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  • Twins Daily 2021 Awards: Pitcher of the Year

    Ted Schwerzler

    We’re now through the Rookie of the Year and Most Improved awards handed out by the Twins Daily staff for the Minnesota Twins 2021 performance. Turning our attention to the mound, it’s the since departed Jose Berrios as the Pitcher of the Year.

    Before diving into Berrios as the award winner, let’s take a look at some of those that finished just short.

    Nearly Beat Him
    Bailey Ober

    3-3, 4.19 ERA, 92.1 IP, 9.4 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 9.0 H/9, 1.9 HR/9

    Coming up just short of picking up a second award in this cycle, Bailey Ober finished only three points behind Berrios in the voting. While the Puerto Rican is no longer with the organization, Ober coincidentally finished 2021 with the same amount of starts, 20. Ober was not a top prospect at any point during his run on the farm, and enough can't be said about the work he put in with no minor league season a year ago.

    Ober made just four starts for Triple-A St. Paul before being called up by the Twins, and those were to the tune of a 2.81 ERA. Always a high strikeout guy, Ober punched out 11.8 per nine in his 16 innings to earn the big league call. With the Twins, his numbers didn’t slide substantially as he still struck out 9.4 per nine and dropped the walk rate down to 1.9. If there was a bugaboo in his debut season, it was the 1.9 HR/9 that was compiled by allowing 20 dingers in just north of 90 innings pitched.

    Going into 2022, it’s hard not to look at Ober as the current ace of the staff. With Kenta Maeda on the shelf and Berrios since departed, Ober will be relied on internally when it comes to immediately present options. He put forth an excellent rookie showing, and while the 4.19 ERA may be uninspiring, a guy who’s dealt with injuries looking this good and this healthy is plenty to drool on for Twins brass.

    Out Of Nowhere
    Caleb Thielbar

    7-0, 3.23 ERA, 64.0 IP, 10.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 7.7 H/9, 1.1 HR/9

    In this space, it’s probably a bit weird to see a reliever’s name show up. Someone pitching out of the pen being present probably speaks volumes to the impact starting pitching ultimately had. That said, Thielbar didn’t back in to this space by any means. Nearly retired from baseball and coaching a college team, the Minnesota native emerged in 2020 and substantiated his place this season.

    Across 64 innings, Thielbar posted a 3.23 ERA and a career-best 10.8 K/9. The soft-tossing lefty became one of Minnesota’s best relief arms and routinely was a guy Rocco Baldelli could turn to in critical spots. Despite never owning a blistering fastball, his stuff produced a career-best 32.3% whiff rate. The eight homers were a bit uncharacteristic for him when considering the career as a whole, but if there’s a step forward taken there in 2022, Minnesota will have created one of baseball’s best relief arms.

    And The Winner
    Jose Berrios

    7-5, 3.48 ERA, 121.2 IP, 9.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 7.0 H/9, 1.0 HR/9

    It’s hard to write about an award that a guy wins when he’s no longer with the organization. It stings a bit more when it’s Jose Berrios. A fan favorite who was drafted, developed and grew up with the Twins. That’s where we are, though, and there’s no denying that he was the best pitcher to throw for Minnesota in 2021. Evidenced by the return Derek Falvey got from the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s plenty apparent that the league thinks highly of the former Twins ace as well.

    Across 121 2/3 innings, compiled in 20 starts, Berrios posted a 3.48 ERA. His 9.3 K/9 was a slight step backward from 2020, but he remained a pillar of consistency. The 1.04 WHIP was a career-best, and so was the 7.0 H/9. Combined with his time in a Blue Jays uniform, Berrios’ 204 strikeouts were a new career-high, and he was once again in consideration for the American League All-Star team.

    Although the season didn’t go as planned for the Twins, and that was by no fault of Berrios, he started things well during his debut against Milwaukee. One of the season highlights, Jose punched out 12 Brewers in six no-hit innings. That was quite the opening act and a number he would never match again on the year. Berrios recorded double-digits again when he notched ten strikeouts against the White Sox on July 6.

    Entering the final season of arbitration eligibility, Berrios is in line for a big payday. Whether that comes with the Blue Jays or someone else on the open market, a season like this will set him up nicely at the negotiating table. As hard as it was to see him go, Berrios being worthy of this honor on the way out means he leaves on the highest of notes.

    Others Receiving Votes: Taylor Rogers, Michael Pineda, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala, Joe Ryan

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    I've always been a huge fan of Berrios and really miss him. Not going to take this space to comment at all about whether be should have been moved except to say I do understand why be was, and the haul was excellent. While I think there are some very intriguing options out there to "replace" him, maybe even very effectively, I do think there is a segment of the fan base that never fully appreciated how good he is/was and may change their opinion now that he's gone.

    Not sure I can say anything more about Ober that hasn't already been said, or that I haven't already said myself. But all the hard work, adjustments made on the fly during the season, he's just a great story. And I think he's a keeper though I'm uncertain of his ceiling. But what he did isn't just a SSS at this juncture. I'm not that concerned about his HR totals as a] he was a rookie and b] when you keep free passes down, HR and XBH don't hurt you so much. And while his ERA isn't outstanding, without an exact number in front of me I'd bet he's at least a quarter run per below the AL average.

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    Will be interesting to watch this winter to see if Toronto can get Berrios signed to an extension.  I understand that he has good memories of his time with the Twins, so I see no reason why the Twins wouldn't be in the hunt to resign him a year from now, if available.

    Agree with Doc above that the trade was the right decision and we got an excellent return.  As I watched a few of the Wind Surge games, kept expecting to be more impressed by Martin.  You know, thought he should be putting up numbers like Miranda.  But then I sat back and thought about his situation.  Drafted #5 overall in 2020 with no place to play, so he sat.  Then rather than beginning his career at low-A, he began at AA.  Not certain I remember any Twins ever beginning their careers at AA.  Where there any?  So this kid may just develop into one heck of a player, wherever he ends up on the diamond.  And the pitcher was also at AA as a 20-year old.  Yes, Berrios brought a huge return!


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    Ultimately, I don't agree with giving these types of awards to non-Twins players. Following the logic of Berrios being the pitcher of the year, the Twins hitter of the year would be Nelson Cruz as he posted a wRC+ of 141 with the Twins this year. Neither player is on the Twins now or finished the year with the club. It just feels like a slight to the players on the club currently.

    This is rough to say, but I think Kenta Maeda is the pitcher of the year for the Twins since I wouldn't consider Berrios because he didn't finish the year as a Twins player. Maeda had obvious rough luck while he kept the Twins in the game most of his starts and he did it while pitching hurt. 



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