Welcome to Week 2 of the GPS Location Report. This is my weekly dive into pitcher location and pitch usage to determine why a given pitcher is succeeding or struggling. Last week I dove into Dylan Bundy and determined that he was using his breaking balls to start at-bats and it was leading to a ton of success. He continued that success again on Tuesday making me look like a genius.
As my Twitter feed and my Tyler Alexander recommendation shows, I am not a genius. I will make mistakes and I will suggest things that end up being wrong but that is all part of the fun. Today, instead of looking at a pitcher who is having a career-best season, I’ll be diving into Jose Berrios who is having one of the worst years of his career.
Berrios has looked like a budding ace in the past few seasons. While he has always had stretches of true dominance mixed with struggles, but he had been a mid-3s ERA pitcher each of the last three seasons. However, the start of his 2020 has been brutal. This season he has posted an ERA just below 6. His hard-hit rate is rising and his K rate has dropped significantly.
The first thing I like to look at when I see massive changes in a performance like this is pitch mix. For Berrios, the main difference this season is a drop in sinker rate being offset but an increase in change-up rate. Overall, this would seem like a positive trend as his sinker has been historically hit harder than his change. So far in 2020, his change-up has been getting crushed. This could be a part of the issues he has been having but the change is still the pitch he uses least often.
The big difference in what I am seeing so far is that his fastball is getting torched. So far he has allowed a wOBA of 0.571 and an xwOBA of 0.522 according to Statcast. The average Exit Velocity on his Fastball is 96 MPH. Plain and simple, the pitch is just getting destroyed. This led me to consider that his ability to locate the fastball has regressed. Below I have included the location chart for his fastballs on top of expected wOBA.
Quite simply as you can see, his fastball location has been brutal. Especially early in the count, he has been leaving his fastball over the heart of the plate. However, the issues do not appear to be limited to solely the first pitch of at-bats. Many of his fastballs are being left over the heart of the plate. This seems to support the destruction currently being done on his fastball.
I decided to query the expected data and compared Berrios’s fastballs to all other pitchers. Among the 80 pitchers who have thrown at least 150 Fastballs, Berrios ranks 18th in location-based expected woba on the fastball. This may not seem terrible, but it also includes his sinker which has been fairly successful in 2020 so far. However, the issue is that while his fastball has a high expected woba, it also has an extremely low expected Whiff rate. Among the same sample of pitchers, his xWhiff is 11th lowest. The critical thing to note here is that among the ten pitchers ahead of him, Berrios has the highest expected woba. So based on where he is locating his fastball, he is not expected to generate many whiffs, and when contact is made the expected woba is extremely high. This is an extremely dangerous proposition for a pitcher and this could explain why he has been struggling so much to begin the season. When Berrios next takes the mound keep a close eye on his fastball location.
Stuff ERA Leaders
All stats are updated as of Sunday, August 16th.
|Min 200 Pitches|