Minnesota Twins: Pitching Changes Already Paying Dividends

Kenta Maeda of the Minnesota Twins pitches the ball against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Kenta Maeda of the Minnesota Twins pitches the ball against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

With the greater use of analytics and the arrival of Wes Johnson as pitching coach, several Minnesota Twins pitchers have either changed the mechanics of how they throw certain pitches, or have developed a new pitch to augment their repertoire.

There also have been some instances where Johnson has advised players to throw their best stuff more often and decrease the use of some secondary pitches. This was the case with Matt Wisler and Tyler Duffey in 2020.

While Johnson has put a greater on simplifying routines, three Twins pitchers this year have either changed their throwing mechanics or have added a new pitch. Jose Berrios has changed the mechanics of how he throws his fastball, and Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak added new pitches.

All of these pitching changes have been helpful for the Minnesota Twins, but we’ll take a deeper look.

Berrios’ story actually goes back to last year. Late in the year, he altered the arm angle on his fastball, raising it to a more overhand slot. The high release point led to higher spin rates and more rise on the ball.

In addition to changing the angle on his fastball, he also started throwing from the third base side of the rubber which has caused a significant spike in his number of strikes thrown per game. Then this spring, Johnson worked with Berrios to realign his delivery in more of a straight line to home plate.

This has led to increased velocity and better command of his fastball. The changes that were made seem to be working, judging by his first two starts in 2021 that have seen him strike out twenty in 11.2 innings.

Kenta Maeda was nothing short of phenomenal in his first season with the Minnesota Twins. Maeda went 6-1 with 80 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings with a lights-out WHIP of .750. For an encore, he decided to add another pitch to his arsenal, working on a curveball which he had only used intermittently in the past.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of this pitch because Maeda has only thrown 3 curveballs so far this season in 10 1/3 innings. We will have to keep an eye on this as the season progresses, and hopefully

Lastly, Randy Dobnak started throwing his slider differently this spring. The Minnesota Twins research and development department determined that his sinker would work well with his slider if he could add more break to the latter pitch. So, he altered his mechanics and started throwing his slider with his hand up rather than down.

The results were immediate as Dobnak recorded 19 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings in spring games coupled with a 0.57 ERA and a 0.38 WHIP. The new break on his slider caused Dobnak to exclaim: “I’m actually a strikeout guy. New year, new me.”

The Minnesota Twins start their first home stand of a season in which they hope will lead to a long playoff run. The performances of Berrios, Maeda, and Dobnak will be key to whatever success the team may have this year. Hopefully all of their hard work leads to enhanced pitching performances for them and more wins for the team.