A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia‘s post season average stats are a bit closer than I thought they would be. Of course, C.C. Sabathia’s sample size is much larger, but the data does lean a bit toward the shocking side.
Who would have guessed the numbers would play out this way? Not me. Of course, this isn’t the sort of revelation that makes anyone want to throw a parade for A.J. Burnett – rather, it’s more a reminder that outside of 2009, C.C. Sabathia’s post season performance has not been exactly stellar. Still, make no mistake – with C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees may not be able to reach the post season – the problem is, they can’t win unless he pitches more like himself.
Although A.J. Burnett was friggin horrible (again) against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, Luis Ayala didn’t exactly come in and put out the fire, stop the bleeding – whatever analogy you want to use.
Burnett left the game after 1.2 IP and 4 ER, leaving the bases loaded and saying some parting words over his shoulder that have already been discussed ad nauseam, so I will spare you further analysis on that. The runners on base were Burnett’s responsibility, and Luis Ayala allowed them to score – all of them. With two outs. I think you could argue that Ayala might not be the best man for that particular situation (when a strike out is needed – not that there aren’t a lot of ways to get one out in a bases loaded situation…), but this pretty much killed any chances the Yankees had to get back into the game – granted, as much as (or more so than when) your starting pitcher getting knocked out in the 2nd inning.
Still, any time a starting pitcher gets removed with runners on base and a reliever comes in and blows it up, the starting pitcher has to be thinking, "I could have done that!" and in the case of Burnett, he probably would have. I don’t know what Burnett’s pitch count was up to, and obviously, his command was bad (umpiring aside)… but who knows. Obviously, you don’t want to use David Robertson in that situation (although you might in a playoff game – not that Burnett is going to start a playoff game this year), so it’s hard to second guess Joe Girardi, especially when the root of the problem is that Burnett sucks. Still, the Yankees have over $30 million reasons to do everything they can to help him figure out his fastball command, and leaving him in the game to try for one more out would have most likely resulted in either a better or the same result. Well, we know what they say about hind site.
Maybe Burnett won’t stink next year… or the year after.
He’s got electric stuff. He’s 6′ 4″ and 230 lbs. He’s got blonde hair dyed to commemorate the 2011 Iowa straw poll. He’s AJ Burnett, and he’s too big to fail.
By now, the yelling for A.J. Burnett’s role to be diminished in some way (the fan base and sports media pundits recommendations range from sending him to the bullpen to blaming him for the Crucifixion) has grown to a near deafening roar. While most ideas concerning Burnett are worthless, let’s review the crazy options that the advent of six healthy starting pitchers produces:
- Send him to the bullpen. This six man rotation nonsense just isn’t a good idea as its throwing everyone out of their rhythm. If someone (Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia) needs rest down the stretch, then let them skip a start. Also, I don’t think Burnett has ever pitched out of the pen and his WHIP is too crappy for relief work.
- Let him work his troubles out in the minors. Pretty sure his contract and status as an MLB Player won’t allow that – the only way he can go to the minors is if he gets hurt and he needs rehab appearances.
- Trade him/Put him on the waver wire. It’s getting late, but there is still time to trade him – but who would want to add that kind of salary at this point in the season? Only a contender would, and it’d have to be one that could afford him . (I don’t think the Red Sox are interested.) Plus, he has two years left on his deal, so that’s another $33 million.
- Leave him off the post season roster. I think this is a given. He hasn’t earned a start in October and there is no room for him in the pen, not to mention his WHIP sucky-ness.
- Release him. He’s that bad. This isn’t going to happen. Make piece with it.
The last option does remind us all the craziest thing about this situation: AJ Burnett is not too big to fail. It’s an awful business and baseball decision, but the Yankees could easily eat his contract and ask for seconds – their financial resources are just that big. Still, it’s a ridiculous idea.
The best thing you can say about A.J. Burnett‘s Yankee tenure is that he’s always been available to take the ball. Before the Yankees finished up the agreement to put Burnett in pinstripes, I was complaining that he was a two pitch pitcher and he got hurt too often, but he’s actually been the picture of health as a Bomber. So, he at least has that much going for him.
Lets take a look at Burnett’s 2011 game log (see the table below) and, using the incredibly low-bar metric of ‘quality start’ (that’s an appearance lasting 6 innings and allowing no more than 3 runs… earned, one presumes, but who knows) -I know, ‘quality start’ is an awful metric as it works out to a 4.50 ERA, which doesn’t sound like quality to me… still, it’s better than wins). Lets break it down by month:
Quality Starts in April: 2 for 6
Quality Starts in May: 3 for 5
Quality Starts in June: 3 for 6
Quality Starts in July: 0 for 5
Quality Starts in August: 0 for 3 (as of Aug 17)
SEASON: 8 for 22 (9 wins, 9 losses)
The thing we learn from this little exercise is that Burnett is not necessarily giving the team a chance to win every time out – any time you can’t go six innings and/or give up four runs or more… that’s just not getting it done. And that’s what Burnett usually does. It’s the meltdowns that are so troubling – he just can’t get through a batting order three times – that third time, the dude keeps imploding. (As per RAB, Burnett opponents have a .900 OPS the third time through and a .918 OPS in the sixth inning, which friggin blows.) He’s better at not succumbing to the big inning this season than he was last year, but not much – he’s been consistently mediocre this year; at least in 2010, I saw flashes of a good pitcher in April (2.43 ERA in 33.1 IP) and July (2.00 ERA in 27 IP) – this year, he’s the very essence of blah. Maybe we wouldn’t be so down on him if we expected him to be a bottom of the rotation starter instead of a top of the rotation pitcher who makes $16.5 million dollars per year.
