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What Happened to Jose Berrios?


Ted Schwerzler
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The Minnesota Twins traded Jose Berrios last July for a package that included Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson. Rather than paying their ace, the Twins opted to capitalize on his value at the trade deadline. Now almost a year later, it’s worth wondering what has happened to the former Twins fireballer.

When landing in Toronto, Berrios was largely the same pitcher he has always been. After posting a 3.48 ERA through 20 turns with the Twins last year, he followed up with a 3.58 ERA in 12 starts for the Blue Jays. His strikeout numbers actually rose a bit and the walks dropped a little as well. Given the haul Toronto had to part with, they should’ve found the results pleasing.

Toronto knew that acquiring Berrios meant they would need to pay him. In order to make the decision to part with multiple top prospects worth it, a long-term deal had to be reached. In November, the club announced a seven-year extension worth $131 million. Heading into the first full season having the 28-year-old Berrios as their star, both parties were excited.

Now 14 games into 2022, and even with what’s been considered a deadened baseball, Berrios owns a career-worst 5.11 ERA (save for his awful 14-game debut during his rookie season). The 9.6 H/9, 1.8 HR/9, and 7.5 K/9 are all career-worst marks. He’s been entirely hot or cold having given up five or more runs four times while holding opponents to two or less on six occasions. For a starter that Minnesota has seen get worse as a season goes on, the poor showing out of the gate is hardly optimal.

I’m not intimate enough with the Blue Jays system or plan to know if tweaks have been made to his process, but the analytics paint a less than exciting picture as well. Berrios’ expected ERA sits at an even worse 6.20 despite a slightly better xFIP of 4.20. 

The largest issue appears to be in the quality, or frequency of optimal contact on balls hit in the air. This season Berrios has allowed a career high 40.9% fly ball rate. That’s over a 5% jump from the past two seasons, and 3% increase on the HR/FB mark as well. Although hard contact has remained consistent, and soft contact has actually increased, the barrel rate is a whopping 12.6%. Putting that into context, only three qualified hitters in Major League Baseball have a higher barrel rate than the average Berrios currently allows: Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Trout. That has resulted in an average exit velocity up over 4 mph from his career average, and 3 mph higher than basically anything he’s done since 2017.

Hard hit rate can be deceiving as not all quality of contact is created equal. You can hit a ball hard off a suboptimal part of the bat. Barrelling a baseball though, especially with high exit velocities and ideal launch angles, will always result in damage.

Toronto has Berrios using his fastball 34% of the time, a mark Minnesota hadn’t come close to since 2019. He’s also entirely abandoned the curveball in favor of a slider, which he never previously utilized. Berrios has always had a couple of different takes on his breaking pitch, but it’s clear that there’s been an adjustment as to which one is favored.

There’s been virtually no change in the chase rate for Berrios, but he’s giving up the most contact he’s ever allowed inside the zone. Add in that his whiff rate is a career-low and the fastball velocity has dipped below a 94 mph average for the first time since 2019 and the problem starts to present itself.

It’s not as though Berrios forgot how to pitch or that the quality of stuff has fallen off a cliff, but the current pitch mix is allowing batters the ability to hone in on pitches in the zone, and do significant damage when making contact. Rather than hard-hit balls still having the potential to be outs, hard-hit balls are being barrelled with a heightened opportunity to benefit the hitter.

We’re still dealing with a pretty small sample size given it’s not even the All-Star game yet, but there’s reason to believe the rest of the way isn’t set up to benefit Toronto’s shiny new arm. Whether he continues a downward trend as the season goes on, the ball changes, or the warm weather helps hitters, Berrios will need to make tweaks on his own if he wants to settle back into the numbers he’s used to putting up.

 


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He had a terrible first and last start. In between, including some clunkers, his numbers aren't all that far off from what we'd expect. He also, ya know, mowed this Twins team down in Toronto couple weeks ago. SSS stamp and move on, at least for right now.

Martin's value is at an all time low, after a handful of great games to start the year SWR has been pretty bad, and the Twins' pitching staff as a whole is unsurprisingly struggling. If I'm a Jays fan I'm certainly not bemoaning the trade. 

