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.
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
|Min 600 Pitches|