But is he awful? No. He is, however, the worst starter on a team with six starting pitchers (when Phil Hughes is healthy), and we all know that for all practical intents and purposes, the Yankees only need five. Yet, the Yankees keep sending him out there. What else can they do? He’s too expensive to trade and I doubt his stuff will translate well to the bullpen as he doesn’t throw enough strikes, and no team would pay someone $16.5 million dollars to sit around and wait till they’re either slaughtering or getting slaughtered – not even the Yankees. But would the Yankees release him if he was making a million dollars this year and didn’t have a contract for two more years? Hmm… no, I don’t think they would – but I bet he’d of been sent to the bullpen some time ago.
In the Yankees eyes, Burnett is too big too fail – for now. Come post season roster time… I don’t see Burnett coming with the Yankees on the march toward another championship. Look for a four man rotation of Sabathia, Colon, Garcia and Nova.
Unless you’ve been living under a pinstriped rock, you know that the Yankees have been searching the trade market for elite starting pitching since… well, since before the trade deadline last year. Now that the 2011 season trade deadline is almost upon us, the rumor mill is spinning again with names like Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies and Ricky Nolasco of the Florida Marlins. But if the Yankees did acquire someone, who would they banish to the bullpen? Or, could that starter be part of the trade?
CC Sabathia is not worth discussing in either bullpen or trade scenarios. Besides being one of the best pitchers in baseball, he’s the team ace and the Yankees can’t go anywhere without him. If you’re looking at his opt out clause and thinking that makes him tradable, you’re very wrong.
A.J. Burnett might be frustrating to watch, but the guy takes the ball every five days and soaks up some innings. Burnett seems to have regained some form after last year’s debacle and now finds ways to wiggle out of jams instead of imploding. Plus, like Sabathia, he makes a ton of money, and most teams are not looking to add salary at this point in the year, nor would the Yankees be will to pay Burnett $16.5 million dollars to just sit in the bullpen.
Bartolo Colon has to be the most surprising story of the year, and Yankee fans know that he has been straight up dominant fairly often in 2011. Whether or not he can keep that for the rest of the season is a huge question, but the Yankees may as well keep rolling the dice and seeing how the fall.
Freddy Garcia is another guy who continues to shock the baseball world, but at least he pitched last year – making him just slightly less remarkable than Colon. I wouldn’t want to have Garcia on the mound with the season on the line against a powerhouse like the Red Sox’s offense, but Garcia can get it done.
Finally, we come to Phil Hughes, the organizational favorite. For me, the choice is obvious – if someone will take Hughes in a trade for a high end starter, you do it and you don’t think twice. If you still have Hughes and you get a high end starter, you send Hughes to the bullpen and you congratulate yourself for bolstering your pen while getting Hughes out of your rotation. I know the guy won a bizillion games last year, but let’s face it – he’s never really been dominant, and he can’t get through two consecutive seasons without missing major time. I don’t know what happened, but he’s a mess this year – since coming back from the DL, he cutter and change up are practically worthless (not that they weren’t before he went on the DL; I mean in comparison to 2010) and although his curve ball has improved, it doesn’t look like the same pitch that earned him the nick-name “Little Rocket.” Remember that? When people were comparing him to Roger Clemons? Those days are long gong and I don’t see a lot of promise going forward, but I could be wrong. Who knows, maybe it was the big bump up in workload from 2009 to 2010 that is impacting is 2011 ability? I don’t know and I don’t care, but if the Yankees can get Ubaldo Jimenez for a not totally unreasonable deal, they should do it and either include Hughes in the trade or just send him to the pen.
I believe it was Al Leiter who said he was not impressed with the notion of a quality start. At some point, some wahoo made the term ‘quality start’ popular, which was meant to say that if a starting pitcher was able to stay in the game long enough to complete six (6) innings and allow only three (3) earned runs, then this was a starting pitching performance of quality. Mr. Leiter was quick to point out at the advent of his broadcasting career that if a pitcher produced a quality start, he’d have a 4.50 ERA, which is not so good – not to mention the fact that getting three innings out of your bullpen in the modern era of baseball is no simple accomplishment and is going to tax the arms down there as well. I tend to agree, and I do want to quickly mention that Mr. Leiter has quickly become one of my favorite broadcasters of all time.
