Brandon Woodruff struggled early in the season, but he has been outstanding since the middle of May. He came off a strong season where he had a 2.56 era and a 0.96 whip in 179 1/3 innings, although he settled for a 9-10 record with the Brewers last year. Yet there were early troubles signs from the abbreviated spring training where he allowed six home runs and 16 hits along with 15 runs (14 earned runs) in three starts comprising 11 2/3 innings.
These difficulties continued in the regular season. He only struck out two batters in each of his first two April starts. In his first six starts, Woodruff had a 5.96 era and a 1.29 whip. The shortened spring training led to many starting pitchers struggling to build their arm strength to achieve their maximize their velocity. Bettors made a mistake by automatically discounting these established starting pitchers who were underachieving early in the year.
Woodruff may very well be pitching at the highest level of his career since mid-May. In his start on Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals, the right-hander comes off another strong effort where he allowed only one earned run and three hits in six innings of work at Cincinnati last Thursday. He struck out 11 Reds batters while inducing seventeen swinging strikes and a called strike or swinging strike rate of 35%. Woodruff had struck out at least ten batters in three straight games, and he has double-digit strikeouts in four of his last six starts. For the season going into that game, he had a 12-4 record with a 3.18 era, a 1.09 whip, and a strikeout rate of 30.1% of the batters he has faced. In his twelve starts since the all-star break, he had a 2.52 era and a 1.00 whip. He had pitched well in his two starts against St. Louis this year against which he has a 2.00 era and a 0.78 whip. In his eleven starts at home, Woodruff had a 2.16 era and a 0.84 whip. The Brewers have won ten of his eleven starts at home this year. They have won seven of their previous ten games when Woodruff is their starting pitcher tasked with ending a team losing streak.
We endorsed Milwaukee behind Woodruff in that game against the Cardinals, and we were rewarded with a 5-1 victory. Woodruff continued his outstanding form by giving up only five hits and no earned runs in six innings to earn the victory. He continued his torrid strike-out pace by punching out ten St. Louis batters, representing 41.7% of the batters he faced.
In his twenty starts since May 15th after his slow start, Woodruff has a 2.35 era and a 1.04 whip. His 156 strikeouts in 118 2/3 innings have him averaging 11.8 punch outs per nine innings which would be the highest mark of his career if extended through to the entire season. He has lowered his season era from 3.54 to 3.05 just in his last five starts.
Bettors should always consider shorter-term trends when looking at season-long numbers. While it is easy to appreciate that Woodruff is a good starting pitcher, a closer examination reveals just how dominant he has been. If Milwaukee makes the National League playoffs as the third wild card team, they could be very dangerous when Woodruff is their starting pitcher.
Good luck - TDG.