7 things to know about O's new ace Burnes

February 4th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BALTIMORE -- is a past National League Cy Young Award winner, a former ERA champion, an All-Star each of the past three seasons and the No. 2 starting pitcher in MLB today, according to the latest MLB Network positional rankings.

He is also now a Baltimore Oriole.

The O’s made one of the biggest moves of this offseason when they swung a blockbuster deal with the Brewers on Thursday night to land Burnes.

In recent years, the Orioles have gotten a small glimpse at Burnes’ dominance, as the 29-year-old right-hander pitched 15 scoreless innings against them in two starts over the past two seasons. Now, he’ll be toeing the rubber for the reigning American League East champions.

“It’s an exciting team,” Burnes said. “If I’m going out there doing my job, those guys are going out there doing their job, it’s going to create a lot of success.”

Here are seven things Baltimore fans should know about Burnes, the team’s new rotation ace.

1. He’s an “absolute horse,” as O’s GM Mike Elias put it
There’s a plethora of reasons why Burnes is the ideal fit atop Baltimore’s rotation. But one of the characteristics Elias emphasized the most is Burnes’ heavy workload.

The Orioles lost Kyle Gibson (who pitched a team-high 192 innings last year) and brought in Burnes, who threw 193 2/3 innings last season and a career-high 202 frames in 2022.

“He’s extremely competitive. He’s a true No. 1 starter,” Elias said. “He’s the kind of guy that wants to be out there until you absolutely force him to come out of the game, and then, he wants to be out there again.”

2. He’s also a strikeout machine
Burnes has racked up 200 or more strikeouts each of the past three years, fanning 234 in 2021, an NL-high 243 in ‘22 and 200 in ‘23. His 765 strikeouts since the beginning of the 2020 season are second most in MLB, behind only Yankees ace Gerrit Cole (816).

In 2024, Burnes could become only the fourth pitcher in Orioles history (since 1954) to record a 200-plus-strikeout season, joining Erik Bedard (221 in ‘07), Mike Mussina (218 in 1997, 210 in 2000 and 204 in 1996) and Dave McNally (202 in ‘68).

3. His cutter is among MLB’s nastiest offerings
Burnes had a five-pitch mix last season featuring a cutter, curveball, changeup, slider and sinker. His cutter usage continually increased earlier in his six-year MLB career, and it’s now his most frequently thrown pitch, having tossed it 55.4% of the time in both 2022 and ‘23. The offering is also continuing to improve.

“Ever since I started throwing this offseason, the cutter has automatically been in a better spot than it was last year, weirdly enough,” Burnes said.

That’s bad news for opposing hitters because last year, Burnes’ cutter was the fourth-most valuable pitch in the strike zone of any thrown by MLB starting pitchers, per Statcast, with +31 runs prevented.

4. He’s had success vs. AL East teams, albeit in a small sample
Burnes owns a 1.26 ERA in five career starts against AL East teams, although two of those outings came against the Orioles. He’s faced the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays one time apiece, and he threw eight scoreless no-hit innings in his only start vs. New York last Sept. 10.

Heading into 2024, Burnes is eager to pitch in arguably the most competitive division in MLB.

“Going into those outings, I’m going to be as prepared as anyone on the field,” Burnes said. “It’s a fun new challenge that I’m going to embrace and look forward to, because I love digging in and doing the homework, and learning about guys and learning how to get guys out.”

5. He’s experienced a lot of winning
Over Burnes’ six seasons with the Brewers, the team made five postseason appearances and won three NL Central titles. He has a 2.84 ERA in 19 innings over eight career postseason outings (including two starts).

“I know what it takes out of a team to get to the postseason on a regular basis,” Burnes said. “The expectation is to come in and to win a lot of baseball games, so that’s my goal as well.”

6. He is eager to be a rotation leader
Burnes knows not to be stingy with knowledge to his teammates. Early during his time in Milwaukee, he gained a lot from veteran pitchers -- Brent Suter, Jhoulys Chacín and Gio González, to name a few -- and he’s eager to share info with O’s youngsters such as Kyle Bradish (27 years old), Grayson Rodriguez (24) and others.

“I’ve learned a lot over my time in the big leagues, and hopefully, I can pass some of that knowledge along to those guys,” Burnes said.

7. He and his family are excited to come to Baltimore
Burnes, a native of Bakersfield, Calif., said that he and his wife, Brooke -- along with their son, Carter, who will be turning 2 this week -- are ready for the adventure of coming to a new city.

“We’ve come into this rather quickly, so we’ll do our best to make those connections and get out in the community and do things,” Burnes said. “We’re excited to be in Baltimore, and hopefully, all of the fans in Baltimore are excited to have us.”