Is A.J Burnett Really Better Than We Think?

A.J Burnett is the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde of baseball. There are times where you want to say, “thank goodness we have A.J” and there are times where you want to say, “why on earth do we have A.J?” Fans think that A.J Burnett is mostly bad based on the last 2 years he’s been in the Bronx, but Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York doesn’t seem to think that A.J is all bad. As a matter of fact, Matthews think that A.J is pretty good and that we are only looking at the big picture. As a matter of fact, take a read at this:

The list of American League starting pitchers with the highest rate of strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 2011 is as follows: Brandon MorrowMichael PinedaJustin Verlander, Gio GonzalezDavid PriceCC SabathiaFelix HernandezJon LesterC.J. Wilson — and Allan James Burnett.

In addition, there are only 11 starting pitchers in the AL who induced more ground balls last year than A.J. Burnett.

Of course, a strikeout or a ground ball are two of the best results a pitcher can hope for once he lets go of the baseball, and Burnett was among the league leaders in both. That combination usually means a sub-4.00 ERA and a W-L record to match.

And if you want to get all Saber-Geeky about it, Burnett’s xFIP of 3.86 — an advanced measurement of a pitcher’s effectiveness on plays not involving fielders — was comparable to that of Matt Cain (3.78) and Jered Weaver (3.80) to name two pitchers any Yankees fan would take over Burnett in a heartbeat.

Here I tend to agree. While A.J has qualities that we would love to get rid of (such as letting the ball fly out the park), Burnett does a great job in getting strikeouts, ground balls and his xFIP was pretty impressive. So why do fans always see the bad? Matthews also points that out.

Lots of reasons. For one thing, he walked too many batters, nearly four for every nine innings pitched. For another, his fastball, which averaged over 95 mph just three years ago, now rarely brushes 93. As a result, on nights Burnett couldn’t locate his curveball — and they were many — opposing hitters hammered his fastball for a .332 batting average, a .421 OBP and a .606 SLG.

But most of all, his home run percentage was, literally, through the roof. Better than one in every six fly balls hit off Burnett last year left the yard. He was the easiest starting pitcher to take out of the ballpark in all of Major League Baseball.

I admit, it’s easier to see A.J’s flaws because all we can think about is when A.J is going to mess up and give the opposing team the lead, but Matthews article opened my eyes. Burnett didn’t have as bad of a 2011 season that we all thought he did which means there is room for improvement. I agree with Matthews on one main thing- Burnett didn’t have a horrible 2011. As a matter of fact, he somewhat did better in 2011 than he did in 2010. It would be easier to see the changes in Burnett’s mechanics if he would pitch well all the time and not give up so many HR’s? Well, a person can only dream, can’t they?

To read the full ESPN article on A.J Burnett, click here

About Delia E.

Delia Enriquez is the managing editor of Yankees Fans Unite. She enjoys analyzing the New York Yankees whether it be their pitching, roster or their manager. You can follow her on twitter @dfiregirl4 for more tweets, analysis and opinion on the Yankees.

Posted on February 9, 2012, in Personal Opinion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. NO, NO, NO. He is not any better then I think. And I think he is absolutely terrible, he’s a plague on the Yankees and their fans.

  2. I will be happy if the Pirates step up and take AJ off the Yankees hands.

  3. In AJ’s case every good stat can be nullified by 3 equally horrible stats. Sure he has a nice K rate but look how he ranks in these categories among ALL qualified starters in the last 2 seasons:

    Worst in MLB – 14.1% HR/Fly Ball Ratio
    Worst in MLB – 28 HBPs
    Worst in MLB – 41 Wild Pitches (might be double if not for Martin)
    Worst in A.L – 1.34 HR/9
    2nd Worst in MLB – 5.20 ERA
    2nd Worst in A.L – 4.80 FIP
    2nd Worst in A.L – 3.84 BB/9
    3rd Worst in A.L – 1.47 WHIP

    But, sometimes the old stats are the best….on a team that went 192-132 the last 2 years with arguably the best offense and best bullpen to back him up he has won just 21 games and lost 26.

    He seems to find ways to lose games. He now has a “loser’s mentality”. AJ can be pitching a gem, hitting spots with his FB and snapping off his Curve for Ks but as soon as he gives up one hard base hit, he can start to un-ravel. he starts nibbling, falling behind – a walk here, a Wild pitch here – a HBP – then BOOM – the 3-run HR.

  4. Any truth to the rumor that A J Burnett goes to Seattle for Chone Figgins?

    • I haven’t heard anything about A.J Burnett going to Seattle. I did hear a rumor about him going to the Pirates for Garrett Jones.

