Imagine you’re sitting at home watching the game as you put your feet up on the couch to get ready for a relaxing, if stormy, weekend. You have high hopes because you don’t think things could go worse for A.J. Burnett than his last outing, and you know this is an important game — no one wants to lose even a single game to the lowly Orioles. But things go bad quickly. You smirk at the screen as Burnett muddles through the first inning, then implodes in the second. He pitches the entire inning, but it’s a disaster: groundout, homer, double, double, double, double, homer, E-1, 6-4-3 DP. When the inning finally ends the Yankees are down 6-0, and a loss seems inevitable.
You pick up the remote in disgust and are just about to call your wife to watch Project Runway, when you remember something. Doesn’t this seem an awful lot like yesterday? Didn’t you feel disloyal when you gave up on the Yankees when they were down 7-1? Didn’t you miss 21 runs and the beauty of Jorge Posada playing second base all because you lost faith?
You can’t let that happen again. So you put the remote down and get ready to watch the rest of the game. Seven innings later, you realize you made the wrong decision two days in a row. You remember yesterday’s bile as tasting good compared to what you’re feeling now.
After falling into that 6-0 hole on Friday night in Baltimore, the Yankees didn’t show quite the fight that they had on Thursday afternoon against the A’s. There was a home run from Posada in the fifth, cutting the lead to 7-1 (sound familiar?), but Burnett coughed up two more runs in the bottom half, then a two-out error by Robinson Canó in the sixth led to a three-run home run by Matt Wieters, and the Yanks were down by eleven.
Alex Rodríguez snapped the second-longest home run drought of his career when he went deep in the seventh, Swisher continued his hot hitting with a two-run homer later in the inning, and they tacked on another run in the seventh, but that did nothing more than change the final score. Orioles 12, Yankees 5.
It’s never fun when the Yankees lose, but there is obviously a much bigger concern here. Here’s a hint: it starts with A.J. and it ends with Burnett. His overall record right now sits at 9-11 with a 5.31 ERA, but if you want to know how bad he’s really been, read on. But be warned — what follows is not for the faint of heart.
We know what quality starts are, but Burnett’s season thus far has been measured by blow-up starts. Friday was his fifth outing where he allowed more runs than innings pitched. His last quality start was on June 29th against Milwaukee. Here’s his line since then:
56.1 IP/47 ER/70 H/27 BB/52 K/7.51 ERA/1.72 WHIP
On the surface, those are some pretty bad numbers, but they look even worse when you realize that they came against mediocre competition at best. Over those ten starts Burnett has faced Cleveland, Tampa Bay (twice), Oakland, Baltimore (twice), Chicago, Anaheim, Kansas City, and Minnesota. Those eight teams have a combined record of 491-550.
So we can agree that Burnett’s been bad for the past two months, but when we narrow our focus to August, it gets worse still. In his last five starts he looks like this:
22.2 IP/30 ER/44 H/9 BB/17 K/11.91 ERA/2.34 WHIP
Believe it or not, it gets comically worse. His last three starts have come against the three worst teams in the league. Many pitchers would be padding their stats against competition like this, but Burnett has actually gone in the opposite direction:
12.1 IP/19 ER/24 H/6 BB/8 K/13.87 ERA/2.43 WHIP
After Burnett’s last start, I used this space to defend him — or, more accurately, I attacked those in the media who attacked him. Now I’m here to tell you that the time has come for the Yankees to do something. Scranton is calling.
[Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/AP]