Both Shane Bieber and Jose Berrios have struggled to generate groundballs this season, and while both were highly regarded entering the season just about everyone would’ve ranked Berrios ahead. Now that we have roughly one-third of the season as extra data is that still the case? Let’s take a quick look at each and draw a conclusion:
2019 Statistics – 83.0 IP, 3.14 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 8.46 K/9, 1.63 BB/9, 41.0% GB%
Berrios has been showing better control than he did a year ago (he had a 2.85 BB/9 over 192.1 IP), though it’s come at the expense of his strikeout rate. His SwStr% has dropped slightly (11.2% to 10.4%), as has his velocity (93.2 mph to 92.6). That could be due to a drop in usage of both of his fastballs (31.48% fourseam, 22.73% sinker), instead increasing the usage of his changeup (14.1%).
It’s fair to wonder if he can even maintain this type of strikeout stuff, considering these Whiff%:
- Fourseam – 10.35%
- Sinker – 8.30%
- Changeup – 13.82%
- Curveball – 12.04%
Where is the key swing and miss stuff? How about the fact that he entered yesterday with a BABIP of .299 or higher against all of his pitches, with the exception of his fourseam fastball (.271)? With that being the most used pitch, even with a solid 34.6% Hard% and a sudden boost in groundballs (10 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls on Thursday), there is going to be concerns. The fact that the home runs could also regress, even just a little bit (1.19 HR/9), and there could be more downside than upside the rest of the way.
2019 Statistics – 75.2 IP, 3.57 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 10.94 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 39.7% GB%
Bieber has proven to be an elite control artist, with a career 1.94 BB/9 over 190.1 IP. He’s coupled that with even better swing and miss stuff, courtesy of a 14.3% SwStr% and 34.8% O-Swing%, to put together solid marks across the board.
He has increased the usage of his slider, going from 22.70% to 28.55% this season. That’s proven to be a swing and miss pitch (Whiff% of 26.41% and 23.24%), and also a pitch that’s extremely hard to hit (.224 BAA). It makes sense that he’d want to use it more, and it’s easy to argue that the strikeout rate is the better of the two.
So why does Bieber own a worse ERA? He’s had significantly more home run issues, with a 1.78 HR/9. He showed a much better groundball rate last season (46.6%), and that does give a sense of hope. If he can cut the home runs down towards Berrios’ the overall results would be spectacular, though we also have to deal with an elevated Hard% (43.1% over his MLB career, including a 41.8% mark this season).
There’s concern but also tremendous upside, making Bieber a highly intriguing option.
So who is the best option of the two? They both carry a fair share of risk, though it’s easy to argue there’s a bit more in Berrios (who could see both his walks and home runs regress). That doesn’t mean Bieber is a guarantee, but if he can correct the groundballs that will reduce the home runs (even with the bloated Hard%) and even further improve the overall appeal. At the end of the day we’d want to own both, but it’s surprisingly easy to argue Bieber’s upside may actually be slightly better over the rest of 2019.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball