"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: A.J. Burnett
           Newer posts

Now, it's Garbage

Atrocious. That’s how Michael Kay described AJ Burnett’s performance tonight in Chicago. Nine runs in 3.1 innings. Maybe it was all a bad dream, huh, Meat?

Nope, it actually happened. Seen it with my own eyes. And if Burnett wasn’t bad enough, the rest of the team played like Chico’s Bail Bonds. Francisco Cervelli’s little star has not only crashed to earth, it’s been dismantled to the point where it doesn’t matter how cute he is, his performance, behind the plate and at bat, is lacking. That Yankees were listless for long stretches of the game, scratching out just six hits.

Here’s a shot from Joe Girardi’s post-game team meeting with the team.

Bull Durham and The Bad News Bears. Makes for a great double feature but a lousy model for, you know, winning a real game.

“This is one of those games where you hope the whole team gets it out of its system because they just want to turn the page quickly,” said Ken Singleton. The long view. Right, what he said.

The White Sox whipped the Yanks, 9-4. The Red Sox also beat the Rays, so the Yanks remain tied with Tampa for first place. Boston is just four-and-a-half back.

The Yanks are the defending World Champs and share the best-record in baseball with the Rays. But after CC Sabathia–who pitches on Saturday night–their starting rotation is suspect. The Red Sox are lurking. Could the Yankees–or the Rays, for that matter–spit the bit down the stretch? Could the Red Sox, improbably, make the playoffs?

Stranger things have happened. I’m not panicked but I haven’t been impressed with the Yankees of late and I’m far from comfortable.

High and Low

Over at ESPN, dig this on AJ Burnett:

He has eight starts this year where he has given the Yankees less than a 10 percent chance to win, and eight starts where he has given his team at least an 80 percent chance for victory. Amazingly, in every single one of his starts, he has given the Yankees at least a 69 percent chance of winning OR less than a 34 percent chance. Not one start in between.

Sunday Gravy

Josh Beckett and AJ Burnett were all set for a Sunday Night Red Ass Bake-Off but Burnett has “tightness in his back” and has been replaced by Dustin “FBI Agent Alonzo” Mosley. Burnett is now scheduled to pitch Tuesday; Phil Hughes will go tomorrow afternoon.

Meanwhile, Lance Berkman is handling the Bronx Cheer in stride. According to Chad Jennings:

“Trust me, I’m booing myself,” [Lance Berkman] said. “I have no credibility here… I didn’t come up here to catch a break. I came up here to play well and win.”

…“As long as it’s not my wife or kids, I’m fine with it,” he said. “This is a big boy’s game and place to play, and if you can’t handle that, go home.”

I think the Big Puma is going to bust-out shortly…

Alex Rodriguez is penciled into the line-up though that is subject to change.

Yanks going for their second-straight win:

Let’s Go Yan-kees.

[Photo Credit: Food Network]

Straight From the Sewer

It’s hot and damp in New York. AJ Burnett goes for the Yanks tonight and all eyes are on the $82 million knucklehead. With Serge Mitre throwing tomorrow afternoon, it behooves Mr. Burnett to not only pitch well, but deep into the game. Otherwise, he g’wan here it but good, Bronx Cheer Style.

Man-up, tough guy, and let’s go Yan-kees!

(p.s. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here when I tell you that I think Alex Rodriguez will hit career dinger 600 and more this weekend.)

[Picture by Bags]

Burn Notice

The first two games of the series at Camden Yards — the last series the Yankees will play against American League competition for a few weeks — did little to hold the interest of even the Yankees, it seemed. The Yankees believe they will win every game, while the Orioles, a once proud franchise, have become a team that is only “Major League” in name, to paraphrase Vin Scully. As WFAN’s Steve Sommers put it on the Wednesday Schmooze, “You know who’s going to win, it’s just a matter of what the final score will be.”

Yet amid an air of seemingly unfailing predictability, there’s AJ Burnett. In his last two starts he plowed through the Indians’ lineup and then ran into the Blue Jays’ home run machine. The O’s should have been the perfect elixir to get him back on track. Except that with Burnett, in a season and a half of watching him closely, we’re unable to discern that there is a track.

In the first inning, Burnett’s numbers read as follows:

2 R, 2 H, 2 HBP, 2 K, 2.00 WHIP.

Great poker hand, terrible pitching line.

But these were the Orioles, so there was still a sense that the Yankees would come back and win this game without issue. Either that, or the Orioles would find a way to botch things and hand the game in the Yankees’ favor as they did Wednesday night.


