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  • What Does 2021 Hold for Berríos?


    Thiéres Rabelo

    José Berríos finished last season on a high note, but the overall impression he made wasn’t the best. Many fans started questioning how good he actually is and started wondering about his future. Can he still be an ace? Today we look at three major leaguers who were having similar careers through age 26, to try to imagine what’s next for La Makina.

    Image courtesy of © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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    At the start of 2020, many Twins fans had their hopes high that Berríos would continue to develop into an ace. Entering his age 26 season, he was coming off back-to-back All-Star Game appearances and had had some of his career-best numbers the year before. But things definitely didn’t go his way last season.

    To call La Makina’s 2020 disastrous might be a bit too much, especially if you consider the sample size. He didn’t have enough time to improve his overall numbers after his rough start, in which he had a 5.92 ERA in the first five starts. In spite of posting a 2.79 ERA in his final seven starts of the regular season and having his best postseason outing yet, overall, several of his numbers looked well worse than usual.

    Last year, Berríos had the highest walk-rate (9.6%) since his debut season and the highest hard hit-rate (39.7%) of his entire career. Also, his xBA (.249) and wOBA (.303), while not terrible, were both the highest since 2016. Talking about his traditional stats, the 4.00 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 1.317 WHIP and 109 ERA+ were all the worst in four years.

    Such regression, combined with Kenta Maeda’s stellar season, compelled a lot of Twins fans to simply rule Berríos out of the conversations for number one pitcher in the rotation. While this might’ve been true for most fans even before his disappointing 2020 season, maybe it’s a good moment to ask: what to expect from Berríos’ foreseeable future with Minnesota?

    Like Ted Schwerzler pointed out in his blog, Berríos is about to enter his prime and isn’t far from Cy Young contention, so extending him as soon as possible should make a lot of sense for the Twins. However, MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park believes it won’t be that easy to do so. Also, in his piece, he talks about how difficult it is to make any projections right now, so here’s an interesting way I found to speculate on what’s next on Berríos’ career. Using the Similarity Scores tool from Baseball Reference, here are three starting pitchers I found that were having similar careers to Berríos through the age 26.

    Pat Hentgen

    Here’s a guy who had some uncanny resemblances with Berríos, at least in the first years. He was drafted and developed by the Toronto Blue Jays and pitched for the club for nine seasons, from 1991 to 1999. He made it to the All-Star Game twice (1993 and 1994), but went on to have an abysmal 1995 season, posting a 5.11 ERA and allowing the most hits (236) and earned runs (114) in all of the majors. Entering the 1996 season, his career numbers were unimpressive, to say the least: 4.23 ERA, 4.54 FIP and 108 ERA+. But that didn’t stop him from getting right back on track and pitching his way to the AL Cy Young Award that very year. He did struggle for the remainder of his major league career, though, especially after having Tommy John Surgery in 2001.

    John Lackey

    The three-time World Series winner pitched four seasons until turning 26 and the start of his career in the majors wasn’t nearly as impressive as Berríos’ and Hentgen’s. In that span (from 2002 to 2005), he had a 4.15 ERA and 105 ERA+ in only 29 total starts. But things really picked up afterwards. In 2006 he had career numbers in bWAR (4.6), innings pitched (217 2/3) and ERA+ (127), only to improve each one of those even more in 2007 and finish third in the AL Cy Young voting, after leading the AL in ERA (3.01) and being named for his first All-Star Game. While he was never an ace, he had himself a very solid career from 2006 to 2017, pitching at least 160 innings in each season and having 3.84 ERA, 3.95 FIP and 111 ERA+ to show for it.

    Trevor Bauer

    The former Indian was first tested in the majors in 2012 and 2013, starting on only four games in each season. Taking over as one of Cleveland’s full time starters in 2014, he pitched four consecutive seasons with at least 26 starts. Unlike Berríos, he never impressed at all in his first years, having a career 4.36 ERA, 4.15 FIP and 99 ERA+ after his age 26 season (2017). But then, in 2018, he finally turned the corner and made it to his first All-Star Game and finished sixth in the AL Cy Young race, after posting a 2.21 ERA, leading the AL with 2.44 FIP and having a 196 ERA+. After a rough start to his Cincinnati Reds career, he went on to have a career year last season, with a league best 1.73 ERA, 2.88 FIP and 276 ERA+, winning the NL Cy Young Award.

    Similarity Scores are just fun coincidences to look at and of course they mean nothing for a player’s future. What we do know is that Berríos is a very hard-working kid, who’s earned himself the benefit of the doubt, even after a not ideal (and hopefully atypical) season. Whether he’s going to be an elite, top of the rotation starter and win Cy Young awards or just an OK number three guy shouldn’t matter for the decision of keeping him around or not. I think the Twins definitely should. What about you?

