The biggest concern when the Yankees signed A.J. Burnett was not that he wouldn’t be good enough, but that he wouldn’t be able to stay healthy enough to for the Yankees to get their money’s worth out of him. It’s funny how things work out.
EXPECTATIONS: Burnett was brought to the Bronx to serve as the Yankees no. 2 starter behind CC Sabathia. That was no problem for him in 2009 as the Yankees won the World Series, but his second time around was a disaster. The hope was that with renewed focus and a new pitching coach, Burnett would be able to rebound in 2011.
STRONG START: It seems like a distant memory now, but Burnett actually started out the 2011 season fairly well. In his first 12 starts he had a 3.86 ERA with a 6-3 record. Not bad. Unfortunately it didn’t last.
TURN FOR THE WORST: From June 8 on Burnett was a disaster. He had a 5-8 record with a 5.99 ERA. In the end his strong start only worked to fool the Yankees into thinking their rotation was in better shape than it was. If he hadn’t started out so well maybe Brian Cashman would have been more urgency to land a starter at the deadline.
DROP IN VELOCITY: Every year starting in 2008, Burnett’s last year with the Blue Jays, he has lost velocity. He would be able to hit 100 back in ’07, that dropped to about 96-97 mph range in 2009, 96-95 mph range last year and 94-95 mph. The drop in velocity is normal for a pitcher of his age, but his lack of pitchablity has really hurt his results.
WILD THING: Burnett’s 25 wild pitches were the most since Juan Guzman threw 26 in 1993. Aside from those two only Tony Cloninger (27) has thrown more in a single season since the dead ball era. Talk about wild.
REPERTOIRE: Burnett actually used his changeup a lot more in 2011 (he threw it 10.9 percent of the time compared to just six percent in his career). However, the addition of his third pitch didn’t keep hitters from sitting on his fastball.
GOOD PERIPHERALS: Burnett’s xFIP of 3.86 was strong this season. However, with hitters seemingly sitting fastball on him all season they were able to get the big hits. His HR/9 rate of 1.5 just won’t work for any team anywhere.
VERDICT: Just like his 2010 season, Burnett’s 2011 season will go down as one of the worst seasons by a Yankee starter who qualified for the ERA-title.
GOING FORWARD: He is still under contract for two-years and $33 million so he will likely have a spot waiting for him in the 2012 rotation. If money didn’t matter he would probably never pitch in the Bronx again. Unfortunately it does matter and it likely makes him untradeable too.