I Can Lose That Game in 5 Pitches

My TV is busted. Been without the glow and hum since May 20th, and really, it’s not that bad. But it makes writing a game recap a little more difficult. There’s always the radio though, and I planned on listening to the game and relaying that experience to you. It wasn’t the best laid plan, but damn if it didn’t go astray anyway.

Photo by Greg Stone

What happened is the new public art project in New York called “Key to the City” and it’s unexpected popularity at 5:45pm on Friday night. The project is designed to recreate the experience of receiving a key to the city, but one that actually opens things – 24 locations scattered around the five boroughs. I work right next door to the kiosk where they are handing out the keys, and figured I would surprise my wife and bestow a key upon her, and make it home in plenty of time for the first pitch, natch.

Two hours later, the Yanks were already knee deep in Cecil-induced frustrations and I was finally getting that key. Starving, we headed to Bon Chon on 38th for some fabulously fried chicken wings and plopped down right in front of AJ Burnett and Jose Bautista facing off in the bottom of the second.

We stayed through the bottom of the fourth. As we left, I had a strong suspicion (and trail of garlic-soy) I had seen the five pitches that would be worth writing about. Here they are chronologically:

1) Bottom 2nd, none out, none on, 3-2 count on Jose Bautista. Blammo. A string-straight fastball, crushed appropriately. As he circled the bases, a YES graphic informed me it was his 17th of the year. What the shit?

2) Top 3rd, man on 2nd, 2 out, no count on Derek Jeter. Derek swung at the first pitch and was badly beaten on a change-up. He grounded out weakly to 3rd. I think a large part of why Cecil was so effective was his use of the change-up versus aggressive hitters in big spots. Jeter got totally abused there, as did Cano in the fourth when he struck out on five straight balls, none of them close.

3) Top 4th, man on 1st and 2nd, 0 out, 0-1 count to Arod. Ball in the dirt, scooted through Buck’s legs and he jumped up with no clue where the ball was. Swisher was not ready to take third. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. It immediately occurred to me as important, but that is not because of any prescience, it’s just because I’m a buzzkill.

4)  Top 4th, man on 1st and 2nd, 0 out, 1-1 count to Arod. Somewhat well struck one hop liner turned into a DP with a high degree of difficulty for both the shortstop and the second baseman. The former had to stick with the hard hit ball to his left and the latter had to barehand an errant shovel pass. Not only was this double play made possible by Swisher’s failure to run the bases aggressively, I think it was a base hit if Gonzalez is not playing at double play depth.

5) Bottom 4th, man on 1st, 1 out, 2-0 on Bautista. Hard to believe, but this pitch was even more hittable than the last one, and number 18 went even further than number 17 (or seemed to anyway, I don’t have the distances). To make matters worse, there was a guy on first via one of the cheapest hits you’ll ever see.

And then a nice subway ride home and a check on the score did nothing to inspire me to catch Sterling’s call of the final few futile innings of the 6-1 loss. Not a good game, and the Rays are only down 3 runs in the seventh right now, so that’s probably an 80-20 shot at another victory for them. Glad I waited on line for that key.

The Good A.J.

PREFACE: Writing a game recap on the Sunday of the Masters Tournament is not the easiest thing to do for a golf nut like myself. I guess that’s what DVR is for. Not knowing what I should watch sandwiched between my daughter’s naps and my wife’s grading schedule, I decided to record both. I zipped through the Yankee game first and then caught up to the goings-on at Augusta National later on. Deadlines are deadlines…

The YES telecast was odd. The pregame show featured a segment with Michael Kay and Tino Martinez venturing into the stadium and dissecting key points to the game from a couple of empty seats. This being the first YES game I’ve seen this season, I don’t know if this is a one-off experiment or a regular feature to break up the previous formula of keeping the broadcasters off camera and filling that spot with video (B-roll). If you’ve read my work here for the past three seasons, you know I like to watch the games on mute — an old habit from my days working at YESNetwork.com — so this feature was even more hilarious with Tino Martinez moving his mouth and having no sound come out. Based on the reviews, that’s not too far from what happens with the sound on.

The new graphics and layout look clean and are clearly tweaked for HD. The pitch counter is a nice addition to the bug in the upper left-hand corner. That bug has also been condensed so that it doesn’t extend across the entire top border of the screen.

