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The Right Stuff?

Back with more McCarron and Lamster. Today’s topic: AJ Burnett or Derek Lowe?

I’ve never been keen on Burnett. Last week, I was talking to my good friend Rich Lederer who accused me of being overly critical of players like Burnett, guys who have tremendous “stuff.” Guilty as charged. I got an e-mail from Rich last night, highlighting the many good things about Burnett’s 2008 season:

A.J. was 7th in FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching ERA) among American League pitchers last year. FIP is based on the three variables a pitcher can control: strikeouts, walks, and home runs. The six pitchers ahead of him were Lee, Halladay, Beckett, E. Santana, Mussina, and Danks. He was one of only 16 starters whose FIP was lower than his ERA and FIP is a better indicator of pitching prowess than ERA. As such, Burnett’s ERA of 4.07 doesn’t accurately portray just how good he pitched last year.

A.J. was first in K/9 and, in fact, was the only starter in the AL who struck out more than one batter per inning. His closest competitor (Beckett) was more than a half of a batter per nine behind Burnett.

A.J. was ninth in HR/9. The eight pitchers head of him were Lee, Eveland (not so good), Lester, Matsuzaka, Halladay, Danks, Hernandez, and Mussina.

Not to be dismissed, A.J. had the fourth highest batting average on balls in play (BABIP) at .328 (vs. about .300 for league average), suggesting that he may have been unlucky. No other Blue Jays starter had a BABIP over .293.

A.J. had the 8th highest groundball rate and GB/FB ratio. Burnett is a rarity in that he can miss bats and keep the ball on the ground, which is exactly what you want in a pitcher.

Not for nothing, A.J. tied for the third hardest average fastball at 94.3 mph. Only Hernandez (94.6) and Santana (94.4) threw harder. Burnett also has one of the best curve balls in the game, a hard, hump-backed curve (second in velocity only to Felix) that is one of the best out pitches in the game.

Oh, and A.J. did all this in the AL East, facing the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees multiple times.

I’m not making a call on the length and size of the contract or his injury history. Instead, I’m just vouching for the quality of the pitcher.

Given a cherce, which guy would you take?

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1 Chyll Will   ~  Nov 20, 2008 1:22 pm

No! No-no-no-no. AJ may have been this and that in 2008, but what in his history can make me believe he can sustain or improve on such numbers in anything but a walk year? If it were possible, I'd give him a year and an option, but that's as ridiculous as giving him five based on this one year after being hurt throughout major time of his previous contract. When will people stop overcompensating guys for one good freaking year??

Hey, maybe Boston has that "magic" that can let him live up to his potential. But then, maybe Matt Clement was really the Tooth Fairy. I dunno...

2 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 20, 2008 1:25 pm

Matt Clement! A prize goes to you Will for bringing up the gangly so and so. LOL

3 Mattpat11   ~  Nov 20, 2008 1:54 pm

Is Hal the youngest owner in baseball?

I also had no idea that Mussina was so good this year with HR rate. It started off so horribly.

And my big response to the AJ thing is what I've been saying all along. There was baseball before last year. And when you factor that in, AJ is a bad, bad move.

One a side note, because I've had issues with volume on my computer, this is the first time I've watched Alex's show. Really good.

4 williamnyy23   ~  Nov 20, 2008 2:18 pm

There are two reasons to take Burnett over Lowe:

1) As FIPs indicates, Burnett does not rely on a good defense, which with the Yankees would be a very good thing. Lowe, on the other hand, is a sinker baller who will need a good defense, particularly in the infield. If the bad Robbie shows up, I can envision quite a few groundballs finding holes off of Lowe, who by many accounts doesn't have the best disposition when his fielders don't help him out.

2) Burnett is 31, while Lowe is 35.

The argument for Lowe, of course, is durability and consistency.

5 knuckles   ~  Nov 20, 2008 2:33 pm

“Seasons in Which AJ Has Surpassed 200 Innings”
By Knuckles…

2002, when AJ was a mere babe of 25. He followed it up with a daunting 23 innings the next year.
2005, AJ’s first walk year. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t throw their arm out of their socket in an attempt to escape the Marlins.
2008, AJ’s next walk year. Just about the time the loonie became more valuable than the USD, AJ realizes he has an out, and doesn’t have to be paid in greenbacks only to spend it all on milk and utilities in Toronto.
Buyer beware..

And, scene.

6 horace_clarke_era   ~  Nov 20, 2008 2:33 pm

The other argument for Lowe (and durability is a BIGGIE) is 2-3 years not 5 years. I'm also with Chyll here: you can treat a single year as indicative sometimes, but if it follows several injury-prone, inconsistent years, it is more logical to treat the one good one as an outlier, not a standard. Add walk-year issues and AJ is a major worry.

MY sense is Cash is treating both Burnett and Lowe as fallbacks, and if the length and money are right, this isn't that dumb. CC's his target, we know that. Anyone know if Yanks put a date on acceptance by Sabathia?

Sorry to see Mussina go. This year's edition was a treat. And it is a genuinely great career.

7 Raf   ~  Nov 20, 2008 2:34 pm

I've softened my stance a bit on AJ;

*Anyway, as I said before it’s ridiculous to offer him a long term contract. I’d make an offer to Ben Sheets before Burnett. Hell, I’d make an offer to Kris Benson, Matt Clement, or Bartolo Colon before I’d make an offer to Burnett. Hell, I’d sign Farnsworth with the intention of making him a starter before I’d sign Burnett…*

but not enough to sign him for 5 years, which I am pretty confident he will get somewhere.


Where you say Clement, I counter with Beckett...

8 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 20, 2008 3:32 pm

William! Nice to hear from you, bro. Missed having you around. Welcome back.

9 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 20, 2008 4:57 pm

William, Hoss and Knuckles? It's a Bronx Banter orgy!

10 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 20, 2008 4:58 pm

"Bronx Banter Breakdown"?
Say that fast 5 times!

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