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    That was fun - how many times would you put Hentgen, Lackey and Bauer in the same set?  Bauer is riding high and will be overpaid, but his history does not match his break out season any more than Berrios history matches his 2020 struggles.  

     

    I had to go their records to see how good Hengen actually was.  Thanks.  Looking at the career stat lines I see Bauer as the weakest of the three, but he has the chance to change that soon. 

     

    It is obvious looking at Berrios that we are lucky to have him and the caliber pitcher that he is.  I am excited to see what happens next.  

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    Whether he’s going to be an elite, top of the rotation starter and win Cy Young awards or just an OK number three guy shouldn’t matter for the decision of keeping him around or not. I think the Twins definitely should. What about you?

    There's a decision regarding keeping him around? For the coming year? Really?

     

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    The staff last year wanted to reduce Berrios's intense preseason workouts because they believed that it drained his strength at the end of the season. But because of the shortened season it backfired. He wasn't as prepared so his performance wasn't up to speed in the beginning. But at the end he was just warming up. If this season is normal he'll be on track.

    Hope he can take the next step and be the ace that we want him to be. At the same time hoping he signs an extension

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    I believe this is the year he puts a full season together. I know others think last year was not up to par, but he really turned it on at the 3nd half. Not to mention what a gem of a playoff game he pitched. PLEASE lock him up long term. He's a true #1 starter, and the guy I trust the most come playoff time.

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    I'm going to play the GOOD/BAD game that has been used often lately on the front page articles concerning various players.

     

    BAD: Despite a poor initial entrance to ML life, Berrios has shown incredible stuff and great stretches of success. Too often for comfort, he has found either his location/control wandering with his pitches, or complete loss of control and "misses" with a pitch that seemed to work previously to embarrass hitters. With his lack of length, he doesn't always seem to be "on top" of his delivery and arm action, and that may be an ongoing concern for him to find the consistency he needs.

     

    He is very determined to be the best he can be. He is a workout warrior to prepare for each season physically. All of this is to the good for him. But he has slid the second half of each season and there is concern he works out too hard during the season to maintain his endurance for a full season. To his and the Twins credit, he adjusted and lightened his workout load in 2019 and responded well after a short dip to finish strong.

     

    GOOD: Berrios will never be 6' plus and long. But he doesn't have to be. Despite some inconsistencies with his velocity and secondary stuff, he can not only "bring it" most days, but his secondary pitches can make grown ML batters cry at times. His secondary stuff only needs a little more refinement for consistency that could make him borderline elite or "ACE" status. His attitude and work ethic are outstanding. He's earned a pair of deserved All Star performances. His adjusted mid-season workout routine in 2019 allowed him to rebound from a small slump to finish the season strong. Unfortunately, 2020 happened for a lot of players/pitchers and we weren't able to see the results of his new routine over a full season. But again to his ability and dedication, possibly maturity as well, we saw him rebound from a rough first half, while reportedly adjusting and making a few tweaks, to finish as strong as he has ever been over his last 7 starts.

     

    Only 27yo, the biggest problem Berrios may have is expectations. Both his own, and expectations from a fan base hungry for a home grown front of the rotation SP. He is primed right now where age and experience meet and he's ready to raise his total performance to a level that he could be the #1 SP/ACE the Twins have been looking for since the departure of Johan Santana, with all due respect to Maeda. And if be does nothing more than establish himself as a stud #2, that is worth a lot for the Twins.

     

    Tell me I'm wrong!

     

    Pay me now or pay me later.

     

    The time to re-sign Berrios is now. If it's next season, the value grows. If it's after 2021, he may be gone.

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    When he first came up he seemed much slighter than now - the workouts I guess.  As a rookie he reminded me of Tom Hall, but Tom never got over 150 pounds and BR lists Berrios at 205 so even though they are both 6 foot, the muscle mass of Berrios should see him through.  I expect that he is maturing into a body type and style that will see a long career.  Whitey Ford was 5' 10" and 188 so I would not worry about size even though everyone is looking for a Randy Johnson now.

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    I don't see the benefit for Berrios to sign an extension right now to Jose. I mean I see the benefit for the Twins but looking at it from Berrios's standpoint he might as well stretch it out for the big payday. Also, I'm not sure if Berrios is super enamored with the Twins? He has made some comments in the past being angry with how the Twins have treated his teammates and such. Not that those comments were warranted or not, just that they were made, so I have a feeling that Jose will be gone when his free agency hits unless the Twins make a huge overpay which we know they don't normally do.

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