The question heading into Sunday, as it seems to be every time A.J. Burnett takes the mound, is “Which guy will show up?” The first inning featured the version we’ve come to sort of expect, going back to last October: 21 pitches, two runs allowed, two hits, a walk, only one first-pitch strike to the six batters he faced. His weakness in holding runners played a factor into the two runs scored, as both Jason Bartlett and Carl Crawford stole second to set the table for the Rays’ lead. Bartlett took advantage of Burnett throwing an off-speed pitch, while Crawford just beat a bang-bang play on a pitch-out, which featured a strong throw from Jorge Posada.

Rays starter James Shields, although he may not possess the explosive stuff of Burnett — or implosive, depending on the day — does have similar foibles. Mainly, Shields is prone to falling behind early in the count and opening up innings for the opposition. The Yankees adhered to that scouting report in the second inning, when A-Rod led off with a walk and three batters later, Curtis Granderson ripped a 3-1 fastball into the right-field corner to cut the deficit to 2-1.

The meat of the order — A-Rod, Robinson Canó, Jorge Posada and Granderson — forced Shields into a similar predicament the next time around in the fourth inning. But after A-Rod led off with a double and Posada walked with one out, Granderson and Swisher stranded them both to kill the rally.

Burnett, on the other hand, found his rhythm after hiccuping his way through the first inning. He retired 10 straight batters from the point when he walked Evan Longoria in the first and B.J. Upton in the fourth. He fired first-pitch strikes to nine of those 10 hitters. Pat Burrell’s leadoff single in the fifth — the first hit allowed by Burnett since the first inning — came on a 2-0 count.


Better Lucky Than Good

Joe Buck summarized it perfectly in the ninth inning: “What. A. Game.”

Game 2 of the American League Championship Series went the way pundits and prognosticators figured every game between the Yankees and Angels would. There was great pitching, timely fielding, and enough punching and counter-punching from both sides to merit an HBO documentary. And like Game 2 of the Division Series against the Minnesota Twins, nine innings weren’t enough to decide the outcome.

Question marks defined the lead-up. Would the weather hold? Would AJ Burnett? How quickly would the Yankees offense strike against Joe Saunders and get into the Angels’ bullpen? Would the Angels rebound after matching the worst defensive performance in their postseason history?

The answers were yes (until the ninth inning); yes, sort of quickly but not with enough oomph to force Scioscia’s hand; and kindasorta.

The scoring reflected the team’s personalities: The Yankees flexed their power while the Angels thrived on their speed and ability to execute small ball. In no inning was this more apparent than the 11th: Alfredo Aceves followed 2 1/3 innings of splendid relief by Mariano Rivera by promptly walking the leadoff man, Gary Matthews, Jr. A sacrifice bunt by Erick Aybar put the lead run in scoring position for Chone Figgins, whose first hit of the postseason plated Matthews to give the Angels a 3-2 lead. In the bottom half, Angels closer Brian Fuentes, who led the AL with 48 saves during the regular season and was a stalwart to the Colorado Rockies’ run to the World Series two years ago, made the mistake of throwing an 0-2 fastball up and out over the plate to Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod drilled a line drive to right field — a 320-foot Yankee Stadium Special into the second row to tie the game at 3-3.

”I just can’t imagine a scenario where you would go braindead and want to do that,” said MLB Network’s Joe Magrane, referring to Fuentes’s decision on 0-and-2 to throw the fastball in that location.

There were times over the next few innings where both teams wasted scoring opportunities. Jeff Mathis belted a two-out double in the top of the 12th and was stranded when Matthews struck out to end the inning. In the Yankees’ half, A-Rod popped up with the bases loaded and the winning run on third. In the top of the 13th, Robinson Cano, for the second time in the game, misplayed a routine grounder off the bat of Aybar. And for the second time, the pitcher bailed him out; David Robertson induced an inning-ending groundout from Vladimir Guerrero, which left Aybar at third base.

The Yankees did not waste their chance in the 13th. Jerry Hairston, Jr.’s leadoff single plus Brett Gardner’s sac bunt had the Yankees set up well. After an intentional walk to Cano, Melky Cabrera, the Yankees’ designated walk-off king during the regular season, hit a bouncer to Maicer Izturis at second base and Izturis, instead of getting the sure out at first base, threw to second to try to force Cano. The throw was wide, pulled Aybar off the bag and rolled to Figgins, who had a play on Hairston at the plate. Figgins bobbled the ball, Hairston scored and the Yankees won thanks to another Angels miscue. The Yankees’ ability to play small-ball and manufacture runs has been lost in the series analysis.

