Last season Brandon Woodruff was the Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day starter and subsequently was the pitcher to finally break the “Opening Day starter curse” that had been persistent since Kyle Lohse took the hill to begin the 2015 season.
The Opening Day curse affected a long line of pitchers including: Wily Peralta in 2016, Junior Guerra in 2017, Chase Anderson in 2018, and Jhoulys Chacin in 2019. As bizarre as this curse was, we knew it finally had to end and thankfully Woodruff was that guy.
However, Woodruff was outperformed by 2020 Cy Young Candidate Corbin Burnes, so who should manager Craig Counsell give the Opening Day starting title to for the 2021 season?
As it stands today, both pitchers are on a schedule to pitch opening day.
With Opening Day still 19 days away either pitcher’s schedule can easily be adjusted to match Craig Counsell’s plan, but logic would tell us that either Brandon Woodruff or Corbin Burnes will get the nod this season.
The case for Brandon Woodruff as the Brewers 2021 Opening Day Starter
Since entering the starting rotation full time in 2019, Woodruff has been the workhorse for the Brewers. He has additionally pitched well in many clutch games including but not limited to the 2018 postseason, 2019 wild card game, a pivotal end of the regular season game vs the Cardinals in 2020, and the 2020 postseason.
Pitching on opening day requires that a pitcher control his emotions and adrenaline more so than normal, which is an ability that Woodruff has done multiple times over his career. Given his track record of success in big moments, that may be one critical reason why Woodruff gets the edge over Burnes on opening day.
The case for Corbin Burnes as the 2021 Opening Day Starter
As mentioned early, Corbin Burnes was a Cy Young candidate in 2020 and finished 6th overall. From a National League standpoint, his 2.11 season ERA ranked only behind Trevor Bauer (1.73), Yu Darvish (2.01), and Dinelson Lamet (2.09) in 2020.
Burnes breaking out last season was a dream come true. His stuff had always been electric but results rather mixed, so the 2021 season will be a big test for the 26 year old pitcher. When Burnes is dialed in, his ceiling may be higher than Brandon Woodruff. Giving Burnes the Opening Day nod this season would give him an early season boost of confidence from his manager and may help set the tone for the remainder of the season.
Burnes had a better 2020 season and has a very high ceiling. Counsell really can’t go wrong with Burnes in front of the rotation, either.
But considering Woodruff did get the nod last year and didn’t do anything to show he wasn’t worthy of getting the nod again, expectations should still be that Woodruff will trot out to the mound on April 1st.
Deciding over whether Woodruff or Burnes should be the starter is a great problem to have. Regardless of who gets the honors they have the potential to be among the league’s best one-two punches and will be a very fun duo to watch all season long.