        New York Yankees Looking to Ship A.J. Burnett, Possible Bad Contract Exchange for Chone Figgins
        February 9th, 2012 at 5:38 PM
        By Anthony Sanelli
        Let’s make it clear, this is nothing more than a rumor right now, but it is possible that the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees could possibly do a bad contract exchange bringing A.J. Burnett to Seattle and send Chone Figgins to New York.
        Right now, the Yankees are talking with the Pittsburg Pirates in effort to get left handed outfielder/first baseman Garret Jones for Burnett but the Pirates are showing little interest in the deal.
        Burnett signed a five year deal worth $82.5 million in 2008 with the Yankees. With the two years and $33 million the Yankees still owe him, he’s been hard to shop. From 2009-2011 Burnett has gone 34-35 with a 4.81 ERA and has given up 81 HR’s; hardly the return-on-investment the Yankees were looking for.
        When you look at the Chone Figgins deal here in Seattle you see the same thing. Figgins has two years left and the Mariners still owe him $17 million. We all know how bad he’s been so we can skip the stats.
        The Yankees would be eating up to $25 million of Burnetts salary if they wanted to send him somewhere like Pittsburg. Seattle would have to eat up to $15 million to move Figgins anywhere other than New York. An exhcange of the two would look something like the Carlos Silva, Milton Bradley deal that took place before the 2010 season. Not necessarily the best deal for either but was made under the same assumption that a change of scenery might benefit each player.
        The deal only makes sense for the Mariners if they are getting Burnett for the same amount they would already pay Figgins and no more. It could work for both teams because Figgins, as a utility player could give some of the players on the Yankees some time in the DH slot instead of playing in the field everyday. He would add speed and depth to an aging Yankees Roster.
        The acquisition of Burnett solidify’s the Mariners rotation as he could be a back end guy in a roomy Safeco Field. It might be just the thing the right hander needs after three rough seasons in a hitter friendly, Yankee Stadium. A good first half might result in him being a valuable trade chip once again if he can prove he’s still got some good innings left in him.
        The only reason the Mariners might not be interested in such a deal would because of the desire to move Ichiro out of the leadoff spot on use Figgins in his place. It’s hard to predict whether either player would benefit from the change (Silva and Bradley sure didn’t) but it’s an idea to toy with.

        • I guess it could work. It does seem more like rumor than something solid thought as it hasn’t been reported by a major source yet. Figgins has tanked since he got to Seattle so maybe a change of scene will do him good.

          He can play outfield, third and second so that is good to have in a player.

    • i hope not. Would rather have Jones than Figgins.

      • Matt, I agree with you here. I’d much rather have Garrett Jones than Figgins. Other then an exchange of bad contracts Figgins doesn’t do anything for the Yankees.

        Maybe if the Seattle “RUMOR” has even a little bit of truth to it, it might spur the Pirates to make a deal with the Yankees. Burnett could/might be the Pirates only hope of getting a pitcher to Pittsburgh.

  5. Just read this on MLBTR (it’s a good sign the teams continue to talk):

    Yankees, Pirates Talking A.J. Burnett Trade
    By Ben Nicholson-Smith [February 10 at 7:57am CST]
    The Yankees and Pirates continue discussing a possible A.J. Burnett trade, Jon Heyman of reports. The Yankees are willing to pay a substantial portion of the $33MM remaining on the right-hander’s contract through 2013, but the teams are still a few million apart.

    The Yankees want to create payroll room for a designated hitter and appear to be leaning toward Raul Ibanez, perhaps because they prefer his ability to play the outfield. Johnny Damon and Eric Chavez also intrigue the Yankees as possible free agent additions, according to Heyman. The Pirates rejected the Yankees’ request for Garrett Jones, Heyman writes.

    Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Burnett’s no-trade list includes all of the teams on the West Coast (Twitter links). Sherman expects the Yankees to trade Burnett before Spring Training and suggests the team is waiting to see if the Pirates or another club offers to absorb more money.

    • Who else on the Pirates would they want? Jones seems to be the best fit.

      • I guess they could always ask for Alex Presley. But if the Pirates are hesitant about parting with Jones they probably won’t give up Presley. That would still give the Yankees the opportunity to sign Chavez.

        Hey, It never hurts to ask. I still think a Burnett/Jones swap is probably the best bet.

        • agreed. Hopefully now it gets done with them or some other team. If not it’s going to be a circus with all the questions he is going to get when he shows up to spring training.

  6. If the Yankees can get the Pirates to pay $10MM of Burnett’s $33MM they should jump on it.

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