you see so many fastballs up and into lefthanders, and spiked breaking balls.”

Jose Gif 3

You can see that his windup is almost, where he isn’t riding with the energy generated by his windup as much and through that back heel, that the great Parker Hageman discussed during the offseason as a foundation through building and sustaining velocity. We can see the locked back leg not pulling through, anchored and dragging his weight in a counterproductive direction. It’s slinging and stopping, preventing him from riding through that back leg and pulling in his follow through. It’s a sign of stress and unease to rip through, as young pitching are taught today to rip through with elastic bands at data driven developmental programs. You can see the lazy back leg grappling with the front side and the glove holstered to his side, almost as if he’s more location conscious then ripping the back leg through for the additional ticks of velocity he needs to be at his best.

This looks more like a fatigue and midseason swoon related dilemma than a mechanics dead-gone disaster, but the velocity problems and mechanical technique are very much redeemable.

 

Additionally I wanted to dive into more of what’s causing the lower arm slot, and perhaps an aggravator of the lower velocity readings and the dropping of the arm slots.

Jose Gif 1

This graphic below shows the release points of all of Jose’s pitches horizontally since the beginning of the season. I postulated the changeup he’s been throwing has played role in why the release point has waned lately, so I consulted with two acute baseball minds to at least minimally come to a conclusion.

71704182 A046 4E60 8EDF AAF32CA5741D
Screen Shot 2019 08 25 At 5.26.09 PM

Through some research and conspiracy thinking, changeups might play a part in cannibalizing fastball velocity. Now take with a grain of salt, but changeup reduces fastball velocity for youth pitchers, and Paul Nyman theorized that an intentionally manipulated change for sink and drop would lead to fastball velocity dropping.

Coupled with the fact that Jose played with the changeup in the Cleveland start I spoke of, and that his deviation of his velocities are so wide, maybe the changeup is playing with his repertoire and his mechanics. It’s certainly cause for concern given that the more he’s thrown his changeup the more his velocity as dropped.

I was curious about the changeup possibly curtailing Jose's potential, so I talked with two sources: a Manager of Mechanical Analysis at Driveline Baseball, who also happens to be a former pitching coach, and Michael O'Neal, a former professional pitcher who is now a trainer at Driveline and assistant coach at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

ME: Hey Guys. I was recently diving into a pitcher (Jose Berrios), and just wanted to ask that if ... say a right-hander where to increasingly lower their arm slot, which just so happened to coincide with an increase in spin rate and decrease in velocity, would you say an increase to using a changeup could be a detriment of this?

I look at some of the side effects of short-arming a changeup (like slinging from the side) and couldn’t find anything, but I did however find that Jose’s changeup spin rate has increased. Do you think that a lowering of the arm slot on a changeup and an increase in spin could lead to decreased velocity? Or perhaps the lowering of arm slot could increase spin in general?

Michael (Former MLB Player); It depends on the guy, but lowering the arm slot would help to create more sidespin on a changeup, which also would increase horizontal movement on the pitch. Jose’s arm slot might also be more natural for him which could be an increase in spin rate.

(Driveline Pitching Analysis Expert); Unfortunately you can’t (increase spin on arm slot) when it comes to increasing spin rate. Raw spin rate that is, there is not anything definitive that has been found to increase it outside of the use of foreign substance.

Michael (Former MLB Player); Me personally, I have the same tendency when I try to “get on top” of my fastball. I laterally trunk-tilt more causing a higher arm slot. This also negatively impacts my spin rate. When I stay taller and don’t tilt so much (unlike what Jose has been doing), my spin rate increases and also causes my arm slot/release point to be lower on the Z axis.

(Driveline Pitching Analysis Expert); Now increasing true spin is different. Pitchers increase true spin all the time by improving spin efficiency. In terms of a change up you ideally and in most cases want to kill or decrease spin. Most changeups, whether it is a circle change or a split type change are trying to kill total spin, kill lift on the pitch to create separation from the heater and kill velocity. I would have to look at Berrios’ pitch metrics to really tell you anything in regards to arm slot changes or spin total changes. Traditionally a change up is predominantly side spin. The spin direction or spin axis for a righty usually needs to shift in the direction of 3:00. Sometimes pitchers won’t have a good feel for how to do that so they will manipulate theirs arm action or arm slot to try to get there instead of pronating the pitch more to create that side spin. In the case of Berrios and knowing how exceptionally good Wes Johnson is with utilizing Trackman data, I’m sure Wes has him trending in the correct direction at the very least.

