Unfortunately it was not the finish to the season that the Milwaukee Brewers were hoping for, but it was an amazing season with a lot of positives to look forward to heading into 2019. Specifically, the Brewers two young pitchers, Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff had a lot of positives.
The Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation has been heavily scrutinized all season long by fans and the national media because they “don’t have an ace”. But what may have been considered a weak spot on this Brewers team in 2018, may just become a strength in 2019 with the help of Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes.
Woodruff and Burnes stepped into huge roles in the month of September to help facilitate the Milwaukee Brewers playoff push and continued all through the postseason. Both Woodruff and Burnes were big contributors to the Brewers success this season and will continue to be in 2019 and beyond.
The 25-year-old Woodruff was bounced back and forth this season between the big leagues and Triple-A Colorado Springs. During his time in Milwaukee, Woodruff did make four starts at the beginning of the season but had mixed results and was mostly used in the long reliever role moving forward.
Woodruff was added back to the Major League roster with September call-ups and made Milwaukee’s postseason roster because of his stellar play in the final month. ‘Woody’ made seven appearances and faced 50 batters over this stretch and allowed ten hits, three walks and just one run.
As the Milwaukee Brewers made their playoff run, Woodruff continued to see more playing time and was able to stay hot. Woody pitched 12.1 innings in the postseason, which included a Game One start in the NLDS and essentially a second start in NLCS Game Five when he relieved Wade Miley after just one batter.
In his playoff outings, Woodruff gave up just seven hits, three walks, three runs and struck out 20 of the 46 batters he went up against. And let’s not forget a momentum shifting home run in NLCS Game One off of Clayton Kershaw!
Through this season it was unclear how the Brewers would use Woody moving forward or if he would be a part of the team. Naturally, keeping him in the long reliever role seemed to be the best option but given his performances over the last month and a half, Woodruff has made himself a part of the starting rotation conversation for 2019.
Burnes was a fourth round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers back in 2016. Since then he has had a rapid rise through the Brewers minor league system and made his MLB debut in July of this season.
Unlike Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee made it very clear early on that Burnes would be in the starting rotation in the upcoming years but brought him up this season to work out of the bullpen. This would give Burnes the opportunity to contribute sooner and gain MLB experience.
Even though Burnes is just 23 years old and was pitching in the biggest games of his young career, you would never know it. Burnes appeared unfazed through September’s playoff push and during his appearances in the NLDS and NLCS. No moment seemed too big for Burnes.
During the postseason, Burnes made six appearances and threw nine total innings. Over that time he allowed only four hits and just two runs, both of which came in game two of the NLCS. Burnes was also able to strike out 11 of the 31 batters he faced and walked just one batter.
Over the offseason Burnes will have to work on bringing back his additional pitches in his repertoire. More than 95% of Burnes pitches this season were either a fastball or a slider. Now, a bullpen pitcher having two main pitches is not unusual, but moving forward into a starting role, Burnes will have to bring back his change-up and curveball.
But what a phenomenal first season to build off of heading into the 2019 season.
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Woodruff and Burnes were able to shine on the national stage when the lights were shining brightest. With these two competing for starting jobs amongst many others, the Brewers starting rotation is in great shape to make another deep playoff run next season.