As Cliff noted in his recap of Saturday’s loss, A.J. Burnett has been lit up recently. Burnett has basically gone 0-for-June, amassing an 0-5 record featuring a slash stat line of .357/.455/.724. In his first 11 starts of 2010, Burnett pitched to a 1.08 GB rate with 15% line drives. The last five starts, those numbers are 0.63 and 22% respectively.
But I’m not here to opine on what ails A.J. (It can’t be as simple as not being able to find an Eiland on a map, can it?). I’m just here to have fun with numbers (and avoid doing my laundry on this beastly hot day).
This is the third time in Burnett’s career, and the first time since 2005, that he’s had five consecutive starts with Game Scores no higher than 50*. Now, to be fair, the prior two occasions each featured ERAs of 7.40 with only two homers allowed, while this fivesome is festooned with nine homers surrendered and an 11.35 ERA. So, this is a whole ‘nother level of ugly.
The franchise record for longest streak of starts with game scores no higher than 50 is held by two Jeffs, current Dodger Jeff Weaver, and historical after-thought Jeff Johnson. Weaver had 11 straight subpar starts from April to June of 2003, while Johnson’s rookie campaign of 1991 featured a Summer-full of bad pitching (July to September).
If you page down that list, you’ll note that the last Yankee to have five or more straight starts like this was Javier Vazquez, who managed to begin his second tour of duty with the Yanks as he ended his first one, getting hammered. Vazquez’s streak of eight starts was preceded chronologically by some equally frustrating stretches by the likes of Joba Chamberlain, Sergio Mitre, Chien-Ming Wang (though we might give Wang a pass due to injury), Carl Pavano (here we might NOT give Pavano a pass due to injury) and Sidney Ponson.
Now clearly, Burnett has enough of a track record to make one think he’ll snap out of it after pitching well enough for the majority of his first 1+ seasons with the Yanks. The question now becomes, will Girardi let Burnett pitch himself back to normalcy without a bullpen stop? It should be interesting what the return of Dave Eiland does for A.J.’s fortunes.
* - 50 is the baseline score used for assessing starting pitcher's outings, as developed by Bill James.