A.J Burnett flourishing in Pittsburgh
If you follow baseball, it’s no secret that Burnett was a huge bust with the Yankees. After having career years in Toronto before packing his bags and putting on the Pinstripes, his career was never really the same.
A huge reason why Burnett’s time in New York was such a “bust” because people over hyped him. In 2008, before coming over to New York, his record was an impressive 18-10. However, his ERA was just a smidge above 4. The Yankees seem to have always been in playoff contention, so any added player that could “bolster” their team, everyone expects them to be on fire.
In his time as a Yankee, Burnett went 34-35. In 2009 he was 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA. Realistically, not very bad at all. Saying that he played in AL East is the reason he had an ERA over 4 does not work; Toronto Blue Jays are also in that division.
Both seasons he had an ERA over 5. It doesn’t help that he’s been notorious for giving up a good amount of home runs because he’s a hard thrower. So putting him into Yankee Stadium with that infamous short right field, as well as the field as a whole being smaller than most, probably contributed to his higher home run total, thus his raised ERA.
In actuality, Burnett has always been a good pitcher. Just good. A number 3-5 starter on most teams. He may be an Ace on a handful of teams, but on a team like the Yankees, being anything higher than No. 3 in the rotation, or expecting him to be that high, is a bit ridiculous.
The lowest ERA he ever recorded in a season with more than 25 starts was in 2002. 7 years before the Yankees acquired him. And it was 3.30. Very good, but nothing to really turn your head. After that, he hovered between 3.70 and 4.00 in just about every season, aside from 2005’s 3.44 ERA performance.
Ergo, expecting Burnett to go 19-8 with an ERA under 3, which it seems a lot of people were expecting to happen, was not a good idea. Even the 18-10 record of 2008 should have thrown up red flags; a W-L record means nothing, especially if in that season, the pitcher had an ERA over 4. That means that he was backed by a lot of offense, or pitched VERY well when he won, and pitched terribly when he lost.
Before his 18-10 season? Let’s look at his other W-L records in previous seasons:
*2004 and 2003 were shortened seasons for him.
Now, even if you believe that W-L is a great way to measure a pitcher’s talent, before 2008, he wasn’t a star pitcher. 2008 was a career year for wins and strikeouts. His WHIP was 1.34, he walked a lot, and he actually gave up more runs in 2008 than 2009.
Bottom line? I’ll admit that Burnett really slumped in a Yankees uniform. At least, in 2010 and 2011. But he was never an Ace and never should have been treated like one, or expected to pull numbers that were numbers he never attained, even in his 2008 performance, which arguably, while it was a career season, wasn’t that good.
So, to get to the point of this article: Why would Burnett flourish in Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh is the MLB’s smallest marketing team. They are also rebuilding, so to speak. There are low expectations for the team, much less eyes on him, and a weaker division to pitch in.
You can look at his stats and grimace, or you can be rational. He’s 1-2 with an ERA of 8.04. He must have started off the season terribly!
Well, in only one start.
In his first start, he pitched 7 innings, gave up 3 hits and no runs while striking out 7. Great, right? Second start, 6 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs and 8 strikeouts. Not bad at all. After two starts, his ERA was 1.38. he had struckout 15 and walked 5 in 13 innings of work. The walks could be a bit lower, but that’s Burnett for you; he walks a lot.
In his third start is where he got knocked around.
He pitched 2.2 innings while giving up a sky high 12 runs on 12 hits. There’s where his ERA came from.
Now, when your pitcher is struggling, you generally don’t leave them in there to struggle even more. When you realize that he’s not up to his usual stuff, you pull him. Not Pittsburgh!
They left him out to dry, and let Burnett get shelled more than he should have. One explanation could be because in the game before, Pittsburgh’s starter only lasted 4.1 innings, and the bullpen after him gave up 5 runs. It’s entirely possible the bullpen was depleted and they were hoping to get a couple more innings out of Burnett, and it just didn’t happen.
As you may have been able to guess, his last start was fully situational. Not to mention that he was pitching against a strong Cardinal’s offense that had Carlos Beltran “Belting” 2 home runs off of him.
I think Burnett will pitch decently in a Pirates uniform. I don’t expect him to pull All-Star numbers or Cy Young numbers, but they will be good numbers for a team that has little expectations overall. And that will be a great thing for Burnett.
Not everyone can handle The Big Stage.