ALDS Game 1 Notes

The Minnesota Twins will send José Berríos to the hill against the New York Yankees in Game 1 tonight. Here are some notes on the Twins twenty-five year old right-hander.

Berríos doesn’t strike a lot of hitters out with a 23.2% strikeout rate, but he has good control (6.1% walk rate) and keeps the ball on the ground more often than not.

GB%LD%FB%PU%
42.9%24.0%25.2%7.8%

He probably hasn’t been as good as his 3.68 ERA looks. His low walk rate and ability to keep the ball in the ballpark put his FIP at 3.85, but his SIERA is 4.28, his DRA is 4.44, and his DRA- is 91 (rating him 9% above average in 2019).

According to Baseball Savant, Berríos uses a four-pitch repertoire: four-seam fastball (31.1%); curveball (28.9%); two-seam fastball (24.1%); and changeup (15.9%).

Against righties, he uses the curve (34.7%) and two-seamer (29.0%) more often, shelving the four-seamer (25.9%) and changeup (10.3%) somewhat. According to Brooks Baseball, when ahead in the count against righties, Berrios goes to the curve 39% of the time, and that remains the case with two-strikes. Righties still have to protect against Berríos’ two fastballs, which he uses about 50% of the time in both cases, mixing in the occasional change at a 10% clip. When righties are ahead, the Twins righty goes to his sinker 43% of the time, the most frequently he uses any pitch in any scenario, which might allow the Yankees righty-heavy lineup to hunt sinkers if Berríos gets behind. It won’t be as easy as it sounds as Berríos does a great job of locating his sinker low and in to right-handed hitters.

Left-handed batters see a heavier dose of four-seamers (36.3%) and a greater variety of Berríos’ secondary offerings, with the deuce and changeup being used almost evenly (23.1% to 21.2%) and the two-seamer not far behind at 19.4%. When Berríos is ahead on lefties, he goes to the four-seamer 44% of the time, and it’s also his most often-used pitch against them with two strikes at 41%. When ahead in the count, Yankees lefties will likely be looking for either of Berríos’ fastballs, which both get used around 30% of the time. Given their locations, lefties might be best-served preying on the four-seamer over the sinker.

The four-seamer also surrenders 45.8% fly balls compared to just 25.2% for the two-seamer. Trying to get the four-seamer in the air to right field feels like the right approach for lefties in Yankee Stadium.

Metric4-SeamCurve2-SeamChange
xwOBA.299.287.328.295
Whiff%24.3%29.0%12.8%29.0%
Avg. Velocity93.1 mph81.2 mph92.1 mph82.5 mph
Rise/Drop Above Avg.-0.8 in.-5.1 in.-0.2 in.2.9 in.
Hor. Break Above Avg.2.0 in.7.0 in.1.3 in.0.3 in.
Spin Rate2193 rpm2334 rpm2109 rpm1705 rpm

No one of Berríos’ pitches really stands out. Without a dominant offering to lean on, Berríos does a really good job of forcing hitters to constantly be aware of his whole arsenal, which you can see in the pitch mix outlined above. Other than the changeup, which gets about 9% greater drop than average, Berríos’ pitches don’t get much vertical movement compared to average. His game appears to be more about moving the ball in and out on hitters. His curveball gets 10% less drop than average, but 70% more glove-side break than the average curveball. His four-seamer gets 26% more arm-side run than average, and his two-seamer gets 9% more. Here’s what the four pitches look like.

Four-Seamer
Curveball
Two-Seamer
Changeup

In 2019, Berríos’ splits against righties and lefties were pretty even: a 3.80 FIP against lefties and 3.91 against righties. In his career, he’s been more successful against righties (3.86 FIP vs. righties to 4.34 vs. lefties) but only because his walk rate has historically been higher against lefties (9.7% vs. 5.6%). Berríos’ effectiveness against lefties likely lies in the strong tunneling effect of his four-seamer and curve to those digging into the left-handed batter’s box. The four-seamer and change also tunnel well together, but they vary at release by about 3.5 inches on average, which could give the Yankees hitters something to look for when trying to differentiate between the fastball and change.

With Paxton on the hill, the Twins will probably start Mitch Garver, the right-handed hitting half of their brilliant catcher platoon. Baseball Savant rates Garver above average at framing strikes on the middle edge of the plate near the right-handed batter’s box (63.9% of pitches called strikes), the middle edge of the plate near the left-handed batter’s box (63.8%), and in the middle of the plate at the bottom of the zone (57.8%). Garver’s framing ability in those specific locations could allow Berríos to steal some called strikes with his curveball (middle down), two-seamer (middle edges), and changeup (middle down). Garver’s a good amount below average at all four corners of the strike zone and slightly below at the top of the zone, so the Twins will be hoping for swings and misses on curveballs located near the corners of the strike zone and four-seamers at the top.

The righty hurler saw his average fastball velocities dip from July 31st to August 29th, but he appears to have bounced back since the start of September.

His rough second half was more bad luck than anything else. Despite having a 3.00 ERA in the first half and a 4.64 in the second, his FIPs were almost identical: 3.85 to 3.86. His left-on-base percentage and BABIP in the second half were to blame for the ERA spike. His LOB% decreased from 78.3% to 68.2%, and his BABIP increased from .276 to .333. He both struck out (25.2% to 21.6%) and walked (7.8% to 4.8%) more hitters in the second half, so the Yankees may look to be a little more patient than they otherwise would be, especially in a hostile playoff atmosphere for Berríos.

José Berríos is a solid pitcher who keeps hitters on their toes with an evenly distributed pitch mix. He keeps the ball on the ground and doesn’t give out many free passes, but he gives up a good amount of contact. For a lineup packed with high exit velocity hitters in a ballpark that has played small historically, the Yankees should feel good about that slightly above average contact rate going into Game 1.

ALDS Roster Note: The Yankees opted for Tyler Lyons over Stephen Tarpley for their lefty specialist role. In his 8.2 innings pitched with the Yankees in 2019, Lyons struck out 35.3% of hitters and walked only 5.9%. In his career, he’s been much more successful against righties than Tarpley (4.25 FIP vs. 7.12), which is likely why he got the roster spot. He’s not as dominant against lefties (3.64 FIP vs. Tarpley’s 2.28), but the Twins roster is highly platoonable, and their lineup will likely be structured to make it difficult for a pitcher to face two lefties in a row.

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