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Why Berrios’ newest adjustment might unlock his consistency for the Blue Jays

Jose Berrios entered 2022 as a paragon of consistency, however this yr he is been the Toronto Blue Jays‘ most inconsistent starter.

Whereas it is easy to underestimate the quantity of baked-in volatility of even elite gamers’ efficiency, the right-hander’s season has been a rollercoaster by any customary.

Typically that description is a mere cliche. In Berrios’s case, it’s about pretty much as good a metaphor as you may discover — as proven by his five-game rolling ERA (together with his 2021 season offering a strong reference level):

A lot of the excessive spikes are within the upwards path, which figures provided that his season-long ERA sits at 5.07. He is had just a few robust stretches too, although.

The appropriate-hander’s season has included moments of brilliance to associate with the letdowns. As an example, he set his profession excessive in strikeouts on June 4, then matched it on July 12. He was additionally a top-10 starter within the majors by each innings pitched (36) and strikeouts (42) in July. 

Over and over, he is appeared to show the nook with a brand new adjustment, starting from launch level modifications to pitch combine alterations, solely to come back crashing all the way down to earth. In current days, Berrios has begun one more experiment. 

In his two September begins, the 28-year-old has thrown his changeup at a better charge than ever earlier than. In every of these outings he is used it a minimum of 29 p.c of the time — an unprecedented quantity for him that results in a month-by-month utilization chart that appears like this:

The outcomes have been robust (12.1 innings of two.19 ERA ball), however the pattern is much too small to know the way this can pan out. Even so, the speculation behind it’s intriguing.

First off, it is value noting that the pitch is not — in and of itself — a dominant providing. The Berrios changeup has a +3 run worth in his profession, and opponents have hit .241 and slugged .410 off of it. Its motion is lavatory customary each vertically (2% above common) and horizontally (1% above common).

There’s a motive it took this lengthy to strive that includes the pitch. Neither the changeup’s motion, nor the success hitters have had in opposition to it, recommend it ought to headline the 28-year-old’s arsenal.

Regardless of its shortcoming in a vacuum, Berrios’s changeup may very well be extraordinarily helpful within the context of the Opening Day starter’s struggles. 

Maybe his greatest situation is the best way his four-seam fastball has been mashed. Opponents are hitting .357 and slugging .649 off it, and Statcast’s run worth has it pegged because the sixth-worst pitch in baseball. 

It is doable that upping his changeup utilization might make that fastball a greater pitch in a method that his different choices do not. His breaking ball and sinker each have a tonne of horizontal motion that makes them tunnel effectively with one another… 

… however neither is well confused for the vertically-oriented four-seamer on the best way in. The best pitch to pair with that pitch is an enormous 12-6 curve, however the changeup can do the job:

At this level, the pattern of Berrios going heavy on the changeup is simply too small to know whether or not it can have the specified impact on his heater. Opponents are 3-for-7 on that pitch within the final two video games, however will probably be fascinating to see if that modifications if he continues with this method.

Between Mark Buehrle, Marco Estrada and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Blue Jays have had quite a lot of starters see their fastballs carry out much better resulting from heavy changeup utilization. Berrios doesn’t have a changeup to match that trio, however these pitchers are salient examples of how that offspeed pitch can have an effect on the efficiency of a fastball.

Another excuse Berrios could also be tinkering with a extra changeup-focused method is the issue he’s had with left-handed hitters. During the last two seasons, lefties have hit .273/.330/.498 in opposition to the veteran.  

Throughout the identical time span, left-handed batters have hit .232 and slugged .333 in opposition to his changeup, and its whiff charge in opposition to them has hovered between 22 and 30 p.c in yearly of profession. It is probably not as aesthetically pleasing as his breaking ball, however he snaps off a fairly one which falls simply out of attain on occasion.

Over his final two begins he is used this pitch to left-handed hitters 41.6 p.c of the time, and it is labored as they’ve hit .188 off of it with out an extra-base knock. It is a small pattern, nevertheless it’s clearly a brand new plan of assault contemplating he’d by no means used it in opposition to lefties at a charge increased than 27 p.c in another month of his profession.

Proper now what we’re seeing from Berrios is one tweak in a line of many. It’s far too quickly to know whether or not it’ll pan out. 

What we are able to say with confidence is that his latest adjustment takes goal at addressing a few of his greatest weaknesses in a method that is smart.

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