We are reaching somewhat of a breaking point in fantasy leagues. Owners are scrambling to make those last major moves to ensure victory or they are taking chances with their roster looking to chase down the top spot. As I have done all season I am once again taking a look at the state of pitching with the help of ERA estimator Stuff-ERA. The model has helped guide many of my pitching decisions this season and has been a big part of my success For the first time since the initial run of this article, we have a new leader. You’ll just have to keep reading to find out who has unseated Shane Bieber.

Corbin Burnes

Quite frankly, the Brewers have been a massive disappointment. Their offense has struggled much of the season and their starting rotation has been overall dreadful. However, there has been one massive bright spot for the team and that is the emergence of Corbin Burnes. Burnes who once won the teams Minor League Pitcher of the Year award has had an uneven start to his MLB career. He has looked at times like a future ace but has yet to put it all together at the Big League Level. However, 2020 has been a different story. Burnes has been electric all year posting an ERA of 1.99 across his six starts. This includes an absolute dismantling of the Tigers yesterday. He allowed one hit and struck out 11 in seven innings. As many pitchers I have discussed have proven, a breakout like this usually comes with a pitch mix change.

As you can clearly see from the chart above Burnes changed his mix drastically. He has almost completely abandoned the fastball and replaced it with two pitches, a sinker, and a cutter. The interesting thing about this is that while the fastball was hit extremely hard in the past, 0.460 xwoba; the two new pitches are world beaters, 0.420 for the sinker, and 0.342 for the cutter. However, looking it over Burnes has been locating the two pitches exceptionally well. Among all pitchers with at least 300 Fastballs (Sinkers, Cutters, 4 and 2 Seams) thrown this season, Burnes has the 4th lowest location-based xwoba. The chart below shows how he’s been avoiding the danger zones extremely well with the pitch.

What you can see is that Burnes has expertly located his fastballs missing the heart of the zone frequently. He’s been attacking the bottom of the zone extremely well as well as locating the cutter to the corners. Compare the above chart to Kevin Gausman, the pitcher with the highest location-based xwoba on fastballs.

As you can see many of Gausman’s fastballs are being located near the heart of the zone. The change seems to be impacting Burnes positively overall as his secondary pitches have all seen improvements in xwoba from 2019. Stuff-ERA is a huge fan as he is fourth-best in baseball according to the metric (minimum 600 pitches thrown). If Burnes can continue to locate his sinker and cutter extremely well, he should continue to get great results from his entire arsenal and he may be the Brewer starter who we consider among the ace tier in 2021, not Brandon Woodruff. I am fully buying into the Burnes breakout and am kicking myself for not drafting more of him this offseason.

Stuff ERA Leaders

 

Stuff-ERA Leaders
Min 600 Pitches
Pitcher Stuff-ERA
Jacob deGrom 2.1927
Zac Gallen 2.2087
Shane Bieber 2.3325
Corbin Burnes 2.7647
Lucas Giolito 2.7650
Kenta Maeda 2.8052
Yu Darvish 2.8081
Aaron Nola 2.8913
Dylan Bundy 2.9131
Clayton Kershaw 3.0197
Dinelson Lamet 3.0696
Walker Buehler 3.0814
Andrew Heaney 3.1160
Adam Wainwright 3.1294
Zach Davies 3.1720
Max Fried 3.2685
Jose Berrios 3.3244
Dallas Keuchel 3.3876
Lance Lynn 3.3936
Zack Wheeler 3.4029
Brad Keller 3.4123
Tyler Mahle 3.4245
Trevor Bauer 3.4336
Max Scherzer 3.4898
Ryan Yarbrough 3.5140
Spencer Turnbull 3.5537
Marco Gonzales 3.5840
Dakota Hudson 3.6210
Jesus Luzardo 3.6743
Tyler Glasnow 3.6864
Zack Greinke 3.6974
Sonny Gray 3.7004
Masahiro Tanaka 3.7022
Framber Valdez 3.7069
Kevin Gausman 3.7102
Dustin May 3.7184
Pablo Lopez 3.7237
Antonio Senzatela 3.7300
David Peterson 3.7467
Frankie Montas 3.7505
Carlos Carrasco 3.7517
Kolby Allard 3.7621
Yusei Kikuchi 3.7630
Brandon Woodruff 3.8064
Alex Cobb 3.8207
Julio Urias 3.8898
Lance McCullers Jr. 3.8918
Cristian Javier 3.9161
Taijuan Walker 3.9202
Blake Snell 3.9227
German Marquez 3.9228
J.A. Happ 3.9439
Justus Sheffield 3.9592
Martin Perez 3.9773
Justin Dunn 3.9955
Mike Minor 4.0090
Chad Kuhl 4.0863
Kyle Hendricks 4.0994
Hyun Jin Ryu 4.1089
Gerrit Cole 4.1518
Brady Singer 4.1546
Dylan Cease 4.1649
Josh Lindblom 4.1805
Aaron Civale 4.2135
Chris Bassitt 4.2562
Logan Webb 4.2594
Griffin Canning 4.3253
Randy Dobnak 4.3315
Ryan Castellani 4.3680
Garrett Richards 4.3979
Johnny Cueto 4.4290
Tyler Anderson 4.4339
Luis Castillo 4.4348
Trevor Richards 4.4686
Alec Mills 4.4720
Elieser Hernandez 4.4893
Zach Eflin 4.5236
Danny Duffy 4.5687
Jon Gray 4.5691
Kris Bubic 4.6062
Kyle Freeland 4.6086
Mike Fiers 4.6259
Kyle Gibson 4.6400
Alex Young 4.6448
Jordan Montgomery 4.6558
Patrick Corbin 4.6679
Mike Clevinger 4.7079
Erick Fedde 4.7112
Chris Paddack 4.7287
John Means 4.7524
Matthew Boyd 4.7528
Ryan Weber 4.8360
Robbie Ray 4.9321
Asher Wojciechowski 5.0405
Luke Weaver 5.0837
Tanner Roark 5.1162
Adrian Houser 5.1193
Brett Anderson 5.1354
Rick Porcello 5.1496
Jordan Lyles 5.2228