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The Transformation of Corbin Burnes

02/04/2022 10:00 AM

Article By: Joe Koetters



Corbin Burnes has taken baseball by storm the past two years and to the casual baseball fan, no one had really heard of Corbin Burnes before 2021. The former Orleans Firebird made major strides that led him to a 2021 Cy Young Award. While in the Cape, Burnes started seven games, appearing in nine and ended the regular season with a 3.78 ERA and 28 Ks over 38 innings.

Burnes was always a top prospect for the Brewers after being drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, out of St. Mary’s College. Burnes flew through the minors before making his debut only two years later. Burnes had a very solid 2018, appearing in 30 games and finishing with an ERA of 2.61 in his first year in the big leagues. However, things drastically changed in 2019.

Burnes had been a two-pitch pitcher throwing a four-seam fastball as well as a slider. 84% of his pitches were one of those two, with the occasional curveball or change up mixed in not nearly enough. The league started to figure out Burnes and his mix was nothing special. Burnes had a career worst 8.82 ERA across 32 games and was one of the league’s worst pitchers. After 2019, Burnes made three key changes that turned him into the Cy Young pitcher we know today.

The first change was that Burnes was transitioned from the bullpen to the starting rotation. For the most part, starters who struggle are usually sent to the bullpen to figure out their woes. Burnes was the opposite and the result worked perfectly according to the stats. The second adjustment that was made on the way to Burnes’ revival was strictly pitching out of the stretch. Burnes stated that the windup was just too many moving parts and he wanted to be able to repeat his mechanics as much as possible.

Burnes stated “It was just more about trying to get my mechanics as repeatable as possible. For me, the windup had lots of moving parts and a lot of things that made it tougher to kind of sync everything up”.
He also stated that the biggest moments in the game usually happen when runners are on base, so why pitch from the windup all game until the biggest moments.

The final adjustment, and the biggest one, was a complete revamp of his arsenal. Burnes added a cutter to his pitch mix that he threw 52% of the time in 2021. The other 48% was a pretty even mix of curveball, slider, sinker and changeup. In 2021, Burnes’ cutter had the 5th best run value in the league at -22. For comparison, in 2019, Burnes’ fastball had the worst run value in all of baseball at +24. Overall, Burnes has made tremendous adjustments that seem to have cemented Burnes as one of the elite pitchers in baseball.