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Have the Twins Re-Made Jose Berrios?


Twins Daily Contributor

Coming into 2021 it was assumed that Kenta Maeda would be Rocco Baldelli’s ace. So far that hasn’t been the case, but longtime prospect Jose Berrios has taken some massive steps forward.For the past few seasons, it’s been questioned as to whether the Minnesota Twins would lock the Puerto Rican up with a long-term deal. Although there’s been discussions, nothing has taken place of yet. Even if the payday doesn’t come from the organization that drafted him, what Berrios has done out of the gate in 2021 has been nothing short of eye-opening.

 

Through his first four turns in the rotation Berrios owns a 3.00 ERA and an even better 2.13 FIP. The xFIP jumps to 2.83 but still checks in below that ERA mark. Where things get exciting is in the type of outs he’s getting, and also importantly, what he’s not allowing. Berrios has always been a strikeout pitcher, but with just a career 9.0 K/9 bolstered by a 9.7 K/9 a year ago, it’s not as though he’s elite. In 2021 however, the K/9 sits at 12.9 and he’s actually dropped the walk rate back down to his career average of 3.0. Of the 79 batters Berrios has faced, 30 of them have been sent back to the dugout from the box.

 

It’s not just strikeouts and walks that are important here though. Jose is also not giving up hits, and especially not the ones that leave the yard. Minnesota’s starter owns a career 1.258 WHIP with a low water mark of 1.144 set back in 2018 during his first All-Star season. Currently he owns a 0.952 WHIP thanks to a H/9 registering at just 5.6. A knock on Berrios has always been his height and the susceptibility to give up the home run ball. That’s not happening right now as he’s coughed up just one through 21.0 IP, a HR/9 of 0.4. Should that mark stay at one-third of his career average all season long, he’s going to be in for a nice set up peripherals.

 

Back in March I wrote about Berrios and wondered what we may see this season that we missed out a year ago. The bugaboo for him has often been the lack of ability to sustain through a start and more evidently the course of a season. He’s always seen that late summer swoon ultimately watering down what could have been much more glowing numbers. The workout routines have changed and pitching coach Wes Johnson has put in a ton of work to make tweaks with mound positioning and velocity inducing efforts that are intended to give Jose new life.

 

So far so good.

 

On the season Berrios is averaging 94.6 mph on his fastball. Although that’s down 0.1 mph from 2020, we’re dealing with a sample that is early and still a cold month. We’ve seen him pop 97 mph on the radar gun this season, it’s he’s sustained velocity throughout starts. He’s getting swinging strikes at a career best 12% and batters are finding contact just 73.6% of the time, a career best and over 4% south of his average. After cruising in the first four innings of a game against the Red Sox, Berrios is one bad inning away from a 1.29 ERA.

 

With another start still on deck for April, it’s way too early to suggest any sweeping indications. Also, it’s worth remembering that Jose hasn’t typically seen struggles until later in the calendar anyways. That said, a guy mowing down the opposition as he has, and having been as dominant thus far as we’ve seen, it might be worth believing that the pieces are coming together.

 

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Let's have this conversation in September and see if we're still talking this way. We've seen good first halves before.

 

That said, I hope he's figuring out how to produce at a high level for an entire season. He's fun to watch when he's on. And he's really fun to watch right now.

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I have always thought Berrios as the top of our rotation. My hope from Maeda is that he can give us 5 good innings until the league become accustomed to him. Berrios hasn't yet reached his full potential. He works hard and is driven, so I believe he'll get there preferably sooner rather than later. His durability will play into his performance.

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He has been an All Star in the last 2 full seasons because he dominates the first half. We're not actually going to know if he's different until August where he has a career ERA of 5.57 and hitters slash .273/.353/.448 off of him. He's been Bizarro Johan Santana having his bad stretch late instead of early. 

If he avoids hitting the wall in the second half, then yes I'm ready to say he's found a new gear. I hope he has. 

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He has had 1 quality start out of 4 attempts, not good.

 

?? What’s a “quality start” to you? His only “bad” start was the one against Boston. He was solid against Oakland, Seattle, and Milwaukee.

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a quality start is 6 innings and 3 earned runs or less given up.  Jose is not getting through 6 innings per start in the early going as teams are being careful with their pitchers since they didn't have a full season last year.

 

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