….sweeter the juice? Well, Jose Berrios got bludgeoned so much last season that the outside was bruised to a purple haze, which would mean that the pulp inside was squishy and juicy. Was it sweet, though? Let’s ask those who selected him with the 76th overall pick on average in NFBC drafts last season:
Jose Berrios pitched 172 innings and posted a paltry 7.8 K/9, allowed a robust 1.52 HR/9 and ended with a vomit-inducing 5.23 ERA, although the FIP was “only” 4.55. Let’s dig in to see if he’s trash or treasure.
The first thing I looked for was injury and/or loss of velocity. The fastball averaged 94 mph last season, in line with his career marks. There were no significant injuries last season. He just sucked! What a relief!
The BABIP of .328 was the highest since his rookie season. In the five other seasons, the BABIP was below .300. The strand rate was 70.9%, the lowest since 2017, so there was some bad luck but the 7.8 K/9 and 4.55 FIP, the highest since his rookie season, scream that it was more than just misfortune.
Let’s bring out the shovel. No, not to dig a grave but to try and unearth the grandest mystery of mysteries.
The batted ball data shows that the ground ball rate decreased from last season while the fly ball rate spiked. The HR/FB rate also increased. Batters actually pulled the ball less and went oppo more. The hard-hit rate actually went down. Hmmmm.
The pitch type data via Baseball Savant shows that the curveball usage remained at 30% but the sinker usage decreased by 4 percent. The fastball usage went up a percent while the changeup was thrown 2 percent more.
I like to look at the plate discipline numbers, and the chase rate was the same at 34% while the swinging strike rate dipped slighty from 9.9% to 9.3%. Batters were more aggressive, swinging at more pitches and making more contact. The called strike rate went from 29% to 27.7%.
I don’t really know how to interpret these numbers. My initial thought is that the stuff seems fine but that batters are being patient and pouncing when they get their pitch.
A stat that jumped out to me was that Berrios actually threw the fewest percentage of meatballs (6.5%) last season, but batters swung at those pitches at a career-high rate (74.4%). For context, last season, he threw 7.9% meatballs and batters swung 68% of the time while two years ago, he threw 6.9% meatballs but batters only swung 64.5% of the time.
So, I went to the Statcast Zone Charts to see if anything discernible was shown.
The percentage of pitches for each zone was similar. When I look at strikeout and whiff percentages, though, there are stark differences from last season. Berrios was able to get a ton of strikeouts in the lower part of the zone, but those dropped precipitously last season.
Looking at the ISO zones:
Batters were absolutely crushing pitches up in the zone last season, which would provide some explanation for why the fastball was getting hammered last season. Batters likely had their radars attuned to that zone as if there were Chinese spy balloons, then teeing off. As mentioned earlier, Berrios threw his fastball more last season than the year before. Maybe if he threw the curveball more to play off the high fastball, that could disrupt rhythm for batters and cause indecision. I’m just spitballing here but Berrios’s issues seem like a pitch sequence thing, rather than a stuff or skill thing.
Whether he figures it out remains to be seen, but if some dude writing from his mom’s basement can see this, then I have a not-so-sneaky suspicion that a multi-billion dollar organization has already been working on the solution.
Jose Berrios has such a long track record of success and I don’t think his skills have degraded. Over the past four seasons, his ADP was 76, 83, 82, and 70. This season? He’s being drafted as the 227th overall pitcher. The risk/reward ratio seems very favorable to me.