Twins starter Berrios piling up K’s

Jose Berrios is racking up strikeouts at a rate not seen in Minnesota in nearly a decade.

The 24-year-old All-Star reached 300 career K’s last week, 18 starts into his third season and 57 starts into his young career.

He’s now the fifth-fastest Twins starter to reach the milestone, tied with Jim Merritt, who spent four seasons with the Twins in the late ’60s.

Dave Boswell, Francisco Liriano, Johan Santana and Bert Blyleven are the only Twins pitchers to get to 300 faster. It took Boswell, Liriano and Santana four seasons to reach 300, while Blyleven reached it in just two.

Twins, fewest starts to 300 K’s in MLB career – Since 1961

*Started career w/ Twins; K’s in starts only

Player Starts Date/Opp.
Dave Boswell 48 06/15/1967 vs. DET
Francisco Liriano 52 07/09/2009 vs. NYY
Johan Santana 54 06/09/2004 vs. NYM
Bert Blyleven 55 08/22/1971 at BAL
Jose Berrios 57 07/04/2018 at MIL
Jim Merritt 57 04/17/1968

Berrios’ performance is part of a larger Twins trend. Minnesota pitchers are averaging 8.92 strikeouts per nine innings this season after averaging just 7.61 a year ago. It’s the fifth-largest such increase of the divisional era.

Largest increase in SO/9 IP – since 1969

Team Years 1st Year 2nd Year Diff.
New York Mets 1983 -> 1984 4.45 6.41 +1.96
Cleveland Indians 2012 -> 2013 6.78 8.61 +1.83
Seattle Mariners 1981 -> 1982 4.31 6.11 +1.80
Arizona Diamondbacks 1889 -> 1999 5.71 7.35 +1.64
Minnesota Twins 2017 -> 2018 7.31 8.92 +1.61

Other notes:

— Twins outfielder Max Kepler, himself a lefty, had a .453 OPS against left-handed pitching a year ago, but has a .900 OPS against southpaws so far this season. It’s the largest such increase for a left-handed batter since 1978.

— The Twins open a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals on Monday night. Third baseman Mike Moustakas leads the Royals in RBI (56), runs (39) extra-base hits (36) and home runs (17). Only four other players are currently leading their respective teams in all four categories.

— Royals catcher Salvador Perez has been extremely productive in Minneapolis over the years. He’s hitting .349 with a .993 OPS in 209 career at-bats at Target Field, both his highest in an American League ballpark.

— Twins first baseman Joe Mauer has swung at the first pitch just 3.3 percent of the time this season. If the season ended today, it would be the second-lowest first-pitch swing percentage on record since the league began tracking the stat in 1988.

Statistics courtesy of STATS