As manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, Craig Counsell has to make a lot of decisions. Some of the decisions are difficult. Some are easy. This decision is among the easiest Counsell has ever made.
The decision on who should be the Milwaukee Brewers 2022 Opening Day starting pitcher is in and it’s Corbin Burnes.
The reigning NL Cy Young winner. The reigning ERA champion in baseball. Owner of one of the most dominant seasons on the mound in MLB history. Thrower of eight innings of a combined no-hitter, the first in franchise history since 1987. Corbin Burnes was the easy choice to be the Brewers Opening Day starter this season.
The Brewers have probably the best overall starting rotation in baseball, led by a trio of aces in Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta. The last two seasons, Woodruff has gotten the nod to start the season, and Counsell claimed that it was just the beginning of many. Woodruff was seeking to be the first starter to make three straight Opening Day starts since Yovani Gallardo got five consecutive nods from 2010-2014.
Instead, it goes to Burnes.
This is the first Opening Day start for Burnes in his career.
Since spring training started, it was pretty clear by the pitching schedule that things were lining up for Burnes to start on Opening Day.
Last season, Burnes posted a 2.43 ERA in 167 innings, which led the league, and he also posted a 176 ERA+, 1.63 FIP, 0.4 HR/9, 12.6 K/9, and a 6.88 K/BB, all of which also led the league.
In a short amount of time, Burnes has established himself as a true ace. He made his big league debut in the middle of the 2018 season, spending that entire time in the bullpen. In 2019, the Brewers moved him to the rotation and it went horribly.
By now, everyone knows Burnes’ story. In 2019, he was probably the worst pitcher in baseball, giving up home runs left and right, struggling to get deep into games, and finishing with a 8.82 ERA in 49 IP. But he reworked his pitch arsenal late that season and heading into 2020. He earned his way back into the starting rotation early in that shortened 2020 season.
If Burnes had gotten just one more out in that 2020 season and “qualified” with enough innings to be on stats leaderboards, he probably would’ve finished higher than 6th in Cy Young voting. But in 2021, he got enough innings and got enough votes to win the award.
From the worst pitcher in baseball in 2019, losing his spot in the rotation and being sent down to the minors multiple times, to winning the Cy Young and becoming the Brewers Opening Day starter in 2022, it’s been an incredible journey for Burnes.
Although Opening Day is a week later than it should’ve been, the same man who was going to take the mound all along, Corbin Burnes, will be there kicking the Brewers season off right.