Thursday, February 26, 2009

Offseason Winners: AJ Burnett

There were several great anomalies this offseason. With the market in such chaos, this is to be expected. But one oddity that I have yet to figure out is how in the world AJ Burnett wound up with $80 million bucks over five seasons.

I'm not saying that Burnett is not a good pitcher. Quite the contrary. He is actually a very good pitcher with a ferocious fastball and devastating hook that make him as good as anyone when he is on. There is no doubt about it...Burnett has ace stuff.

But here's where the problem lies, Burnett has never performed like an ace before over his 10 year career. Burnett has a lifetime 3.81 ERA with a very pedestrian 87-76 record for his career. There is nothing about those numbers that screams out "ace" to me.

In addition, Burnett has been quite frustrating because of his inability to stay healthy and remain on the field. Burnett has only pitched 200 innings in his career three times and has been on the DL more than 10 times.

So then why did the Yankees decide to pay Burnett $14 mil per season? Great question.

Is it because Burnett has ace stuff? The Yankees could have a dynamite rotation if Burnett turns into a number one starter.

Or is it because Burnett can throw 95+ MPH fastball? That could have enticed the Yankees given how effective Burnett's dominant fastball should be in October, where it really matters for the Bombers.

Either one of those reasons is perfectly logical, but do either of those warrant a $80 million dollars? I don't think so.

I would much rather have signed Derek Lowe for $60 million or Oliver Perez for $36 million than AJ Burnett at $80 million...but maybe that's just me. I don't think Burnett is worth $20 million more than Lowe or $44 million more than Perez...even if AJ has better stuff, what counts is ultimately results and not the humongous fastball.

The strange thing about Burnett this offseason was that multiple teams-the Yankees, Braves, and Blue Jays were willing to break the bank to acquire the big guy. Both the Yankees and Braves were willing to spend $80 million dollar big ones to bring Burnett on board, while the Jays maxed out somewhere in the $50-$60 million dollar range. Those teams are obviously higher on Burnett than I ever will be.

AJ Burnett is one giant question mark. Can he stay healthy? Can he perform up to his ability? Will he ever become an ace? $80 million is a lot to spend on question marks.

It'll be boom or bust for AJ in pinstripes, but either way, that 98+ MPH fastball has made him an awful lot of dough.


Jason @ IIATMS said...

Wanna know how he did it:

Burnett has done very well against the AL East, particularly the Yanks. Over his career:

Versus NYY:
11 games
ERA: 2.43
77.2 IP, avg 7 IP/start
78 K's, over 1 K/IP
WHIP of 1.036

Versus BOS:
8 games
ERA: 2.56
56.1 IP, avg 7+ IP/start
53 K's, nearly 1 K/IP
WHIP of 1.179 (including IBB)

Versus TB:
16 games
ERA: 2.98
117.2 IP, avg 7.1 IP/start
123 K's, over 1 K/IP
WHIP of 1.062 (including IBB)

For a more recent view of his performances in against these three team, here are his 2008 splits:

Versus NYY:
5 games
ERA: 1.64
38.1 IP, avg 7.2 IP/start!
43 K's, over 1.1 K/IP
WHIP of 1.064

Versus BOS:
4 games
ERA: 2.60
27.2 IP, avg 7 IP/start
24 K's, nearly 1 K/IP
WHIP of 1.227

Versus TB:
3 games
ERA: 3.15
20.0 IP, avg 6.2 IP/start
26 K's, over 1.3 K/IP (11.7 K/9IP)
WHIP of 1.400

[...]Burnett has pitched three games IN Fenway and boasts a 0.40 ERA with only 9 hits allowed over 22.2 IP. Pretty fancy. Also, not a bad indicator about his mentality and lack of fear pitching in big, bad Fenway.

Ron Rollins said...

I don't think Burnett has the mental make-up to be a staff ace. He probably tries too hard. Behind Sabatthia, where he knows he doesn't have to win every game, he can probably relax and pitch better.

I should check out his numbers to make sure.

Jorge Says No! said...

Jason: But giving Burnett $80 million big ones based on his past performance in the division is rather foolish to me. There is such a high turnover with clubs these days that its impossible to say that just because Burnett has been successful against the Rays and Red Sox in the past, that he will be successful in 2009 against them.

Ron: I agree, Burnett is no ace...but he is a scary #2 or #3 for the Yankees...he could shine in that role...

thanks for the comments