From a fan standpoint, it was a welcome sight to see the Yankees celebrate another extra-inning playoff win. The last time the Yankees played an extra-inning game in the LCS was 2004, when David Ortiz singled home the winning run in the 14th inning of Game 5 to keep that epic comeback alive.

Now it’s on to California, and the big question: With a 2-0 series lead, regardless of what happens Monday, will Sabathia pitch Game 4?


A.J.’s Turn

Game One of this ALDS couldn’t have gone much better for the Yankees. CC Sabathia was sharp, every starter but Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano got a hit, including Alex Rodriguez who had a pair of RBI singles, the key end-game relievers (Phil Coke, Phil Hughes, Mariano Rivera, and the re-purposed Joba Chamberlain) got their postseason spikes dirty with a big lead and a day off to follow, and, most importantly, the Bombers extended their regular season dominance of Minnesota with a 7-2 victory. Yesterday, however, gave the exhausted Twins, who in the 25 hours before the first pitch of Game One had played 12 innings to save their season then flown half way across the country, a much-needed day of rest, and Game Two brings another Yankee starting pitcher with a lot to prove.

I was an outspoken opponent of the five-year, $82.5 million contract the Yankees signed A.J. Burnett to in December. With one of those five regular seasons in the books, Burnett has exceeded my expectations in just one way: he stayed healthy and took every one of his turns throughout the season. That’s no small thing, but the net result of Burnett’s 33 starts wasn’t quite what you’d expect from a $16.5 million pitcher, and there are still four more years in which Burnett could well validate my concerns about his injury history.

The contract doesn’t matter tonight. All that matters is how well Burnett pitches in his first postseason start, which is why Joe Girardi has opted to start Jose Molina behind the plate despite the huge drop in production he represents at the plate compared to Jorge Posada. Opposing batters have hit just .221/.307/.352 against Burnett with Molina behind the plate compared to .270/.353/.421 with Posada receiving him. Supposedly the difference is due in part to Burnett’s lack of confidence in Posada’s ability to block his sharp curve in the dirt, which results in Burnett failing to break the pitch off properly when throwing to Posada. Burnett led the league in wild pitches, and one would assumes a certain percentage of those were pitches Burnett thought Posada should have blocked.

Burnett’s breaking point seemed to come in his August 12 start, when, with Posada catching, he uncorked three wild pitches then refused to talk about the issue after the game, saying bruskly, “I’d rather not talk about the wild pitches.” Up to that game, Posada caught 13 of Burnett’s starts while Molina, Francisco Cervelli, and Kevin Cash caught the other ten, five of them coming when Posada was on the disabled list. After that August 12 start, Posada caught just three more of Burnett’s starts, while Molina caught seven. Burnett didn’t thrown another wild pitch after August 12, but two of the three times he pitched to Posada he was rocked, giving up nine runs in five innings to the Red Sox on August 22, and six runs in 5 1/3 innings to the lowly Orioles on September 1. Those were the last two Burnett starts caught by Posada.

That’s why Joe Girardi is sitting a .285/.363/.522 hitter in a playoff game in favor of a man who has hit .217/.273/.298 in 406 at-bats over the last two seasons. I believe Posada himself said it best when he said, in reaction to the news that Molina would be starting, “I just hope we win that game.” Burnett’s need for Molina behind the plate only adds to the pressure he’ll be feeling tonight in his first career postseason start (he was out following Tommy John surgery when his Marlins beat the Yankees in the 2003 World Series). The contract may not matter tonight, but Burnett will by trying to live up to it.

As for how he did in the regular season, Burnett’s aggregate line was actually no better than the no-name Twins sophomore he’ll face tonight:

A.J. Burnett: 4.04 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 2.01 K/BB, 33 GS, 21 QS
Nick Blackburn: 4.03 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 2.39 K/BB, 33 GS, 19 QS

Those lines are damn similar, with Blackburn holding the edge in the three key rate stats, which just goes to show how overrated Burnett really is. As for the 27-year-old Blackburn, his final 2009 line is almost an exact match for his 2008 rookie campaign, which means the Twins can now expect this sort of production from him. Blackburn’s WHIP is high because he led the league in hits allowed. Burnett’s is high because he led the league in walks with a career-high 97. That is also why A.J.’s K/BB is so low (because of all those walks, Burnett’s WHIP and K/BB this year were his worst since 2003, when he made just four starts).

