After MLB’s midseason announcement they would start checking pitchers for sticky substances, there was much speculation about who would be impacted by that. The Brewers have three pitchers with high spin rates, Freddy Peralta passed, but now it’s time to see how All-Star Corbin Burnes has done.
How has Corbin Burnes Pitched?
In one word, Corbin Burnes has been elite this season. He is currently second in fWAR (4.7) to only Jacob deGrom (4.8), and has built himself into the best pitcher on the Brewers staff. He has hit a career high in innings pitched with 96.0, and is coming off his longest start of his career, going 8.1 innings in Cincinnati.
Corbin Burnes is pitching at an elite level, and is a strong candidate for the NL Cy Young Award. He has continued to produce at the elite level for the Brewers even after the sticky substance crackdown.
Before the crackdown of sticky substances on June 21st, Burnes had made 12 starts, throwing 68.2 innings for Milwaukee. In that time he accumulated 3.5 fWAR, struck out 14.1 K/9, walked 1.57/9, and pitched to a 2.62 ERA with a 1.15 FIP. He led all pitchers with a 35.9% CSW% (Called Strikes and Whiffs).
Since the crackdown, Burnes has made 4 starts and thrown 27.1 innings. Burnes has been great during this stretch as well, striking out 10.54 batters per 9 innings, walking only 1.32 batters per 9 innings, and winding up with an ERA of 0.99 with a FIP of 1.74 during this time.
Burnes only allowed 2 barrels (3%), and 19 (28.4%) hard hit balls since the crackdown, both of which are down from his pre-crackdown numbers of 3.4% barrel% and a 28.4% hard hit%. It is tough to get a direct comparison because Burnes has thrown 2.5x more innings pre-crackdown than post, but the percentages act as a more fair comparison than raw numbers.
What do the Spin Rates show?
Since the crackdown started on June 21st, Corbin has made four starts. When looking at his average spin rate from month to month a clear decline is evident.
Corbin has had a sizeable decline in all of the pitches that he throws. His sinker and cutter have been the two with the largest declines, much more than Freddy Peralta saw in his own decline.
There are numerous factors that can impact spin rate, such as climate, the grip, and fatigue. Burnes has pitched the highest amount of innings in his career at the Major League level already.
There is no way to know what Burnes did use, if he was using anything to enhance grip or spin rate. However, he has not failed any of the checks, and he Burnes has been able to continue to throw at an elite level.
The Brewers trusted that Burnes had the stuff to be elite, and now he is performing at that elite level with or without the sticky substances, leading the team to what should be their fourth consecutive postseason appearance.