SP2: RHP Corbin Burnes
For as good as Woodruff was in 2020, it’s Corbin Burnes who had arguably the best season out of any of the Brewers starters last season. And for as terribly as his 2019 season went, that makes his performance that much more incredible.
To say Burnes’ 2019 season was a nightmare could be the understatement of the century. After a very promising debut 2018 season, Burnes imploded the next year, putting together an 8.82 ERA in 32 games with a 1.837 WHIP and whopping 3.1 home runs per nine innings. He saw himself demoted as far as Double-A Biloxi at one point.
An offseason at the team’s pitching lab in Arizona worked wonders, though, and Burnes came back with a vengeance in 2020, to the point that he became a legitimate Cy Young contender.
Burnes helped the Brewers pick up their first win of the season in a 3 1/3-inning, one-earned run, six-strikeout start against the Cubs on July 25th. After moving back to the bullpen upon Brett Anderson‘s return from the IL for three games, Burnes was put back in the rotation and the rest was history.
Burnes wouldn’t give up more than three runs in a game the rest of the way. At one point, he struck out ten or more batters three times over a stretch of four games from late August to early September.
He even was in the conversation as a possible Cy Young Candidate before being removed early from his final start of the season, a game in which he attempted to pitch through an oblique injury. That injury, unfortunately, left him unable to play in the team’s Wild Card series against the Dodgers.
When all was said and done, Burnes finished the best season of his career with a 2.11 ERA, 1.022 WHIP, and 13.3 K/9. His K/9, as well as a 2.3 fWAR led all Brewer starters. And after home runs plagued him in 2019, he gave up just two homers all season in 2020.
Unfortunately, being pulled from that final start left him just an out short of qualifying for the statistical leaderboards. That wasn’t enough to stop him from receiving some NL Cy Young votes, though, as he ended up finishing sixth in voting for the award.
If the Brewers didn’t already have an established ace, last year’s performance would surely be enough to vault him into SP1 status. At worst, it gives the Brewers one of the best 1-2 punches heading into the 2021 season.