Of course, Burnett and Blackburn are far from similar pitchers, as their strikeout and walk rates reveal:

Burnett: 8.5 K/9, 4.2 BB/9
Blackburn: 4.3 K/9, 1.8 BB/9

Better all those walks and strikeouts than all those hits, but you’d rather see a pitcher keep his opponents off the bases altogether.

Both pitchers finished the regular seaosn strong. In his last four starts (all with Molina catching), Burnett posted a 1.88 ERA, struck out 28 men in 24 innings, and allowed just one home run. In his last four starts, Blackburn posted a 1.65 ERA and walked just one man in 27 1/3 innings.

Blackburn last faced the Yankees on May 16. He took a 4-3 lead into the eighth inning of that game only to let the Yankees tie it up in that inning (and ultimately win it in extras). Burnett faced the Twins twice this year, both times allowing just two runs in six-plus innings, but walking ten in those 13 frames.

The Twins have made one tweak to their lineup tonight. Jason Kubel is DHing, Denard Span is in right, and Carlos Gomez is in centerfield and batting in place of the team’s no-name DH platoon. Alex suggests this is because the Twins want to run on Burnett, but while A.J. allowed 23 steals on the year, he and his catchers caught 34 percent of attempting basestealers, that compared to a 25 percent league average and Jose Molina and Jorge Posada’s matching (yes, matching) 28 percent throw-out rates.


Yankee Panky: Catch-34


From Daily News beat writer Mark Feinsand:

Could Joe Girardi’s desire to get the backup catcher some at-bats be a sign that he has bigger things in store for Molina in the playoffs?

Molina, who went 1-for-4, has caught six of A.J. Burnett’s last seven starts, helping the righthander get back on track with three solid outings in a row following a rocky month. Burnett makes his final start of the regular season tomorrow, and Girardi said Molina would be behind the plate, further fueling speculation that Molina and not Jorge Posada will catch Burnett in the postseason.

This was a frequent topic of discussion between Michael Kay and David Cone during Friday night’s YES telecast.

The refrain went something like this:

“Why would you take the bat of either Jorge Posada or Hideki Matsui out of the lineup? … Joe Girardi doesn’t believe in personal catchers…”

The argument reminded me of 2005, when a similar debate regarding who would catch Randy Johnson took place. Joe Torre, then the manager — who also said he didn’t believe in personal catchers — opted to have John Flaherty catch the Big Unit. Johnson failed miserably in his Game 3 start, allowing five earned runs in three innings of what would be an 11-7 loss. Flaherty was pinch-hit for in the bottom half of that third inning. Ultimately, since the Yankees’ offense got Johnson off the hook, Torre’s choice of who to list at the No. 2 position didn’t cost the Yankees the game.

This year’s predicament is different for a couple of reasons: 1) The feud between Burnett and Posada didn’t go public until mid-August. By that time in ’05, Flaherty had already been catching Johnson for two months. 2) Posada’s bout with Burnett isn’t nearly as nasty and didn’t cause ripples in the clubhouse like his ordeal with Johnson. It’s not like Burnett hasn’t pitched well with Posada as his battery mate, either. His start against the Red Sox and Josh Beckett on August 7 at the Stadium was arguably his best of the season.

However, Burnett’s stats since the August 22 debacle at Fenway don’t lie. Subtracting the September 1 start at Camden Yards — in which he gave up six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings with Posada behind the plate — Burnett has averaged 6 1/3 innings pitched, had four outings where he allowed two runs or fewer, and averaged 1.26 strikeouts per innings pitched.

Based on the recent success, Molina probably should catch Burnett. Who starts at DH — either Posada or Matsui — will likely be determined by the Yankees’ ALDS opponent. The Yankees could be looking at either Rick Porcello or Nate Robertson of Detroit, or Nick Blackburn or Carl Pavano of Minnesota, depending on whether Burnett pitches Game 2 or 3. The only scenario that might push Girardi to lean toward Posada at DH is if the left-handed Robertson opposes Burnett. This enables Girardi to take advantage of Posada’s right-handed bat. Doing so would leave some to wonder how Matsui and his .984 OPS against lefties this season could be benched. Isn’t this a good problem for Girardi to have? Why isn’t that being mentioned?

Cone’s take on the debate was that in the postseason, good pitching beats good hitting. First and foremost, a team has to feel comfortable with the starting pitcher. Further, that pitcher has to have confidence in his catcher. By that logic, Molina should catch Burnett next week, whenever his turn is.

As a fan — and let’s face it, we’re all fans here — as long as it’s been since the Yankees won a playoff series, do you care who catches or DHes as long as they win?

