Corbin Burnes entered the 2019 season as one of the few pitchers in the Milwaukee Brewers rotation that inspired some confidence after his success in the regular season and playoffs last year. That confidence is all but gone now.
This is by far the worst stretch of Corbin Burnes‘ professional career. He’s allowed 11 home runs in just four starts. In three seasons in the minor leagues, he allowed only 11 home runs combined. The Milwaukee Brewers have not gotten the production out of him that they thought they would based on his previous results.
So the question is: What’s wrong with Corbin Burnes?
What’s Wrong With Corbin Burnes?
The home run issues are not going away, and this is quite obvious. But why is he still giving up all these home runs? The numbers this year seem like an anomaly. Throughout the minors and the 2018 season in the majors, Burnes has never had a season with a HR/9 over 0.95. So far this year, Burnes has a 5.65 HR/9.
His HR/FB ratio was at 12.9% last year, which was the highest of his career, including the minor leagues. This year, Burnes has a 64.3% HR/FB ratio. How did this happen?
Corbin Burnes is not commanding his fastball well and he’s leaving the pitch belt-high, getting a lot of the plate. When he does that, any hitter in the league is going to be able to hit him very hard. Most of the home runs he’s given up have come off fastballs.
So he’s struggling with commanding his fastball, which means he should rely more on his offspeed pitches, right? Wrong! He’s relying on his fastball more than ever.
According to Fangraphs, he’s throwing his fastball 67% of the time this year, compared to 58% last year. His slider usage is down from 34% to 22%, while his curveball usage is down from 6.7% to 5.5%. Burnes has a splitter that’s up from 0.2% to 4.7% this year. He’s acting more like a two-pitch bullpen pitcher this year than last year when he was actually in the bullpen.
He has four, possibly five pitches in his arsenal, but is using his fastball 2/3 of the time, despite the fact he can’t command it well and hitters are just sitting on it.
While it does make some sense to wait to use some of the offspeed pitches for the second and third time through the order to add a new wrinkle to stay longer in the game. But the problem is he can’t get to the second and third time through the order because he’s already given up five runs and been pulled by then. Something needs to change.
What Can The Brewers Do About Burnes?
According to Craig Counsell, they’re going to have a long conversation about what to do with Corbin Burnes after four consecutive poor starts this season.
I would believe it’s more likely that the Milwaukee Brewers move Burnes back to Triple-A to work on his secondary offerings and improving his fastball command than it is they would move him back to the bullpen.
The Brewers believe in Burnes as a starter and believe that the rotation is his long term home. Moving him to the bullpen in mid-April is not something I would think they want to do. They don’t like moving guys back and forth from the rotation and the bullpen as it messes with their mentality and their routine.
They could decide to give him one more chance and if it goes well, they stick with him in the big league rotation. If it doesn’t go well, he could get sent to Triple-A and someone else could take his place.
Burnes has too much talent to give up on in the rotation, but he hasn’t gotten the results on a team that’s pushing for a second straight division title. He’ll remain a starting pitcher, but now the Brewers need to consider making him a member of the Triple-A rotation until he figures out his fastball command and secondary offerings.
The Milwaukee Brewers took a risk with three rookies in the starting rotation. They would be fine with one of them struggling, but with Freddy Peralta struggling and injured, and now Burnes can’t get it together, this risk isn’t paying off early on this season.