Last Sunday in a home start against Philadelphia, starter Brandon Woodruff joined some elite Brewers company, becoming the first Milwaukee starting pitcher to have back-to-back outings of 8+ IP, with 10+ Ks and 1 hit or less since CC Sabathia in 2008.
The homegrown hurler was given a steady starting role for the first time in his career heading into 2019 after making only spot-starts and bullpen appearances as a rookie last season.
Woodruff has seized his opportunity to say the least. Over his last six starts, he is 6-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 43/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He is pitching like a seasoned veteran despite being just 26 years old. Woodruff’s emergence has been crucial to the overall success of the ballclub, and it has potentially opened the door for some personal accolades in his first full season, such as an all-star bid.
His fellow young pitchers who began the season in the rotation, Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes have yet to find their sea legs as starters in the bigs. Peralta’s first-inning demons have cost him his rotation spot (22.50 first-inning ERA), and Burnes’ susceptibility to giving up home runs (14) as been his undoing as a starter. Both pitchers are now coming out of the bullpen for the time being, and with Jimmy Nelson’s return on the horizon and the acquisition of lefty Gio Gonzalez, they will likely be relegated for to the bullpen for the foreseeable future.
Now back to Brandon Woodruff. When Phillies megastar Bryce Harper, (who Woodruff struck out three times on Sunday) was asked about Woodruff’s performance against them, he said ““Thank goodness for Knappy with him being able to get the homer right there,” Bryce Harper said. “I think a lot of us thought (Woodruff) had the stuff to be perfect today” That is some high praise coming from a player who was just paid $330 million last offseason.
The fastball has easily been Woodruff’s key pitch this season. His typical velocity sits at 96-97 MPH and hitters have not been able to catch up to it this season, so until that changes, look to see plenty more overpowering heaters from Woodruff.
Finally, you can’t bring up Woody’s performance this season and not mention his success at the plate. He has accumulated 10 hits in 27 plate appearances and has been so consistent that Craig Counsell has used him in a pinch-hit role on several occasions. His value as a batter makes him even more important to the Brewers. Who needs a universal DH?
There is nothing that would suggest Brandon Woodruff’s breakout is a fluke, so assuming he is able to sustain his level of production, we could be looking at the next homegrown ace of the Milwaukee Brewers.