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He seems to still be on track to win his 100th game at age 30 and 200 before all is said and done.  While he has given up more HRs and hits.  I think we should wait.  it  is unusual for Berrios to falter before the all star break.  Maybe you are right and the new pitch sequencing isn't working out the way it is meant to.  He will probably have to make more adjustments.  

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2 hours ago, KirbyDome89 said:

Martin's value is at an all time low, after a handful of great games to start the year SWR has been pretty bad, and the Twins' pitching staff as a whole is unsurprisingly struggling. If I'm a Jays fan I'm certainly not bemoaning the trade.

Austin Martin's slash is .236/.360/.308. Admittedly not pretty, but for the OBP. So he is showing a good eye, drawing 26 walks behind his 49 hits, and his 39 runs scored is second on the Wind Surge behind Wallner. Twenty-two stolen bases (2 CS) ain't bad, either.

in 11 starts, 53 IP, Simeon Woods Richardson has a 3.40 ERA and 1.132 WHIP. He had a few rough outings in May, lasting 4-5 innings and giving up no more than 4 ER in each, but has had more good starts than bad. He's a 21 year old kid, generally pitching well in double A.  

There's still time for both of them to develop. 

If I'm a Jays fan, $131M for a pitcher with a 5.11 ERA so far is plenty of reason to go -aye

 

p.s. Admittedly, I still miss La Maquina as a Twin. 🙂

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Pure speculation, but maybe the sheer workload is starting to catch up to him.  Jose never had that traditional workhorse frame, so maybe the 15 thousand pitches he's thrown since the beginning of 2016 (which of course does not include spring training, postseason, or workouts) has just worn him down.  Since he's never really been injured, he never got any relief from that.

Of course, perhaps Jose can still turn this around, but if this is a preview of what Berrios might be now, the decision to trade him last July was a prescient one (the choice in return might be another story).

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IMO, Berrios's biggest issue was he throws in the same area all the time.  Almost all his pitches are lust above the knee to mid thigh and side to side.  Batters can settle in and wait for their pitch---his changeup is 5-6 MPH difference.  

One of the things that has made Verlander great over so many years is not overwhelming velocity, but he uses his changeup well and from one pitch to the next, he is all over the strike zone. Up, down, in, out---and even well inside/high.  He never lets the batter get comfortable.   Jose spent so much trying to make the perfect pitch every time, a batter never worried about getting hit--and he could draw a small box around pitches.  Unpredictability can be a great thing--as long as you have control.  Joe Ryan is doing the same thing, but he started missing his spots and so he stopped getting the benefit of close pitches by the umps.

If Berrios would work the whole zone unpredictably, he could be keep a batter on his toes and would give up a lot less HR's.

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52 minutes ago, SkyBlueWaters said:

Austin Martin's slash is .236/.360/.308. Admittedly not pretty, but for the OBP. So he is showing a good eye, drawing 26 walks behind his 49 hits, and his 39 runs scored is second on the Wind Surge behind Wallner. Twenty-two stolen bases (2 CS) ain't bad, either.

in 11 starts, 53 IP, Simeon Woods Richardson has a 3.40 ERA and 1.132 WHIP. He had a few rough outings in May, lasting 4-5 innings and giving up no more than 4 ER in each, but has had more good starts than bad. He's a 21 year old kid, generally pitching well in double A.  

There's still time for both of them to develop. 

If I'm a Jays fan, $131M for a pitcher with a 5.11 ERA so far is plenty of reason to go -aye

 

p.s. Admittedly, I still miss La Maquina as a Twin. 🙂

To be clear, I'm not throwing in the towel on either of these guys. 

The slugging is, and looks to always be a concern for Martin if he's not to stick at a middle IF position. 

Recently he's looked a lot more like the guy in Toronto during his '21 season. He's gonna be 22 in a couple months, which is average for AA, and this is his second season at that level. Some inconsistency is absolutely to be expected.

Sure, if I'm a Jays fan I wouldn't be thrilled with Berrios' performance to date, but I'd also be looking at Martin and SWR and think Toronto sold high, and if I'm betting on a rebound it's more likely to come from the guy with a solid major league track record. 