Neither do I.

FIP To Be Tied

CC, AJ to make their initial impressions


The Bombers introduce their Winter Meetings booty this afternoon at a 1 p.m. news conference.  We welcome your comments on the proceedings during and afterwards.

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

Check out my take on the Yankees in the wake of the A.J. Burnett deal over at SI.com.

A.J. Stands for Awful Judgment

There are so many things to dislike about A.J. Burnett and his new Yankee contract that I don’t know where to start. I suppose I’ll start with in the cheapest, easiest place, with a comparison of Burnett and Carl Pavano at the moments at which they signed their big Yankee contracts:

A.J. Burnett Carl Pavano
Age 32 29
ML Seasons 10 7
Seasons w/ 30 GS 2 2
Seasons w/ 200 IP 3 2
IP last 3 yrs 524 2/3 559 1/3
Contract Term 5 yrs 4 yrs
Age at end of contract 36 32
Average annual salary $16.5M $9.9875M

There’s no question that A.J. Burnett has better stuff that Carl Pavano. There’s also no question that Carl Pavano’s contract was a smarter, better investment at the time it was signed than Burnett’s is today. None. Pavano arrived in New York off not one, but two consecutive 200-inning seasons (Burnett managed just 165 2/3 innings in 2007), was three years younger, signed for one year less (making him a whopping four years younger in the final year of his deal), and the average annual salary of Pavano’s deal was 40 percent lower than that of Burnett’s.

Oh, and here’s another little nugget, the two pitchers’ career K/BB rates entering their Yankee contracts:

Pavano: 2.28
Burnett: 2.25

One could argue that the comparison between these two pitchers isn’t entirely fair. Pavano’s performance (or lack thereof) during the length of his contract was an extreme case that is extremely unlikely to be repeated, even by a pitcher with Burnett’s sketchy history. At the same time, the Pavano contract was widely panned upon it’s signing, long before anyone knew just how badly things would go, and I think it’s clear that this Burnett contract is an even worse move. It may not be entirely fair, but it is extremely informative, if for no other reason than it’s illustration of the fact that Brian Cashman, a general manager I have long defended in this space, did not learn from one of the biggest mistakes of his career.

Sh*t Sandwich

ESPN is reporting that the Yankees have signed A.J. Burnett to a five-year deal worth $82.5 million dollars. I cannot help but react emotionally to this signing. It is an inexplicably awful, irresponsible, wrong-headed move. I hate hate hate it. It makes me physically sick. Combined with the New Stadium, it is enough for me to question my allegiance to this team. I cannot be consoled. I assume many of you feel the same way. Consider the comments of this post group therapy . . .

No Pressure, Kid

Phil Hughes was seven years old the last time the Yankees were eliminated during the regular season. Tonight he’ll be the first pitcher to start a game for an eliminated Yankee team since Sterling Hitchcock took the Camden Yards mound on September 28, 1993. Like Hughes, Hitchock was a well-regarded 22-year-old pitching prospect at the time, but he never fulfilled his potential due to a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness. Here’s hoping Hughes, who pitched well though inefficiently in his last start, won’t meet the same fate.

Untitled Fittingly, tonight’s matchup of Hughes and Yankee killer A.J. Burnett should conjure up a fair bit of hot-stove conversation. Burnett is all but certain to opt out of his contract this fall as he’s set career highs in games, starts, innings, strikeouts and wins this season and could finish with 19 victories by beating the Yankees tonight. His 1.78 ERA in four previous starts against New York has certainly piqued the Yankees’ interest, but they’d do well to notice that Burnett’s season ERA is barely above average and dips below average when you take away his dominance of the Bombers. He’s also going to be 32 on Opening Day next year and has a very sketchy injury history. In fact, all of those career highs this year are the result of the fact of that, at age 31, Burnett has been healthy enough to start 30 games for just the second time in his career this year. Burnett has better stuff than former Marlins teammate Carl Pavano, but the Yankees would do well to remind themselves of the similarities between the two pitchers when contemplating the free agent Burnett.

Phil Hughes’ one quality start in the majors this season came back on April 3 against the Blue Jays. Another one in this, his last start of the season, would go a long way toward building both his confidence and the team’s confidence in him heading into next year, and would reduce the chances of the Yankees making a desperation move for an expensive injury-prone veteran like Burnett or Ben Sheets. In that way, Hughes beating Burnett tonight would be a tremendous victory for the future of the franchise. But, hey, no pressure.

           Newer posts
feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver