Brewers: How Effective Has Brandon Woodruff Been For The Crew?

Apr 20, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff (53) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 20, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff (53) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Brandon Woodruff was activated from the injured list back on June 28th after rehabbing an ankle injury, and it has made a world of a difference for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Woodruff had a slow start to 2022, but he has looked great in his 10 starts since returning to the starting rotation. He is an anchor in the Brewers’ rotation, and that can be highlighted when comparing Milwaukee’s starting rotation numbers with and without Brandon Woodruff.

Brandon Woodruff’s impact on the Brewers starting rotation can be seen when looking at the team’s performance while he was on the injured list

I took a deeper look into how the Brewers’ pitching staff performed with Woodruff on the injured list compared to how they performed since his return. The numbers show that Woodruff has a strong influence on how the starting pitching staff performs.

From May 28th to June 28th, the Milwaukee Brewers had the 6th highest team ERA among starters at 5.07, and they had the 3rd highest team WHIP among starters at 1.48. However, since Brandon Woodruff has come off the injured list, the pitching staff has looked much stronger.

Since Woodruff’s return on June 28th, Milwaukee has the 5th lowest team ERA among starters at 3.37, and they have the 9th lowest team WHIP among starts at 1.18. It is evident that Woody’s presence in the Brewers rotation makes a huge difference on team performance. The tandem of Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff at the top of the rotation is one of the best in the sport when healthy. When Woodruff is not available, it is a major hole to fill for Milwaukee.

Brandon Woodruff has been excellent at striking batters out and making hitters swing and miss

Woodruff is one of the league’s best in strikeout rate and generating swings and misses. He has a K/9 of 10.86 on the season which is the 10th best in the entire league among pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched. This season, Woodruff has a career high whiff rate of 30.6% which puts him in the 84th percentile per Baseball Savant. When looking at his pitch arsenal, his 4-seam fastball is the main driver of his success.

Woodruff ranks in the 85th percentile in fastball velocity and in the 73rd percentile in fastball spin rate. This explains why batters are hitting just .191 against the pitch. Something that caught my eye was his ability to generate swings and misses with this fastball. Generally, breaking balls excel at generating swings and misses. However, Woodruff has done a good job at generating whiffs with his 4-seamer.

He has a whiff rate of 28.5% on his 4-seamer which is the fifth best whiff rate on 4-seamers in the MLB (Min. 150 PA). Woody highlighted this against the Dodgers on Tuesday night when he yielded 11 swings and misses on the pitch. When Woodruff is dominating with his fastball, he looks like the version of himself from last year that finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting.

Since returning from his ankle injury, Brandon Woodruff has looked like the 2021 version of himself. In his ten starts since coming off the injured list, Woodruff has a 2.59 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Additionally, he has an fWAR of 1.5 over that stretch which is 9th in the MLB among qualified starting pitchers. Clearly a lot has been going well for Woodruff this season, so where could Woodruff look to improve for the remainder of the season?

Overall, Brandon Woodruff has looked great. But where could he look to improve for the rest of the 2022?

Woodruff has been excellent in the early innings of his outings, but he has shown consistent struggles towards the end of his outings- specifically in the 5th inning. The table below highlights Woodruff’s pitching stats broken up into his specific innings of work.

Brandon Woodruff’s Splits by Inning This Season:

Woodruff’s ERA in the 5th inning is significantly higher than the prior innings of work. He has given up the most home runs and earned runs in the 5th inning, despite him having the fewest innings pitched when compared to the first four innings.

In general, facing a batter the second and third time through the batting order is much tougher than seeing them the first time though. Batters can pick up on a pitchers’ tendencies, and they can get more comfortable against certain pitches. This appears to be the issue Woodruff has been running into thus far in 2022.

Brandon Woodruff’s Splits by Time Through the Batting Order:

Woodruff is posting a 9.18 ERA and a 1.80 WHIP when facing a lineup the third time through. Woodruff has given up five more earned runs the third time through the order than the second time through the order, despite having 23 fewer innings pitched.

Additionally, he has given up eight doubles his third time through the order, and he has almost as many hits surrendered in the third time through the order (23) as he does his first time through the order (28), despite having 24 fewer innings pitched.

It is not easy for pitchers to succeed against lineups the third or fourth time through in a game. However, it has been especially difficult for Brandon Woodruff. If he can find a way to limit the damage and tame these numbers late in his outings, it would yield even better results for Woody.

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All in all, it’s been a solid season for Woodruff and he has shown flashes of the pitcher he was last year. He has looked great on the mound since returning from the ankle injury, and he will play a pivotal role in the Brewers battle for the NL Central.