Jose Berrios was expected to put a disappointing 2022 season in the rearview mirror and return to form for the Toronto Blue Jays. His start to the 2023 campaign has been the opposite.
Berrios has been putrid over his first two outings this season. He has allowed 14 runs, 12 earned, on 15 hits and three walks over his 9.2 innings. On the positive side, he has 12 strikeouts, and his walk rate is right in line with his career norms. The problem is that Berrios has also allowed a .949 OPS and a 51.6% hard hit rate thus far in 46 plate appearances.
This would not normally be a reason for that much concern. Pitchers struggle at the beginning part of the season as they are still getting back into shape. However, Berrios had a miserable 5.23 ERA and a 1.419 WHiP over his 172 innings last season, leading the league in hits allowed and earned runs.
What went wrong for Jose Berrios, Toronto Blue Jays?
The biggest problem for Berrios appears to be with his fastball and sinker. As Mike Perriello from MLB.com pointed out on Twitter, Berrios was getting hammered on those pitches in his last outing against the Angels. As most of those offerings found the middle of the plate, no one should be surprised. His slider, on the other hand, was spotted at the bottom of the zone or on the edges. None of his sliders were hit hard when the Angels did make contact with the offering.
That is also apparent in the results so far in 2023. He has allowed a .433 batting average against with his fastball; his sinker has a .320 batting average against. Conversely, his slider has a .219 batting average against. This is something he seems to be aware of as well, as his slider usage has increased while he is limiting the usage of his fourseam fastball.
Those changes may need to increase. Berrios may need to start pitching backwards, using his slider and changeup to set up the fastball and sinker. Both the slider and change have better whiff rates and could be the key to getting him back on track. At this point, it does not hurt to try.
The Toronto Blue Jays need to get Jose Berrios on track. Changing his pitch mix and limiting his fastball usage could be the answer.