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False Start?

Over at ESPN, Rob Neyer asks: Does A.J. Burnett deserve a playoff start?

The moment Burnett left the Blue Jays for the Yankees he went from excellent to (roughly) average. Why this happened, I don’t have the slightest idea. Regression to the mean. Normal wear and tear. Nerves. Something in that pristine Catskill Mountains drinking water. I don’t know. But Burnett’s just not the same pitcher that he was, not so long ago.

This was masked last season by the vagaries of luck and ERA. In 2008, Burnett posted a 4.07 ERA with the Jays. In 2009, he posted a 4.05 ERA with the Yankees. But there were definitely signs of regression, and aside from his ERAs, this season looks more like last season than last season looked like 2008. Last season, his ERA should have been — with just average luck, I mean — somewhere around 4.30; this season it should be somewhere around 4.60.

Essentially, what the Yankees have gotten for their $16.5 million per season is a league-average starting pitcher. Which wouldn’t be so awful, except when you’re spending $16.5 million you do feel compelled to let him pitch. Which wouldn’t be so awful, except Burnett’s signed through 2013 and if he regresses much farther he simply won’t be good enough to pitch for a team that needs to win 95 games every season.

Right now, though? If you don’t have to pitch him, don’t pitch him. If you don’t want to start Sabathia on short rest, tell Burnett you’re just looking for five good innings and then the bullpen will take over at the first sign of trouble. Because while he certainly is not good, neither is he bad.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Yankees

Tags:  A.J. Burnett  Rob Neyer

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1 RIYank   ~  Sep 28, 2010 12:10 pm

I agree with Neyer about the postseason.
It's interesting that he's a league-average pitcher. To those of us who watch him, it sure feels like he's worse than that. Maybe because he's been worse recently.

The rest of the article is also very interesting. It looks like what's happened is that Burnett has lost a few mph on his fastball. Instead of compensating the way Mussina did, he's trying to maintain the speed, and that leads to loss of control. (His change is also faster than it used to be; I wonder if this is also somehow related.)
If Burnett changes his strategy, he might be a good pitcher again. He won't be a great pitcher, but he might be useful. But not this October.

2 The Mick536   ~  Sep 28, 2010 12:35 pm

Don't like his ink. Don't like his look. Don't like the pie thing. And certainly don't like his pitching. Listened to the interview on LoHud. Very restrained questioner. She should not have been. He's a jerk.

3 jcduus   ~  Sep 28, 2010 12:35 pm

Can somebody please tell me why Girardi insists on starting this guy when he obviously struggles big time!? It just blows my mind. Why is he not moved to the bullpen? It just does not make any sense to me. The Yankees are in a pennant race and they continue to start a seriously struggling pitcher that just keeps digging bigger and bigger holes. GIRARDI, PLEASE!! DO NOT START AJ ANY LONGER. MOVE HIM TO THE BULLPEN. HE IS A LIABILITY.

Sorry for the capital letters. I just had to get this out my system.

Go Yankees.

4 rbj   ~  Sep 28, 2010 12:46 pm


Next question.

5 ms october   ~  Sep 28, 2010 12:54 pm

i understand that he is under a big contract but dear lord do we ever have to see him again?
a fip of 4.82, his highest ever; a crapp hr/9 rate of 1.20 and he is barely striking anyone out (6.97 k/9 - atrocious).

he doesn't have the control and command to be a good pitcher with the loss in velocity.

6 jimcobain   ~  Sep 28, 2010 12:56 pm

I'm asking... Is AJ "league average" because if he is good, he's really good. But if he's bad he's really bad and that averages out to an average pitcher?

To me the problem with AJ is there is no middle ground. He either is excellent or horrible. There is something to it that the Yankees are 0-10 when he fails to get through 5. To me that means if he's "off" he's horrible and totally taking the team out of games.

To me I can't trust AJ in the playoffs at all.

7 ms october   ~  Sep 28, 2010 1:00 pm

[6] yep, that's the problem - his bad is so bad that he basically give the team zero chance to win and destroys the pen while he is at it.

8 RIYank   ~  Sep 28, 2010 1:15 pm

[7] I actually disagree with this. I'd rather have a pitcher who is sometimes horrible and sometimes great, than one who is always mediocre. The reason is that if he's horrible you can pull him very early and still have at least some reasonable chance of winning. I bet a team like the Yankees can win more than half of the pitcher's starts that way.

Of course, in practice, your manager might leave the schmuck in until the game is completely out of reach. So that has to be figured in.

9 The Hawk   ~  Sep 28, 2010 1:20 pm

He was never excellent. That is ****ing ridiculous.

10 jimcobain   ~  Sep 28, 2010 1:23 pm

[8] The manager has to be factored in. Last year in the playoffs AJ was lit up for 4 runs in the first by Anaheim and Girardi left him in. AJ got it together and settled down. Eventually the Yanks went ahead and though ultimately lost the game.

I think Girardi is giving AJ too much credit. This year AJ isn't bouncing back, and Girardi seemingly has no plan or no want to take him out. You'd think maybe once the Yanks could have comeback when AJ wasn't on. But like I said before they are 0-10 when he doesn't go deep.

11 The Hawk   ~  Sep 28, 2010 1:30 pm

[8] In theory, maybe. But he always gets his chance to burn down the mound.

The Yankees offense doesn't need great pitching. It needs decent pitching. Serviceable pitching. But what AJ does when he blows up is almost ensure the team loses the game. If someone with a 4 ERA actually has that every game, the Yankees will win most of those games.

If AJ is exactly even between 1 run games and 7 runs or whatever ... well, you see the result. Teams with less offense might benefit from a guy like Burnett; the Yankees are built to get the least possible out of him.

Still I say give him one more year. Maybe he can be of some use. One thing I'm pretty sure is he'll never mentally grow. Every time I think he's turned the corner with one of his blue moon gut-it-out starts, there are immediately a few that demonstrate his lack of mental discipline or whatever the **** his problem is.

12 RIYank   ~  Sep 28, 2010 1:32 pm

[10] I'm not clear on what the difference is between "that has to be figured in", which is what I said, and "the manager has to be factored in", which is what you said. So I don't think we're disagreeing.
Maybe Girardi's idea is that for the rest of the regular season, he'll be using Burnett as if he could bounce back, just to see whether he can. I agree with the general sentiment that the verdict is in already, but maybe that's how Girardi is looking at it.

13 Sliced Bread   ~  Sep 28, 2010 2:41 pm

I recently adopted a dog named Ace, but let's call him AJ. AJ's mostly a great dog (affectionate, energetic, and fun) , but he sometimes digs holes in the yard, sometimes poops in the house, and sometimes chews things he isn't supposed to. I'm to blame because I haven't effectively trained AJ to stop doing these things yet. I love the dog, and reward him for the high percentage of the time that he's Good AJ. I take him for half hour walks every day, sometimes twice. We built him a nice dog house, and give him bones, rawhide, and toys to chew so he doesn't turn his attention to our shoes, belts, and things.
Of course we know pitchers are different than dogs. We can provide everything for them, we can train them, groom them, and yet sometimes they dig holes, and crap the carpet. So, if you're the Yankees what do you do with your Ace? I mean, AJ. Even though there's some evidence that somebody or something recently hit poor ol' AJ in the eye, the Yankees, by all appearances take very good care of AJ, and they are likely to continue to do so. We might want to roll up a newspaper and swat AJ in the snoot to get him back on track. We might want to put him up for adoption, or take him on a midnight run ("AJ must have just run away in the night, kids.) But let's not loose sight of the fact that in half of his six September starts he's been Good AJ (Quality AJ), and another recent night when he looked like Very Good AJ, he was taken out of the game during a long rain delay. The Yankees are going to continue to be loyal to AJ. They know he can be a very good dog. Even if he keeps pooping on the hand that pays him. Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer can't help him, and Jose Molina the AJ Whisperer isn't around anymore to comfort him. All Girardi can do is keep AJ on a short leash. Remind him that deep holes, and doggie doo can not, and will not be tolerated on October baseball fields.
I say, run, AJ run! Ears and jowls to the wind, boy! We know you can do it! Be the dog!
If he can't? We'll have to quickly summon another dog who can. My Ace and I will be rooting for Good AJ.

14 Sliced Bread   ~  Sep 28, 2010 2:44 pm

sorry for the long, sloppy post.

"BAD SLICED, NO! " [swats self on snoot with newspaper]

15 mhoward120   ~  Sep 28, 2010 3:03 pm


16 The Hawk   ~  Sep 28, 2010 3:10 pm

[14] Haha, yeah some paragraph breaks would've gone a long way, homie

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