Our 2020 Brewers season report cards continue. This time, we take a look at Corbin Burnes.
The 2019 season went just about as horrible as possible for Corbin Burnes. From quickly losing his rotation spot to a minor league demotion to a trip to the pitching lab, it was a nightmare season. However, the 2020 season for Corbin Burnes was everything the Brewers could’ve hoped for and more.
After an offseason in which Burnes saw a mental performance coach, reworked his pitch arsenal, and faced uncertainty about his future role, he came out doing everything right in 2020.
Burnes earned a rotation spot once again in 2020 and this time, he didn’t lose it.
Corbin Burnes Season Grade: A+
Armed with a new pitch, a 94 MPH cutter, and a focus on varying speeds, movement, and timing, Burnes saw tremendous success in 2020. Throughout most of September, Burnes was operating with a sub-2.00 ERA and was among league leaders in numerous pitching categories.
In a stretch from August 28th through September 19th, Burnes made five starts, covered 29.2 IP, allowed just 16 hits, only one earned run, gave up six walks, and struck out 47 with a 0.30 ERA.
His final numbers on the season looked like this: 59.2 IP, 14 ER, 24 walks, 88 strikeouts, 1.02 WHIP, 13.3 K/9.
Corbin Burnes finished just one out shy of qualifying for the league leaderboards among pitchers after leaving his final start early with an oblique injury that also cost him a start in the postseason.
If he did get one more out and qualified, Burnes would’ve been: 1st in HR/9, 1st in FIP, 4th in ERA, 8th in pitcher WAR, 7th in WHIP, 3rd in H/9, 2nd in K/9, and 9th in strikeouts. Burnes was one good final start away from being the Brewers first league ERA title winner.
Burnes also finished the season with just two home runs allowed in 59.2 IP. Back in 2019, the long ball was his big issue. He gave up three home runs in each of his first three starts that year. But in 2020, Burnes didn’t even give up three home runs altogether.
This season, Burnes did everything he needed to do. He limited the home run ball, he regained his command within the zone, added a 5th pitch to his arsenal, kept hitters off balance, and worked deep into games.
With all that success, Burnes worked his way into the Cy Young award conversation, which we all predicted, right? He was firmly in the race before his final start went short and he gave up a few more runs as well. He won’t end up winning it this year, but he should earn some votes.
Burnes led the Brewers in WAR this year, per Fangraphs, with 2.4 Wins Above Replacement. He was by far their most valuable player this year and the Brewers wouldn’t have sniffed the playoffs if it wasn’t for his performance.
The Brewers stuck by Burnes in his darkest times and that has paid off handsomely so far and will continue to do so going forward. Becoming what would’ve been a Game 1 starter in the postseason, a Cy Young candidate, and the Brewers team MVP is worthy of an ‘A+” grade for Corbin Burnes.
This season is just a sign of big things to come for Burnes and the Brewers going forward.