The Rise of Corbin Burnes

by Brian Cain, MPM

Corbin Burnes, pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers recently had the best start in MLB history. He threw 58 Ks before any walks. And he’s being compared to Cy Young. This is exciting in of itself, but his success has been amplified because of how he started and where his stats were in 2019. 

In 2019, Corbin Burnes had an 8.82 ERA. Yes, you read that correctly, 8.82. 

So, how do you go from putting up one of the worst performances in MLB history to the best in two years? 

By creating and sticking to a process.

Success like this is not accidental. Corbin has always been an elite athlete who worked everyday towards his goals. But training to be bigger, faster, stronger is only part of how he lowered his ERA by 8 points.

The other part? Training his mental game.

I first met Corbin in 2019 When Corbin was sent by the Brewers to their pitching lab at their spring training complex in Arizona. His agent had called me and asked if Corbin could stop by the house for a 1-1 meeting.  He did and we got to work right away. Not on his mechanics, but on his mindset. His approach. His preparation.

You see, getting moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation, requires a different kind of mental preparation. Starters and relievers have the same outcome goal, execute quality pitches but need a different process to help them prepare and at the MLB level, separation is in preparation.. There are lots of secrets to success, and preparation is one of them. So, we immediately mapped out the 120 hours and five days between starts.

As a starter, he now pitches every 5 days. And preparation for the next start begins the second he steps off the mound of the game he just finished. 

There are 120 hours before he will step out on the mound again. Every starting pitcher needs a process for each of those 120 hours.

Keeping the process paramount and bigger than anyone outcome is one of the most important skill I teach my baseball players and especially pitchers.

What’s your pre-game process?

What’s your pre-pitch process?

What’s the process you use for your post-game analysis?

Everyone likes to say, “trust the process.” But, that implies you have a process.

As a youth baseball player, you don’t have 120 hours between starts. So, you don’t yet need to develop a 120 hour process. But, you can start today with a success checklist.

What’s a success checklist? 

Corbin shared his success checklist with a reporter who then shared it here:

So what have we learned?

You need structure to your routine.

You need a process.

You need a daily success checklist to help you prepare to compete at your best.

Let’s get started today with those tasks.


Step #1 – Start a “Well, Better, How” Post Performance Journal

You are not going to bring your best self to every hour of your day. There will be things you do well and there will be things you can do better. The trick to improving yourself over time is to define what’s going well, what can be going better and most importantly, HOW will you improve what needs to be improved?

In a Well, Better How Journal you can track your daily thoughts on what went well, what can go better and how you think you can make it better. Over time, patterns will be revealed.  Not only does Corbin do this, but so did one of the greatest competitors of all time, Kobe Bryant.  Listen to Kobe talk about his process and using the “Well Better How” reflection here in this video clip.

Are the same things everyday going well? Are the same things everyday needing to go better? Have you actually done the things you said you would do in your how column? Can you begin to form a checklist of things you need to do to get better?


Step #2 – Track and Measure your Behaviors

Elite results come from elite actions. You know you should move and your body everyday and do your arm care as a pitcher. Do you? You know you should stay hydrated with drinking 2/3rds of your body weigh in water a day. Do you? You know you should get at least 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Do you? 

If you track and measure your behaviors then you know where you need to make improvements. 

In Day 2 of my 30 Days to Mental Performance for Athletes Program, I suggest downloading the Way of Life app. This app helps you to define what you want on your success checklist and helps you measure how often it gets done.  Check out this video and article I created about how to maximize your preparation with The Success Checklist.

Repetition and consistency when forming habits is crucial.


Step #3 – Master Consistency

The things you do everyday are the things you get good at. Are you really good at picking up your phone first thing in the morning? That’s because you do it everyday. (By the way, this is not the greatest habit). Are you really good at getting out of the house on time everyday? It’s because you get out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off. Which probably means you get enough sleep. Are you making your bed every morning to establish your first win of the day like they train Navy Seals to do?

The things you do everyday are the things you’ll get good at. So, make sure you define what it is you need to do to get better and make sure you are doing those things consistently. 

Consistency is the secret to success.

Want to know more secrets? My 30 Days to Mental Performance Mastery (MPM) for Athletes Program has lots of them. Corbin Burnes goest through my 30 Days to MPM for Athletes Program daily and now you can too.  Click on the link above to get started.