The first stint in the majors for Jose Berrios was disappointing to say the least. The 22-year-old had a 10.20 ERA with 7.20 BB/9 across his four starts, capped off by a 7 ER and 4 BB effort in just 0.2 innings against the Tigers. After cultivating in the minors for the next two months, it started to click again for Berrios. In his final eight minor league appearances, he held a 1.46 ERA with 80 strikeouts and just 15 walks. There were high hopes as Berrios was recalled to start on August 1st against the Cleveland Indians and I was interested to see if Berrios had made any changes since the last time on the hill. Here is Jose Berrios‘ GIF Breakdown of that start in 13 HD GIFs.
As always, let’s first take a look at the strikezone plot from the game:
Not a very alluring plot is it? Berrios had his moments down in the zone, but when he missed, it was either away well up out of the zone or over the heart of the plate. Most of his pitches in the strikezone were across the middle of the plate, with few in the bottom or top quadrants. Additionally, you can see how frequently he failed to hit the outside corner to left-handers, with close to 20 pitches falling off the plate away. The one benefit is his clear ability to throw his Curveball for strikes, but he needs to develop the skill to bury the pitch in the dirt as not a single hook fell below the strike zone, with four even sailing above the zone. His Changeup needs refinement too, with plenty falling out his hand and sliding away arm-side and off the plate. There’s work to be done here.
Let’s jump to the fun stuff and take a look at Berrios’ array of pitches from Monday night:
Berrios’ Fastball is easily his most questionable pitch. Right out of the gate it didn’t seem that way as he sent Carlos Santana back to the dugout with a perfectly placed 97 mph heater on the inside corner:
It’s not easy pinpointing glove-side location with hard heat and Berrios executed it perfectly. It was easy to get excited early on and expect this as the norm, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. After a two-strike Fastball to Francisco Lindor missed in the middle of the zone for the first hit of the game, Berrios got to 0-1 on Mike Napoli and proceeded to do this:
Yep, that’s three straight heaters where Berrios failed to make the right adjustment to get the ball over the plate. It’s possible the problem was due to confidence – it’s common for guys in the minors thinking that need to do a little extra to get batters out suddenly in the majors when they clearly have the tools to be effective at this level – though I wonder if he was rushing to the plate as it seemed at times that Berrios’ throwing arm was lagging behind his body and not getting out in front early enough. After Berrios then hit Napoli with a weak 3-2 Curveball, Berrios got to 3-2 on Jose Ramirez and threw this meaty Fastball:
That pitch was as poor as you’ll find 3-2 and was smoked into right for an RBI single. Not a good start for Berrios and clearly he had to make some adjustments in future innings.
He did…sort of. He was able to get outs with the heater, some with well placed Fastballs will good drop and others that seemed like he got away with one. Take a look at these two pitches, one resulting in a well earned groundout, and another that surprisingly earned a foul out:
Still not that encouraging. Clearly there is upside here as Berrios was getting a ton of movement with his Sinker, but wasn’t able to control is consistently and his strikes inside the zone were more middle than elevated or down in the zone. He did earn a good amount of strikeouts with his heater, yet most of them looked like this one to Lonnie Chisenhall:
Notice how Berrios was supposed to jam Chisenhall inside and the ball sailed up and away, not even close to its intended location…but it worked. His movement and velocity allowed him to be “effectively wild” and deceive Chisenhall enough to earn the strikeout. It’s not pretty, but you have to acknowledge that this mistake worked in his favor.
I can’t say that I’m thrilled with what I saw in Berrios’ heater as he clearly has room to grow commanding the pitch. It’s tough to put a ton of faith in him dominating a lineup until he displays ability to locate consistently and avoid many wasted pitches or mistakes in the heart of the plate. Still, the movement and velocity is there for a highly effective pitch once he gets there, giving him a decent foundation to build upon.
Berrios nearly split between both of his breaking pitches, though he had the most trouble with his Changeup. The pitch itself can be a very effective play off of his Fastball, but like his heater it suffered from a lack of consistency and was rarely executed according to plan. Here’s what his Changeup looked like for too many of its offerings:
But when it worked, boy did it work:
That’s simply beautiful. 83 mph falling right off the table as Carlos Santana was sitting on a heater after Berrios missed 1-0. These are the kind of pitches that Berrios needs to throw often and outside of this brilliant offering, he just couldn’t throw his Changeup with consistency. Even when he got an out with the pitch, it wasn’t ideal. For example, Berrios had Tyler Naquin 0-2 and elected to go with the slow ball:
Yes this pitch resulted in an out, but instead of fading off the outside corner, the pitch was located in the same spot that Max Kepler hit each of his three HRs that day – middle and down in the zone. It’s actually a good representation of how Berrios seemingly coasted through innings 2-5 despite not pitching to the best of his ability. I hope to see a noticeable improvement in his Changeup in future starts, which most likely will follow after he grasps his Fastball
Before we dive into how it looked in yesterday’s start, I want to refresh your memory on how good this pitch can be with this luscious number to Jose Altuve back in May:
This deuce could be referred to as a Slider instead given its relatively tighter break lack of major drop, and its horizontal bend is not messing around. That’s what I was hoping to see in yesterday’s game. This is what we got:
It’s not bad, just not an amazing pitch that gets you excited for the future of Berrios. He used his breaking ball often as a get-me-over than as an out pitch, as he barely located it low in the zone or even in the dirt. He registered just one whiff on the pitch the entire night and it came on this 2-0 pitch to Rajai Davis:
That’s a great 2-0 pitch, as Napoli was banking on a Fastball to crush in a hitter’s count and was greatly fooled by the hook. It might get you excited about the pitch overall, yet remember it was the only one across 17 Curveballs he threw. He tossed 11 of them for strikes and the ones that were balls were, well, bad:
That’s unpolished. It’s just like the misses we saw with his Changeup and Fastball and clearly a part of a larger problem with his mechanics. It could be from a lagging arm – a slowed arm causes the ball to be high, an arm too out in front creates balls in the dirt – though it may simply be an issue of his follow through as he isn’t “finishing the pitch”.
All that being said, not a single one of his 17 resulted in a base hit despite 7 swings and 11 strikes. Batters lifted it for an easy flyout or rolled over it for a quick out, becoming a stable offering for Berrios to turn to:
I see Berrios relying on the pitch more often when behind in the counts, and I hope he can begin to locate it under the strikezone to create more whiffs in the future. This can be has best pitch given proper usage and I trust that the ability to prevent wasted breaking balls will come with time.
Final Line: 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 0 Walks, 5 Ks, 14/24 FPS, 62.6% Strikes
I’m still on the fence about Berrios. On one hand, he has great Fastball velocity with good movement and ability to be around the plate when he needs to be. His Changeup presents a good option to pair with his Fastball while his Curveball has the ability to be a plus offering in his backpocket. However, his command needs to take a major step forward for him to be a consistent #1/2 for the Twins and he needs to make better adjustments in game on the hill. There are a few changes in approach that could benefit him, such as focusing on burying Curveballs and keeping his heater deep in the zone (or even consistently keeping his Fastball up in the zone with a Changeup down), though that may take some time to see applied. Keep in mind, this start is just one sample and we’ve seen him look better than we did in this outing. It’s possible that he displays better command moving forward, and it may be a bit of a necessity given the poor locations of a hefty amount of pitches. There is plenty of upside here, it’s simply up in the air if he can harness it soon.
As we always conclude these Breakdowns, I’ll leave you with a pitch that encapsulates the pitcher at hand. Here is a Fastball that Berrios can’t quite command right as he fails to hit his spot down and in to Francisco Lindor: