Let’s play a game! I’m going to show you the stats for the age-23,-24, and -25 seasons of four current or former Twins starting pitchers. Try to figure out who they are (or just scroll down if you hate fun)!
Age 23 Season: 11-16 W-L, 4.46 ERA, 232.0 IP, 147 K, 57 BB
Age 24 Season: 20-10 W-L, 3.87 ERA, 239.2 IP, 174 K, 48 BB
Age 25 Season: 12-14 W-L, 4.30 ERA, 213.2 IP, 146 K, 43 BB
Age 23 Season: 7-15 W-L, 5.49 ERA, 210.0 IP, 127 K, 92 BB
Age 24 Season: 18-12 W-L, 3.21 ERA, 257.2 IP, 149 K, 73 BB
Age 25 Season: 18-14 W-L, 4.09 ERA, 250.2 IP, 135 K, 68 BB
Age 23 Season: 14-8 W-L, 3.89 ERA, 145.2 IP, 139 K, 48 BB
Age 24 Season: 12-11 W-L, 3.84 ERA, 192.1 IP, 202 K, 61 BB
Age 25 Season: 7-2 W-L, 3.27 ERA, 77.0 IP, 72 K, 14 BB
Age 23 Season: 8-6 W-L, 2.99 ERA, 108.1 IP, 137 K, 49 BB
Age 24 Season: 12-3 W-L, 3.07 ERA, 158.1 IP, 169 K, 47 BB
Age 25 Season: 20-6 W-L, 2.61 ERA, 228.0 IP, 265 K, 54 BB
Got your guesses? Good! As you probably guessed, one of these pitchers is, in fact, Jose Berrios. He is Player C, as you would have deduced based on the low innings count (he’s in the midst of his Age-25 season). Here are the rest:
Player A: Brad Radke
Player B: Frank Viola
Player D: Johan Santana
Clearly, Johan Santana was the best young pitcher of this group. His Age-25 Season earned him his first Cy Young, and was an absolute tour de force. However, Brad Radke and Frank Viola are Twins legends in their own right. So compare their early-career stats with La Makina’s one more time. They both had great Age-24 Seasons, but both regressed the next year. Jose Berrios’ stats suggest that he has better swing-and-miss stuff than either of the two, and better control than Viola. His innings counts aren’t as high, but that is partially due to the shift in pitching philosophy over the past twenty years. Young pitchers are handled much more carefully now. Another era-based factor Berrios has in his favor is that he is pitching in the golden age of offenses. More home runs are being hit now than at any other period in baseball history (Radke did pitch in a lesser version of this, the rampant steroid-use late nineties).
Any way you look at it, the Twins have a young ace on their hands. Paired with Good Gibby, a resurgent Odorizzi, and an out-of-nowhere Martin Perez, the starting rotation, which looked like it could be a weakness going into the year, has actually been a strength of the team. The offense is rightfully getting lots of attention, but don’t ignore the excellent pitching performances that the Twins are churning out.