The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Brewers ace Corbin Burnes flies under the radar in bid for Cy Young

When you hear the names Kershaw, Verlander, Scherzer, Cole, and deGrom, you automatically recognize them as the pitching aces of their respective major league teams. But when you hear the name Corbin Burnes, you might get him confused with Nationals pitcher Patrick Corbin or Arizona’s pitcher Corbin Martin. He’s one of those Corbins.

Burnes doesn’t play for a big-market team like the Yankees or Dodgers. He’s not on a pace to win 20 games. Instead, he pitches for the Milwaukee Brewers, and he’s won only 10 games so far this season. So, what’s the big deal with him?

The Brewers are in first place in the NL Central, and one of the main reasons is that they’ve been riding on the back of Burnes. Even though he’s credited with only 10 wins, the Brewers are 18-8 when he starts.

And he’s putting up numbers that put him in the class of bona fide ace like other Cy Young Award candidates Scherzer and Cole.

The 26-year-old right-hander is second in the National League in ERA (2.34), second in WHIP (0.937), first in bases on ball per 9 innings (1.823), first in strikeouts per 9 innings (12.589), first in home runs per 9 innings (0.342), second in adjusted ERA+ (181), and first in fielding independent pitching (1.58). Those are definitely Cy Young Award types of numbers.

One of the reasons Burnes is not yet a household name among many baseball fans is that he’s only in his second season as a regular starter. Actually, it’s his first, if you don’t count the shortened 2020 season due to the pandemic.

He had an impressive major-league debut with the Brewers in 2018 as a middle reliever, when he finished 7-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 30 games.

The Brewers needed help in the starting rotation in 2019 and moved Burnes to a starter role coming out of spring training. But he was a disaster. In his first four outings, he was prone to giving up extra-base hits, including an average of three home runs per game. He didn’t pitch more than five innings in any of his starts, and his ERA ballooned to 10.70 before he was returned to the bullpen.

Of course, the 2020 season was a crazy time for all the major league teams who were looking for stability and consistency in the uncertain times of the COVID pandemic. However, one of the constants for the Brewers was Burnes, who secured a spot in the starting rotation again. He went 4-1 in nine starts, posting an impressive 2.11 ERA and 1.022 WHIP. He solved his home runs allowed problem by giving up only two in almost 60 innings.

Burnes picked up in 2021 where he left off last season. He was selected for his first all-star game. He gained national attention on September 11 against Cleveland when he combined with reliever Josh Hader to throw the ninth no-hitter of the season. He issued only one walk in his eight innings pitched, while striking out 14 Indians in the no-hitter.

Burnes is in the running for NL Cy Young Award, with stiff competition coming from three Dodgers pitchers who are also having standout seasons: Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer and Julio Urias.

Burnes may be flying under the radar with respect to many baseball fans, but certainly opposing batters know all too well about the proficient right-hander, who is one of the spin-rate kings in the game.

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