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The Right Stuff?

Posted By Alex Belth On November 20, 2008 @ 1:07 pm In Bronx Banter | Comments Disabled

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 [1] 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] Rich Lederer: http://baseballanalysts.com/

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