Milwaukee Brewers ace Corbin Burnes capped an impressive breakout 2021 season by taking home the NL Cy Young Award on Wednesday, finishing ahead of finalists Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer.
Burnes narrowly beat out Wheeler for the award, earning 151 points to Wheeler’s 141. Both received 12 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, but Burnes got 14 seconds to Wheeler’s nine. Scherzer, who finished third, earned the other six first-place votes.
Burnes’ 10-point margin of victory is the closest in the NL and tied for the fourth overall since the ballot expanded from three to five pitchers in 2010, according to the BBWAA.
Burnes, 27, finished 2021 with an MLB-low 2.43 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP and 234 strikeouts in 167 innings pitched across 28 games. He set a major league record by beginning the season with 58 strikeouts without a walk and in August tied a record by striking out 10 straight in a game against the Chicago Cubs.
Burnes led the majors in strikeouts per nine innings (12.6), ranked third in walks per nine innings (1.83) and was first in homers allowed per nine innings (0.38). According to Elias Sports Bureau research, he is the first pitcher in modern MLB history (since 1900) to finish in the top three of each category. The last to even finish in the top five in each was Pedro Martinez in 1999.
Burnes became the first Brewers pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in the NL. The other Cy Young winners for the Brewers, Rollie Fingers in 1981 and Pete Vuckovich in 1982, did so in the AL. The Brewers moved to the NL in 1998.
Milwaukee drafted Burnes in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft after he spent his college years at Saint Mary’s College of California. Burnes made his major league debut in 2018, when he pitched in 30 games as a reliever, posting a 2.61 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. He struggled through 2019, posting a 8.82 ERA with a 1.84 WHIP in 32 games while starting four. He posted a strong season in 2020, pitching in 12 games and starting nine with a 2.11 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 59⅔ innings pitched.
“Everyone has their story,” Burnes said upon winning the award, adding, “You always have to evolve.”
This is Burnes’ first Cy Young award. In one game this postseason, Burnes went six innings, allowing two hits while striking out six batters and walking three against the Atlanta Braves.