José Berríos is starting to get things going for the Blue Jays
Photo credit:Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
3 months ago
After a disappointing 2022 campaign, right-hander José Berríos was looking to bounce back this season in the second year of his long-term deal that he signed during the 2020/2021 offseason worth $131 million over seven seasons, with an opt-out after the 2026 campaign.
While Berríos has been a consistent arm since his debut in 2016, last season saw the Puerto Rican product amass a 5.23 ERA through 32 outings, the highest amongst qualified arms and posting a 7.8 K/9, the lowest career total since 2016. He allowed an AL-leading 199 hits and 100 earned runs through 172 innings of work and while he had 16 games where he allowed two runs or fewer, he also allowed five or more through nine games, struggling to find consistency on the mound throughout the season.
Relegated to the fourth spot in the rotation a year after being the Jays Opening Day starter, Berríos made his 2023 debut against the Kansas City Royals. He struggled at Kauffman Stadium, allowing eight earned runs through 5 2/3 with nine hits and two walks on the ledger compared to seven strikeouts. The right-hander followed this outing with six hit performance against the Los Angeles Angels, allowing four earned runs through 4 innings while allowing his first home run on the season.
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Blue Jays Starter José Berríos Starting to Find a Groove
Through his first two games on the season, Berríos was not pitching well for the Blue Jays, giving fans doubt that he could return to the same form that they experienced in the latter half of the 2021 campaign, the one that helped Berríos earn the contract extension from the front office.
That changed in his third start however, as Berríos allowed just four hits and one run against the Tampa Bay Rays, helping the Jays win 6-3 against their division rivals. He earned the save only going five innings through 77 pitches and his next two starts to finish out the month followed suit, going 14 combined innings and allowing just two earned runs, two walks, and 12 strikeouts. His first two starts didn’t help the overall stat line but to finish out the month strong, Berríos saw his ERA drop to 4.71 while limiting batters to a .239 average and a .609 OPS.
His first start in May against the Red Sox wasn’t as clean, seeing the former Twins starter get tagged for five earned runs off 11 hits and two home runs but since that May 1st outing, Berríos has looked really locked in on the mound.
Making starts against Pittsburgh, Atlanta, New York, and Tampa yesterday, Berríos has allowed just eight runs through 25 2/3, posting a 2.81 ERA while throwing to a 65% strike rate and limiting batters to a .261 BAbip, which is impressive given the lineups he has faced through this span. He did allow 22 hits and at least one home run in each contest but limited the damage while going at least 5 2/3 in each start, with Berríos now sitting in the 80th percentile in HardHit% with a 77th percentile BB% and a 68th percentile chase rate.
Interestingly enough, his FIP was 4.56 through this stretch, attributed to the home runs he allowed while also hitting two batters. Through ten starts on the season, Berríos has pitched to a 4.22 ERA, which currently ranks third in the Jays rotation behind Chris Bassitt and Kevin Gausman. His 57 strikeouts rank second on the squad behind only Gausman (81, which leads the AL) while his 59 hits lead the team, with Kikuchi and Bassitt both sitting at 57 apiece.
Overall, the latest results for Berríos on the mound are a step in the right direction, which is good to see considering he did so against tough opponents with power and depth throughout the lineup while having increased control on his offerings, generating groundballs at a 48% clip and an average exit velocity at 87.8 MPH. With 1/3 of the season under wraps, the Jays will need Berríos to keep pitching like he is and find consistency on the mound to help the club contend for a postseason spot in a tough AL East division.
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