Michael (Former MLB Player); (It) Depends. A laggy arm could be possible, BUT better changeups have a fast arm speed. Also though, his changeup could play close to the 2 seam fastball, so hows his usage on the 2 seam changed?

So that was the end to this conversation and the article. I hope you enjoyed. As far as what I would expect the Twins to do, we saw earlier in the season when Michael Pineda’s velocity was hitting a rough patch so they placed on the DL. I could conceivably see Rocco buying some time by giving the duo of Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer a start against the lowly White Sox and Tiger on this coming road trip, and perhaps recharge the rotation (Gibson and Odorizzi velocity has been down lately). Wes Johnson in the splendid piece by Dan Hayes of the Athletic during a makeup interview of his sudden unavailability, said something of significance.

“We’re getting him back on his heel and trying to get him to rotate, get his chest velocity back up,” Johnson said. “It’s not just to get José to survive. We want more of the start against Chicago that he had when he was 94 mph and was dominant. Or even you go to the Miami start when his velocity was down a little bit. The pitch execution was through the roof for seven innings.

“Our focus isn’t to find a way just to get this guy through. We have to try to get him better every time he goes out.”

Which again corroborates with what Wes has done with biomechanics velocity induction. If you want to read more, I would encourage you to read this.

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#2 operation mindcrime

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 11:14 AM

I hope we get him straightened out!

#3 jtkoupal

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 11:14 AM

I think José will be just fine. This recent stretch has been frustrating, but I don't think it's permanent. He's a good pitcher, he just hasn't found his consistency yet. Maybe he never will, in which case he's still gonna be a solid mid-rotation starter, but I think that's worst case scenario.


#4 Platoon

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 11:18 AM

The top two GIF showed what appeared a curve ball on the left GIF and a FB on the right one. Tipping pitches? Or simply an extremely SSS? Someone smarter than me would have assuredly noticed this by now, I would think. As for dropping arm slot. That's often the sign of a nagging ache. Shoulder? Velocity and spin rate aside, not much is ever gained by dropping an arm angle. Especially for someone as short as he is. Flat arm slots produce frisbees, making good hitters happy hitters. Btw, excellent detailed post.
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#5 Thrylos

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 11:24 AM

Nothing is "wrong" with Berrios. This is business as usual for him:

 

Data:

 

2019

First half: 3.00 ERA, 1.111 WHIP
Second half: 4.89 ERA, 1.478 WHIP

 

2018

First half: 3.68 ERA, 1.013 WHIP
Second half: 4.15 ERA, 1.400 WHIP

 

2017

First half: 3.53 ERA, 1.079 WHIP
Second half: 4.24 ERA, 1.375 WHIP

 

So he has been worse the second half of every season.I think that mechanics might also be the symptom here.He looks like he is out of juice and altering his mechanics to compensate...Root cause is likely an endurance situation and what he has been doing to prep himself for the season has not work the last 3 seasons.He might want to change.

Edited by Thrylos, 26 August 2019 - 11:25 AM.

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#6 MMMordabito

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 01:07 PM

 

Root cause is likely an endurance situation and what he has been doing to prep himself for the season has not work the last 3 seasons.He might want to change.

 

Maybe no more human tractor pulls?

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#7 Parker Hageman

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 01:42 PM

The top two GIF showed what appeared a curve ball on the left GIF and a FB on the right one. Tipping pitches?

 

 

that's actually a good indicator of what is happening with berrios and it may be what is tipping off hitters.

 

in the baseball savant pitch visualization app, you'll see that berrios' curveball has been coming out of his hand at a lower point than his fastball (particularly the 4s).

 

 

you'll see the tight cluster in 2018 and the loose one in 2019 (light blue cluster is the curveball):

 

Berrios 2018.PNG

berrios 2019.PNG

 

the astros are a team that talked about how they use this type of data to create windows for pitches. if they know a pitcher's offering with come from a certain area, they can eliminate it right away. 

 

good overall summary of berrios' issues. 

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#8 spycake

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 02:04 PM

 

I Think I Found Out What’s Wrong With Jose Berrios

659308.jpg

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#9 70charger

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 02:30 PM

Me, comparing my contributions to this forum to this thread:

 

giphy.gif

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#10 spycake

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 03:24 PM

I Think I Found Out What’s Wrong With Jose Berrios


1148813.jpg
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#11 Doomtints

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 05:03 PM

Berrios's pitch location in August is 6-8 inches to the left of his usual location. I would guess his arm is tired.

