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The Season That Was: José Berríos

A look at José Berríos 2023 season

Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game Two Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

José Berríos came to us in a deadline trade in 2021.

Top prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson went to the Twins. Both were top prospects. If you are interested:

  • Martin played 59 games for the Twins’ Triple-A team, hitting .263/.387/.405 with 6 home runs, 16 steals (4 caught), 36 walks and 43 strikeouts. He missed time with an elbow issue.
  • Woods Richardson pitched in 24 games, 22 starts in Triple-A, with a 4.91 ERA, with 61 walks and 96 strikeouts in 113.2 innings. He also had 4.2 innings with the major league team.

Berrios was very good down the stretch for the Jays in 2021, and the Jays signed him to a 7-year, $131 million contract after the season.

The first season of the new contract did not go well, Berríos had a 5.23 ERA in 32 starts and we thought that the contract was quite possibly a mistake.

This season went much better:

Standard Pitching
29 11 12 3.65 32 32 189.2 173 82 77 25 52 3 184 9 1 4 782 116 3.99
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/15/2023.

Baseball Reference has him at a 2.4 WAR. Fangraphs at 3.0 giving him a value of $23.7 million to the Blue Jays.

José had a 3.99 FIP and 4.01 xFIP.

He had a .289 BABIP (down from.328 last year). 76.4% of the baserunners he allowed were stranded (up from 70.9% from last year).

Batters had a 21.3% line drive rate (slightly up from 20.0% last year) against José. His ground ball rate was 41.6% (slightly up from 40.3). And the flyball rate was 37.1% (down from 39.7). 12.6% of his fly balls left the park (down from 13.5%).

His strikeout rate bounced back from a career low of 19.8% last year, to a slightly above career average of 23.5%. His walk rate was up a tiny bit (6.6% from 6.0).

José’s soft contact rate was slightly lower(15.1% from 15.9). Hard contact was slightly up (31.1% from 30.7%).

As you know left-handed hitters (.262/.324/.450) hit him better than right-handers (.220/.275/.341).

José was better at home (3.30 ERA, batters hit .239/.294/.391) than on the road (3.97, batters hit .243/.306/.404).

He was slightly better in the first half (3.50, .233/.294/.382) than in the season half (3.86, .252/.308/.417).

Berríos by month:

  • April: 5 starts, 2-3, 4.61. Batters hit .239/.278/.330.
  • May: 6 starts, 3-1, 3.19. Batters hit .266/.342/.453.
  • June: 6 starts, 3-2, 3.53. Batters hit .224/.286/.403.
  • July: 5 starts, 0-1, 1.84. Batters hit .221/.311/.289.
  • August: 5 starts, 1-3, 5.53. Batters hit .274/.317/.496.
  • September: 5 starts, 2-2, 3.41. Batters hit .220/.258/.390.

That July, 6 starts, an ERA under 2 and no wins.

The Jays were 17-15 in his starts, last year, when he was terrible, the Jays were 23-7 in his starts. This year they averaged 4.22 runs per game in his starts, last year they averaged 5.74 runs per game in his starts. They scored 3 or fewer in 16 of the starts. 2 or fewer in 10 games.

Days of rest:

  • 4 days, 13 starts: 3.52 ERA, batters hit .223/.308/.392.
  • 5 days, 15 starts: 3.57 ERA, batters hit .242/281/.405.
  • 6 or more days: 4 starts, 4.43 ERA, batters hit .267/.244/.384.

I like seeing pitches that do well on normal rest. I’ve been worried teams are going to start going to a 6-man rotation because they think pitchers do better on extra rest.

By Catcher:

  • Kirk: 18 starts, 3.34 ERA, batters hit .217/.279/.354.
  • Jansen: 14 starts, 4.06 ERA, batters hit .271/.236/.452. ERA

Times through the order:

  • 1st: Batters hit .219/.316/.431.
  • 2nd: Batters hit .173/.224/279.
  • 3rd: Batters hit .262/.317/.423.
  • He didn’t face a batter a fourth time.

José did great with RISP, holding batters to a .213/.261/.355 line.

His best start, by GameScore was July 6th, at Chicago, going 7 innings, allowing 1 hit, 1 walk with 6 strikeouts against the White Sox.

The worst start was a 24 GameScore, April 3rd (his first start of the season), going 5.2 innings, allowing 9 hits, 8 earned, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts in Kansas City.

José averaged 5.9 innings per start.

Before the season, we asked:

  • If the over/under on José Berríos’ ERA is 4.30, I’d take the....80% of us were right picking the under.
  • If the over/under Berríos’ innings pitched is 175, I’d take the.....63% of us were right taking the over.
  • Who gets more wins this year? Berrios or Woods Richardson. 94% of us were right, betting on José.

Baseball is weird. Last year José wasn’t good, and we won 23 of his starts. This year, he was good, and we won 17.

Why was this year better? His strikeout rate was much better, which was a lot of the difference, but his BABIP was much better this year, even though there wasn’t all that much difference in hard contact. That was about all the difference. He wasn’t throwing the ball harder, and spin rates were similar.

The game two start seemed to be going very well, and then he was out of the game. I’m a big fan of staying with a pitcher doing well. I get the idea was that Berrios doesn’t do great against LHP and that the Jays were looking for the Twins to put in some of their right-handed bats to make life easier on our high-leverage right-handed relievers, but I wouldn’t have pulled him after just one walk.

People see these things and go off the deep end. I saw so many people say, ‘No free agent will want to sign with the Jays now’. No, free agents like to sign with teams who are likely to make the playoffs and are willing to pay them.

And I saw people say, ‘Jose will be asking for a trade’. Again, I doubt it. Berrios is making a ton of money. He might not have been happy to come out, but I doubt it changed his feelings about the team.

Course, whether the move was good or bad when you don’t score, it doesn’t matter.

José has I've years left on his contract (though he can opt out after the 2026 season).

Next year will be his age-30 season. He did a lot of pitching in his 20s, 1213.1 major league innings. Sometimes pitchers who throw a lot of innings before 30 don’t age well, but I’m expecting 2024 will be more like his 2023 season than his 2022 season. Of course, by 2028, when he is in the last year of his contract, it is anybody’s guess how good he will be.

Ignoring 2022 and his rookie year, he’s been consistent with ERA+, ranging from 108 to 125. If we get five more years like that we’ll be happy.


For his 2023 season, I’d grade José Berríos an

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