Wednesday, June 5

José Berríos Is Horrible. Or Nice. It Will depend on How You’re Counting.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

José Berríos has gotten shelled this yr. Through 5 begins, he’s allowed 17 runs, 15 of them earned, good for a 4.71 ERA. Per our calculation of RA9-WAR, meaning Berríos has been virtually precisely substitute degree, value 0.1 wins above substitute to this point this season. That follows final yr’s debacle, when he was value 0.2 wins under substitute by the identical calculation. For a man the Jays noticed as their long-term ace a number of years in the past, it’s been a precipitous fall.

José Berríos has been lights out this yr. He’s placing out 26.1% of his opponents and strolling solely 4.3%. That 21.7% hole between strikeout and stroll charges is fifteenth amongst starters this yr, simply forward of Gerrit Cole, who you’ve perhaps heard of. It’s not simply strikeouts and walks, both: Berríos has allowed solely a single house run all yr. He sports a 2.32 FIP. By our calculation of FIP-based WAR, he’s the eighth-best starter in baseball this season, only a hair behind Shohei Ohtani.

That hole between ERA and FIP is, to place it mildly, excessive. It’s the second-largest hole in baseball behind Nathan Eovaldi, who’s permitting a .413 BABIP to this point this yr – oof. What offers with Berríos? Let’s examine and see which facet feels extra like the reality.

The first place I prefer to look when somebody is placing up numbers this bifurcated is BABIP, however Berríos is operating an affordable .321 BABIP towards. That’s excessive however not obscene, actually not sufficient to drive a 2.5-point wedge between his ERA and FIP. The subsequent place I prefer to look is high quality of contact, as a result of should you’re simply giving up screaming missiles left and proper, there are in all probability extra doubles and triples towards you than common. That typically, however not all the time, results in the next BABIP, but it surely by no means hurts to double verify.

Strangely, it doesn’t appear like Berríos has had a lot of an issue with contact high quality. He’s surrendering barrels (tremendous hard-hit balls within the air) on 7.6% of opposing batted balls, a lot decrease than final yr and in addition decrease than league common. He’s additionally conserving opposing hitters on the bottom extra typically, with a career-high 49.4% groundball charge. That’s distinctive, and nice for somebody with Berríos’s ability set (learn: limiting walks). Nothing to see right here.

Okay, subsequent query: Has the standard or mixture of his pitches modified? He nonetheless throws his common four-seam/sinker/curveball/changeup combine, so we’ll have to have a look at each individually. First, the four-seamer:

Four-Seam Fastball Yearly Metrics

Year Velo (mph) H-Mov (in) V-Mov (in) Zone% SwStr% pVal/100
2021 94.1 -6.6 8.4 60.8% 8.3% -0.4
2022 94.0 -6.9 8.4 62.7% 8.2% -2.3
2023 93.9 -6.1 9.2 68.0% 9.0% 1.3

Huh – his four-seamer appears higher this yr. He’s getting extra vertical motion on it, which lets him throw it within the zone extra typically and garner extra swinging strikes. Stuff+ thinks his fastball high quality is usually unchanged, for what it’s value, and PitchingBot’s stuff metric thinks it’s barely higher than final yr. Regardless of what you are taking from these, it’s clear that his fastball, which is both league common or barely higher when taking stuff and placement into consideration, isn’t the primary reason for his woes.

The sinker is comparable:

Sinker Yearly Metrics

Year Velo (mph) H-Mov (in) V-Mov (in) Zone% SwStr% pVal/100
2021 93.8 -10.1 6.7 56.8% 6.4% 1.6
2022 93.9 -10.3 6.2 63.2% 4.3% 0.2
2023 93.7 -10.1 7.2 60.6% 4.6% 2.1

The pitch is principally what it’s all the time been, a worm-burner. It’s operating a daft 60% groundball charge to this point this yr, which doubtless received’t proceed, but it surely’s not lacking many bats. That’s what Berríos’s sinker has all the time been; each stuff fashions concur on that time.

Curveball? Nope, not the wrongdoer:

Curveball Yearly Metrics

Year Velo (mph) H-Mov (in) V-Mov (in) Zone% SwStr% pVal/100
2021 93.8 -10.1 6.7 56.8% 6.4% 1.6
2022 93.9 -10.3 6.2 63.2% 4.3% 0.2
2023 93.7 -10.1 7.2 60.6% 4.6% 2.1

I actually like what he’s doing with the curveball, throwing it out of the zone extra continuously to induce chases. Stop me should you’ve heard this earlier than: each stuff fashions assume that the pitch is about nearly as good because it’s been for years, and his finest providing total.

