It’s late enough in the season for magical thinking to be untenable. This is not to say that expecting ridiculous things is wrong — expect what you want! – but simply that it is more difficult to pin such hopes on the miracle of small sample sizes. In early April, you may be able to hold onto a dream that maybe he’ll get on base in every game. At the end of April? Too much has happened. You can reasonably expect greatness. You can no longer expect magic.
That is, unless this year you’re looking for the magic of Corbin Burnes.
The Brewers starter has 40 strikeouts, zero walks and a record start to the season that seems like he will never stop. No one has put these numbers before—Not just to start a season, but absolutely, in four outputs. No pitcher has struck out that many batters without a single walk.
Burnes has been almost invincible. He has only allowed one run in 24 innings, a solo home run since his first start of the year, and he has a baseball-best 0.37 ERA. His cutter has emerged as perhaps the best in the game at the moment. Even in light of his great season last year, this all represents a surprising improvement, especially if you recall his disastrous time as a reliever in 2019. How are you doing this? it’s a perfectly reasonable question. But the most enlightening answer might come from not looking at your best moments, but your closest call.
The 26-year-old has faced 85 batters in his four starts. Of those, 10 have reached a three-ball count, and Burnes has struck out six of them. He has only allowed one batter to count to 3-0, which he quickly turned into one of the aforementioned strikeouts. So while Burnes is on a walk-strikeout record stretch, here’s how he handled his closest brush with a walk, which turned into another one of his strikeouts.
First, a bit of context: The Brewers led the Cardinals, 1-0, in the sixth inning on April 8. Burnes was sailing when Tommy Edman got on the plate. The pitcher started this plate appearance by missing just a tiny bit on his switch before two rare misses out with his cutter. At 3-0, however, he went with the cutter again:
Burnes didn’t really have a cutter before last year. He had a four-seam fastball with a natural cutting motion, but pitch rating systems weren’t calling it a cutter, and neither was he. But after his problems in 2019, which were largely due to hitters hitting his four seams, he made some adjustments to turn the pitch into a more traditional cutter. “The four-seam has basically become a cutting edge cutter, that’s probably the best way to put it,” said Brewers pitching coach Chris Hook. FanGraphs In the past week. Early in their career, the quartet had composed about half of their releases, with their slider below at about 30%. In 2020, however, his mix of shades became much more balanced. He started throwing his plumb bob a lot more and his new cutter almost as much (33% and 32% of the time, respectively) while he kept mixing his slider, curve, and shift. That generally worked for him.
But his cutter has looked even better in 2021. For one thing, he’s throwing it harder, sitting at about 96 mph. (That’s the highest cutting speed in baseball for anyone not named Emmanuel Class.) And the movement is more controlled. Now he’s pitching the field half the time and it’s clearly working for him.
So at 3-1, Burnes turned to the cutter again. This time, Edman swayed and missed.
At 3-2, it was time for the storage release. Don’t let its increased dependency on the cutter fool you; He’s got plenty of options, and if anything, relying more on his cutter this year has allowed his other releases to get better. So maybe you would expect him to go to his slider? (It has resulted in a strikeout more than half the time when used on two strike counts this year.) Or maybe its curve? (He has done the same). Or maybe his plumb line ??? (It has been used as a storage tone rather than the slider or curve).
No. He trusted the cutter enough to stick with him one more time. And he was right:
This, again, was the only Once Burnes has seriously flirted with a hike in 2021, it ended up being a testament to just how much he can do with his utility knife. All relevant baseball logic indicates that this will not last forever:Finally you will give up walking, because, well, you have to. But you will be forgiven for indulging in some magical thought that indicates otherwise. Burnes has earned it.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.