- Milwaukee Brewers starter Corbin Burnes has a 0.49 ERA and 0.22 WHIP after three starts
- The 26-year-old was a +3500 Cy Young afterthought on Opening Day
- He’s now second only to Jacob deGrom in FanDuel’s MLB player futures
Fans could be forgiven for not knowing the name Corbin Burnes entering the season. In 2019, he had an 8.82 ERA in a limited 49 innings.
The 2020 season was something of a breakout – 2.11 ERA, 1.02 WHIP – but it came in the small market of Milwaukee in a fan-less season, and he didn’t pitch enough innings to qualify for the leaderboards.
That makes the first two weeks of 2021 his true coming-out party. Listed at +3500, on average, in the NL CY Young odds in late March, Burnes is now as short as +550, which is shorter than everyone not named Jacob deGrom.
2021 NL Cy Young Odds
|Jacob deGrom (NYM)||+300|
|Corbin Burnes (MIL)||+550|
|Trevor Bauer (LAD)||+700|
|Walker Buehler (LAD)||+1200|
|Aaron Nola (PHI)||+1500|
|Max Scherzer (WAS)||+1500|
|Yu Darvish (SD)||+1800|
|Brandon Woodruff (MIL)||+1900|
|Blake Snell (SD)||+2100|
|Jack Flaherty (STL)||+2200|
|Zack Wheeler (NYM)||+2500|
|Clayton Kershaw (LAD)||+3000|
|Dinelson Lamet (SD)||+3000|
|Luis Castillo (CIN)||+3000|
|Stephen Strasburg (WAS)||+3000|
|Michael Soroka (ATL)||+3500|
Odds as of April 14, 2021, at FanDuel.
Burnes Is a Rare Blend of Power and Control
It would be an overstatement to call Burnes a cross between Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux. But it’s not an overstatement to say he’s pitched like a combination between Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux.
According to Baseball Savant, Burnes added 1.3 MPH to his sinker compared to last year, now averaging 97.3 MPH. His cutter – which accounts for more than 50% of his pitches – is coming in at 95.8, a full 2.7 MPH faster than 2020. His changeup has risen from 88.9 to 91.0.
He’s a power pitcher, by any definition.
But his control is also unparalleled, at least through three starts.
With his six-inning, ten-strikeout, zero-walk performance against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, Burnes became the first pitcher in MLB history to record 30-plus Ks and no walks in the first three starts of a season.
He has pitched 18.1 total innings over his three starts, posting a 0.49 ERA and 0.22 WHIP.
Endurance Is the Main Concern
The best reason to fade Burnes at this point is concerns over his season-long stamina. He’s never pitched more than 59.2 innings in a single year. His total inning count over his three years in the majors is 159.0. Some old-school pundits considered it an abomination when Blake Snell won the 2018 AL Cy Young while pitching only 180.2 innings that season.
That’s why the lone name above Burnes on the list looms very, very large.
Jacob deGrom, not traditionally a fast starter, is already 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA and 0.714 WHIP. From 2017 to 2019, he topped 200 IPs in three straight seasons. He’s a picture of durability overlayed with a sheen of dominance.
The +550 odds for Burnes are overly optimistic. At those odds, he needs a 15.3% chance of winning the award in order to be a worthwhile wager. There are still too many questions at this early stage, specifically questions about how well his arm will hold up over the six-month grind that is MLB’s regular season.
As long as deGrom keeps pitching the way he always pitches, he’s going to remain the favorite. That should mean that Burnes’ odds don’t get much shorter than where they are now, at least not at FanDuel.
But other sportsbooks are a little slower catching on. At BetMGM, he’s still +1500. That’s a number to get behind.