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#12 prouster

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 05:51 PM

This is terrific. Thanks for sharing.

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#13 Halsey Hall

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 06:41 PM

Seems like his left knee goes higher now than before.

he gone!


#14 Richard Swerdlick

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 07:13 PM

I wonder if long term he needs to revamp his windup so that it is simplified with fewer moving parts. Probably too late for that this year, but for next year?


#15 yarnivek1972

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 07:21 PM

I wonder if long term he needs to revamp his windup so that it is simplified with fewer moving parts. Probably too late for that this year, but for next year?


Realistically, it’s probably too late in his career. A minor tweak maybe. But to substantially alter a guy’s delivery after 7 pro seasons seems unlikely to be successful.

#16 Linus

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 09:04 PM

Realistically, it’s probably too late in his career. A minor tweak maybe. But to substantially alter a guy’s delivery after 7 pro seasons seems unlikely to be successful.


They did just a few years ago when he started to go over his head. Before that he had a minimal windup. Thought it was odd at the time to make it more complicated

#17 Sabir Aden

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 11:50 PM

that's actually a good indicator of what is happening with berrios and it may be what is tipping off hitters.

in the baseball savant pitch visualization app, you'll see that berrios' curveball has been coming out of his hand at a lower point than his fastball (particularly the 4s).



you'll see the tight cluster in 2018 and the loose one in 2019 (light blue cluster is the curveball):

attachicon.gifBerrios 2018.PNG
attachicon.gifberrios 2019.PNG

the astros are a team that talked about how they use this type of data to create windows for pitches. if they know a pitcher's offering with come from a certain area, they can eliminate it right away.

good overall summary of berrios' issues.

Yeah, Jose had some abnormally weird release points pockets in his chart, which may signal there is a change in something like maybe grip, or overworking the pronation of his pitches.



You can see how sporadic they are from start to start, and you have to imagine not throwing from the same window can’t really be a positive factor, for a guy whose had trouble replicating his delivery in his career.

I looked into the release point pockets when I was writing this, I think I asked one of the driveline guys in the article about overpronating that changeup and I assumed that overpronation would lead to more spin which would validate my hypothesis that he’s overpronating and lowering his arm slot, and they said you can’t really “add” spin to your pitches. It’s more of an innate talent you get.

I recently followed up with one of them, and they said….

“Not sure if this is the case with Berrios but we do see a lot when an athlete is trying to add or improve a pitch that requires the spin axis to shift they may alter mechanics slightly or more so arm slot slightly to get the desired axis shift as opposed to adjusting how the ball comes out of the hand or wrist orientation into and at release.”

When we talk about extension, so his landing spot on the rubber I think that’s even more noticeable. We talk about this extension then leading to perceived velocity, and lately his extension has been down, this is just another inducing instrument to lowering his velocity (like you said, which is very essential to him).

You’d think it’s very weird. He’s been pitching from a 5.5ft to 7.3ft extension domain span all season long. But guys like Verlander and Cole who’ve had their fair share of success use the same 2ft to 3ft window when they pitch, so I’d probably cross that off.

Here below is Jose’s changeup from 1st half to 2nd Half (white is 2nd, blue and red is 1st) and you can see the noticeable differences you alluded to.

JOse Gif 4

P.S Thanks for the nice complement. You’ve been the only twins writer that I’ve known that constantly pursues what the twins are trying to teach, and not the on-field product over the years. I really tried to replicate my work to be as clean and airtight as yours so thanks. Means a lot

Oh yeah and btw you should follow me ;)
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#18 Sabir Aden

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 11:54 PM

 

This is terrific. Thanks for sharing. 

 

NO thank you for reading. :)


#19 Parker Hageman

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Posted 27 August 2019 - 07:52 AM

Here's what I will say about Berrios' release points:

 

I don't believe the change has anything to do with the grip or any manipulation at the actual point of release. Mechanically speaking, most of the issues pitchers have out front stem from issues in the back. The arm mirrors the hips. In Berrios' case, since the end of July, his hip rotational action has increased from driving toward home plate to driving toward third base line then home:

 

 

This directional movement is going to pull the arm further away from the rubber toward the third base line. Likewise, if his initial direction is first going toward third base, he's not going to get that same extension out front. 

 

Clean up the hips, you'll clean up the arm. 

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#20 jmcpeek

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Posted 29 August 2019 - 01:23 PM

I could very well be wrong but in the gif above with the two pitches I'm pretty sure the first is from the windup and the other is from the stretch




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