Finally, we come to the changeup. Surely, we’ll discover the answer right here, proper? Well, perhaps:

Changeup Yearly Metrics

Year Velo (mph) H-Mov (in) V-Mov (in) Zone% SwStr% pVal/100
2021 84.8 -8.8 2.7 30.8% 12.2% 1.1
2022 84.6 -9.0 2.7 29.2% 12.2% -1.2
2023 82.7 -9.0 2.6 36.9% 24.6% -1.0

I’m frankly at a loss. He’s throwing his changeup slower, however velocity isn’t fairly as a lot of an absolute good with regards to changeups. He’s lacking a ton of bats, however giving up extra injury on contact, therefore the middling pitch worth per 100 pitches. And these darn pitching fashions aren’t any assist. Stuff+ thinks the pitch is a lot higher this yr because of the declining velocity, whereas PitchingBot charges it as roughly unchanged.

If you thought there was one thing bizarre about these numbers, you’re getting at Berríos’s greatest downside to this point this yr. Three of his 4 pitches are above common, and by greater than his least-used pitch, the changeup, is under common. That’s not in some summary stuff grade – that’s in outcomes. As far as pitch values are involved, a single is a single is a single; there’s no accounting for league common BABIP, no smoothing, none of that nonsense.

That’s as a result of Berríos has been above common with regards to the batting line he permits opposing hitters. Opponents are hitting .239/.278/.330 towards him this yr, good for a .271 wOBA. That’s principally Martín Maldonado’s profession line, and a pitcher who may flip the opposition right into a squad stuffed with Martín Maldanados is what each workforce in baseball is hoping for. What the heck is happening?

Here’s one other cut up for you:

Results by Base State, 2023

No Runners On .217 .277 .283 .273
Runners On .265 .280 .388 .382
RISP .333 .360 .542 .471

Uhh… yeah, that appears dangerous. That’s how you find yourself letting greater than half the runners who attain base towards you rating. Berríos’ 49% left-on-base charge is the bottom of his profession by greater than 20 share factors (excluding his partial 2016 debut season). The main league common is 71.5%. When there are runners in scoring place, opposing hitters flip from Maldonado into Vladimir Guerrero Jr. however with extra energy. In two phrases: not nice.

I checked out every particular person pitch to see if Berríos is doing one thing completely different when runners are on base – maybe letting the second get to him and over-throwing or one thing of that nature. It’s there, should you’re prepared to look actually intently; his sinker is getting about an inch much less sink and he’s throwing his changeup practically two ticks tougher, reverting to the outdated form. Neither of these two are nice, however they’re not sufficient to account for the comically massive distinction in outcomes.

I continued in search of comparable issues and continued to probably not discover something. Berríos throws extra sinkers with runners on base, which usually is sensible; he needs to induce grounders. He additionally throws extra curves, in search of non-contact outs. This all looks as if strong technique to me. I watched a number of movies of his mechanics and didn’t see a lot amiss, although that’s admittedly not my space of experience.

I did discover one factor, although. Berríos has a little bit of an inclination that sensible groups could be choosing up on. He throws a ton of first-pitch curveballs with runners on base, greater than half of his first pitches with runners on base this season. In complete, he’s thrown extra 0-0 curveballs with runners on than with the bases empty, regardless of dealing with extra batters with nobody on base. Opposing hitters appear to be sitting on it, and so they’ve completely tattooed the pitch. They’ve taken eight completely monster hacks and been rewarded with three 100-plus-mph batted balls for his or her hassle. This is an out, but it surely’s not the type of out you need to depend on recording:

Knowing what your opponent could be throwing is an enormous benefit. But it’s not that large of a bonus; per Statcast, the 26 first-pitch curves that Berríos has thrown with runners on base have price him 0.8 runs relative to common to this point this yr. That doesn’t clarify his large discrepancy between outcomes relying on whether or not somebody’s on base.

This is an unsatisfying reply, however I believe that a variety of Berríos’s dangerous fortune has simply been that – luck. I’m not an enormous fan of his predictable pitch combine to begin out at-bats when there are runners on base, and I hope he switches that up, however that’s small potatoes. He’s not throwing extra meatballs, although, or hitting the perimeters much less continuously. His swinging strike charge is larger with runners on, not decrease. Opponents are simply walloping the ball. Or, nicely, type of… he’s really allowed a decrease xwOBA with runners in scoring place than with the bases empty. He’s simply massively underperforming that quantity – a .471 BABIP isn’t earned, to say the least.

So, is José Berríos nice or horrible? I believe he’s someplace within the center. He in all probability received’t proceed to put up such a wonderful FIP – if nothing else, his house run luck is certain to alter. But he in all probability received’t preserve being victimized with runners on base with practically the identical frequency that he has within the early going. To me, he appears like an above-average starter, only one having a nightmarish time every time a runner reaches.

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