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Going from the White Sox, Gaurdians and Royals to the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox 19 times each per season I'd guess has a lot to do with it. Plus the parks are no where near as pitcher friendly. I think the results if the Twins had given him that contact would have been quite a bit better. As for the prospects i expect both of them to be quality big league regulars. Pair Martain with Arraez and hopefully you have two .300+ hitters with .400 OBP and maybe 10-15 homers per season. that's a lot of RBI's for whoever follows either of them. Richardson who knows?? Pitchers are so hit or miss compared to bats. Hopefully he's a 1-2-3 starter. But maybe he's a BP arm. I still believe in a couple years he'll make it to the show.

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46 minutes ago, roger said:

Is the m ain reason that he is no longer happy?  I believe he and his family enjoyed their time in the Twin Cities.  He came up thru the Twins system and was very close with several Twins he was with all those years.  Maybe he just ain’t happy and it shows in his results.

There were a couple articles when he signed with Toronto saying how happy he was there and how much he liked the team and the city.

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6 hours ago, downunder twins fan said:

There were a couple articles when he signed with Toronto saying how happy he was there and how much he liked the team and the city.

I'm sure that's true, but what is he going to say???   "I'm really so unhappy here.  This city sucks and I hate these guys in the clubhouse?"   Not trying to be a dick......

He's obviously still got the stuff and he surely shoved it right up the Twin's behind during that start.  

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15 hours ago, roger said:

Is the m ain reason that he is no longer happy?  I believe he and his family enjoyed their time in the Twin Cities.  He came up thru the Twins system and was very close with several Twins he was with all those years.  Maybe he just ain’t happy and it shows in his results.

Is he unhappy in Toronto?  

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18 hours ago, ashbury said:

Has he?  I have no idea about the eye-test, but in Martin's statistical splits June so far has been much more worser than either April or May.

Martin? No clue. Based on the 5 mins I spent checking out his BR game logs, that SWR guy has though. 

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12 hours ago, cheeseheadgophfan said:

I'm sure that's true, but what is he going to say???   "I'm really so unhappy here.  This city sucks and I hate these guys in the clubhouse?"   Not trying to be a dick......

He's obviously still got the stuff and he surely shoved it right up the Twin's behind during that start.  

Could be, I thought I read the reason he was traded was he wasn't willing to sign with the Twins and wanted to test free agency. Don't think he would've signed a 7 year deal if he didn't at least find it tolerable there 

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Berrios is a number three starter capable of consistent 15-17 win seasons on a good team. His track record w the Twins over typical five starts: two excellent starts, 2 mediocre starts, one absolute clunkers, not necessarily in that order. All adds up to maybe two quality starts over that timespan. Not sure that’s worth $20 million per year but good for him. 

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This happens often when players get their huge contract. MLB deals are all guaranteed. He worked his butt off to get where he is now and get that huge contract. Is he working as hard as he did before the deal? Who knows. Maybe it is just a bad first half, but you can't assume everyone wants to win a championship the same amount. Money is more important to some.

Once again, not accusing him of anything, but it wouldn't be the first time in history someone secured their bag and took it a little easy.

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5 hours ago, Otaknam said:

Berrios is a number three starter capable of consistent 15-17 win seasons on a good team. His track record w the Twins over typical five starts: two excellent starts, 2 mediocre starts, one absolute clunkers, not necessarily in that order. All adds up to maybe two quality starts over that timespan. Not sure that’s worth $20 million per year but good for him. 

This isn't even remotely the profile of a "number three starter".  And by your own definition he would make 4 out of every 5 starts a quality start.

Examining a player to arbitrarily rank him should demand you do more to look at his performance in context.

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Not to single out any particular Twins Daily writer, but there always feels to me to be a “finger to the wind” aspect to these articles.

Since Berrios was my favorite player, I will pose these questions: Is it really worth wondering what happened to Berrios? Are we really not sure about him? Do we really not think he’ll be just fine and pitching in the postseason? Can we name the Twins top three pitchers for a postseason series? 

Maybe we should be asking what happened to the two we traded for? A position player starting to profile as a light-hitting corner outfielder, and a starting pitcher with promise but who vanishes for long periods? 
 

thanks for listening!

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13 hours ago, MABB1959 said:

Is he unhappy in Toronto?  

Well he’s probably not unhappy anymore (performance notwithstanding), but after the trade, yeah, he was absolutely shattered.

By the way, I’d guess he is tipping pitches, and he knows he is, but is having trouble getting his grips and deliveries straightened back out. In other words, probably just a really bad stretch for him. Thanks for your support!

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