StaTuesday: Going deep in games, Berrios emerges as Twins’ ace

The Minnesota Twins have pitching reinforcements on the way.

Ervin Santana, the Twins’ ace in each of the past two seasons, is on the mend after undergoing finger surgery in February, and should be back in June. Now in his fourth season with Minnesota, Santana finished seventh in Cy Young voting last year, pitched five complete games and was among the rotation’s only bankable assets for much of the season.

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But by the time he gets back, that title of “ace” might belong to third-year starter Jose Berrios.

Long considered the Twins’ next great arm, Berrios’ career has progressed in fits and starts. He was roughed up during his abbreviated rookie season, and never once made it out of the sixth inning.

He improved on those numbers last year, lowering his ERA from 8.02 to a respectable 3.89 and going at least seven innings eight times.

Two months into Year 3, he’s looking less like a starter in training and more like a bona fide ace.

Berrios gave the Twins 7 1/3 innings again his most recent start Sunday — and on his birthday, no less — racking up eight strikeouts and allowing just two earned runs and one walk. That start brought his ERA down to 3.67 through 11 starts, and lowered his WHIP to 0.95, the latter good for seventh in the American League.

And while the Twins haven’t given him much run support recently — four or fewer in each of his last four starts — performances like Sunday’s have become pretty commonplace for Berrios.

Berrios has pitched through the seventh inning in six of his 11 starts this season. Rookie Fernando Romero, who allowed five hits and two earned runs in his most recent start, is the only other Twins pitcher to do so even once this season.

Player Date Opp App, Dec IP H R ER BB SO Pitches
Jose Berrios 5/27/18 SEA GS-8, L 7.1 8 2 2 1 8 106
Fernando Romero 5/25/18 SEA GS-7, L 7 5 2 2 2 7 101
Jose Berrios 5/21/18 DET GS-8, W 8 3 2 2 2 9 107
Jose Berrios 5/15/18 STL GS-8, W 7.1 2 1 1 1 10 102
Jose Berrios 4/18/18 CLE GS-7 7 3 0 0 0 5 84
Jose Berrios 4/12/18 CHW GS-7, W 7 3 0 0 0 11 99
Jose Berrios 4/1/18 BAL SHO, W 9 3 0 0 1 6 107

Unsurprisingly, he’s been lights out in those starts. Berrios has a 0.99 ERA and a 0.59 WHIP in such games, including his shutout of the Baltimore Orioles back on April 1.

He trails the major-league leader, reigning Cy Young-winner Corey Kluber, by two such games, and is one of just five pitchers with more than six starts of 7+ innings.

Player Team 7 IP+ W L GS IP H ER BB SO
Corey Kluber CLE 8 6 1 8 59.2 41 15 7 61
Gerrit Cole HOU 7 3 1 7 51 24 8 11 73
Tanner Roark WSN 6 2 1 6 42 26 10 9 33
Jacob deGrom NYM 6 2 0 6 42.2 30 5 11 59
Jose Berrios MIN 6 4 1 6 45.2 22 5 5 49
Justin Verlander HOU 5 3 0 5 39 17 3 3 50
Chris Sale BOS 5 2 1 5 37.2 25 9 6 52
Aaron Nola PHI 5 5 0 5 36.1 25 7 5 38
Miles Mikolas STL 5 4 0 5 37 26 4 3 30
Sean Manaea OAK 5 4 1 5 38.2 13 3 6 32

He can make it seven Friday, when Berrios and the Twins take on the Cleveland Indians. At this point, Twins fans should probably consider it appointment television.

Statistics courtesy of baseball-reference