Despite being recently placed on the Injured List, Corbin Burnes has had a phenomenal 2021 so far. The Brewers sit at 16-10 and atop the NL Central, thanks in no small part to Burnes’ pitching. How good has Burnes been? Has he supplanted, at least briefly, Jacob deGrom as the National League’s top pitcher? And if so, does Burnes hold the title of MLB’s best pitcher? Let’s find out.
Burnes’ numbers are incredible. He has an unlisted strikeout to walk ratio. 49 strikeouts and zero walks make for an incalculable statistic. His strikeout to walk ratio is basically infinite. With that, comes a league-best .545 WHIP (Walks and Hits in Innings Pitched). His FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) is tops in the National League. His expected ERA (earned run average) is 1.15, the best in the league. His expected FIP of 1.16 leads all of baseball.
His 49 strikeouts so far are 6th in the league. It should be noted, however, that there is only one pitcher with more strikeouts than Burnes that has pitched as many or fewer games.
That somebody? Jacob deGrom. deGrom’s 59 strikeouts in five starts, atop Burnes 49 in five starts. deGrom’s numbers are incredible, too. He is setting career bests in a probably already Hall of Fame career. His fastball is faster and he has been nearly unhittable. If the Mets ever figure out how to give him some average run support, look out, baseball.
deGrom leads NL pitchers in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with 2.1, edging out Burnes’ 1.8. That puts deGrom on pace for over 12 WAR. That puts him in the top 25 of all-time. His 0.51 ERA is best in baseball and over a full run better than Burnes’ 1.53 (which is stellar, too). deGrom’s K/9 (strikeouts per 9 innings) is 15.17, just a hair better than Burnes’ 15.03.
deGrom is at such an incredible pace. His strikeout pace would have him setting records at the end of the year. His current ERA, while not likely to stay under 1, would be the lowest ever.
Burnes has been incredible and as soon as he’s back pitching again, he’ll be racking up the numbers like he was. There’s definitely a case to be made for Burnes being the National League’s best pitcher. The only problem with that is that he might be more of a flash in a pan. Burnes has had success before, but not on this level.
On the other hand, deGrom, who has clearly taken his game to a level previously unheard of, has been at the top of the league for a while. There’s a rock-solid case to be made that deGrom is not only the best pitcher in the NL but the entire world.
deGrom won consecutive Cy Youngs and in a weird 2020, finished third. It seems as if that was enough to set him off- and hitters everywhere are suffering for it.
deGrom bests Burnes and fellow New Yorker Gerrit Cole in a lot of statistical categories, both traditional and advanced. When I initially began my research, I expected deGrom to blow Burnes out of the water. That’s not the case. deGrom has been better than advertised this season and has been putting up video game numbers. But so has Burnes. He might not have topped deGrom, but he’s topped almost everyone else.
At this rate, it’s going to take something unreal to usurp deGrom’s throne. Until then, settle in and enjoy the show. The fireworks are starting.