However, as much as I reject the notion of a quality start as the standard to strive toward, the Yankees sure could use one right about now.
If you flip through your memory (which is hopefully more reliable than mine) and the Yankees 2011 calendar (without delving into the box scores), it looks like the Yankees have produced maybe one (that’s 1) quality start against the Red Sox this year in eight (8) tries. That, my friends, is a damn shame – or perhaps it would be better to say it’s shameful.
We all know the Yankees are short on pitching this year – that’s why it was easy to consider jumping into the Harlem River when the Yankees were not able to sign Cliff Lee. Since the Yankees were able to get Bartolo Colon and he’s pitched so beautifully, it seems as though we can count on both BC and staff ace CC Sabathia to deliver better than quality starts and get out backs in any pie eating contests. After that…
The drop off in predictability is like going over that first big hill on a roller coaster. If Freddy Garcia doesn’t locate, he’s going to get hit hard by anybody, never mind a team with great hitting like the Red Sox, so nobody was really counting on him anyway – but, that being said, the Yankees would be wise to keep him from facing the Red Sox again this year if possible. AJ Burnett, who I didn’t want the Yankees to sign because of my concerns with his inability to stay healthy, has been healthy through his entire contract but as widely unpredictable as just about any other pitcher I can think of this side of Jose Contreras. Phil Hughes also sorta falls into that category, but is seemingly always hurt and Ivan Nova just doesn’t have enough experience to be thoroughly relied upon for anything. The trade market for starters is thin at best, so I don’t think there is any real help coming that will be a serious upgrade.
Looks like we’re stuck with these guys, but is that any different than 2009? Two good starters and AJ Burnett. It could be worse. (See Yankees 2008 season!)
First, a quick note: sorry the blog has been spotty of late – in about two weeks (June 22), update frequency should shoot way up.
When things are going well, its easy to ignore your team’s short comings. When your team loses a game, their weaknesses stick out, as the expression goes, like a sore thumb. (Shouldn’t that be swollen thumb? Why would a sore thumb stick out- because it’s swollen?)
When you take a look at the Yankees recent west coast swing through Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles, it’s easy to look at the Seattle series and say, “I can’t believe the Yankees lost that series. Losing a series to the Mariners is inexcusable, especially since they had leads in both games they lost. How can you not hold a lead against an offense as bad as Seattle?” That’s a pretty valid argument; it’s not like they lost those games 1 to 0. Of course, then the Yankees go down to Oakland and face the inept, Hideki Matsui equipped Athletics and suddenly everything is all wine and roses as the Yankees sweep – as their two best pitchers (yes, I mean CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon) slaughter a terrible excuse for guys who are supposed to score runs. Then, the Yankees go to Anaheim (to face the Angels, who I love to poke fun at for their constant name changes), which has generally been a house of horrors for them in the last decade and take two out of three, so it’s easy to be happy with that outcome, even if over the last few years, the Angels have been in serious decline and haven’t given the Yankees series trouble in a long while, even in the 2009 ALCS. All and all, a successful road trip, and the Yankees have a pretty sweet road record.
Then they come home and leave a village on the base paths and lose anther game to the Red Sox.
Obviously, it’s not a good thing, but certainly not the end of the world. You don’t want to lose games to your division rival, especially at home, but if it happens, you move on – but it gets to be a bit stigmatic when you start a third series with a team and a second series at home and have yet to notch a home win. That’s embarrassing, if not catastrophic.
So why’d they lose to the Red Sox at home? Again?
Well, in the case of last night’s contest, there are two simple reasons: Freddy Garcia was terrible and the Yankees left a small village on the base paths. (If you’re wondering how many constitutes a village, it’s 9.) Oh, and my favorite line from the box score:
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out – C Granderson 1, A Rodriguez 1, N Swisher 2, A Jones 1.
My favorite moment was when Derek Jeter flied out to right field in the 9th inning on ball four on a pitch that was nowhere near the strike zone. Nice one, el Capitan! Still, Jonathon Papelbon was throwing gas, and I guess it’s hard to gauge where the ball is going, but when a pitcher is a bit wild and it’s a 3-1 count, take a pitch! This goes for you, too, A-Rod. Nice 0 for 5, by the way!
If you care about Jeter’s march to 3000, he only needs 12 more hits after 2 last night – even if one would probably have been an error if they weren’t in New York.
Cheers for Hector Noesi and 6 IP of 2 run ball. During this stint with the Yankees, he’s been very impressive – I wonder if he’ll get a chance in the rotation? He could be a 5th starter candidate next year… too bad he didn’t start last night!
Tonight, the Yankees welcome their old friend Tim Wakefield back to the mound. Will his knuckle ball dance? Who knows. Which AJ Burnett will take the mound? The one who struggles and adjusts or the one who struggles and implodes? The answers are in the Bronx tonight in a totally meaningless June battle for 1st place.
When two teams get together and play a four game set, I would bet on a split every time – yet the Yankees should have took three out of four against the inferior Chicago White Sox. Let’s take a look at the series using my The Good, The Bad and the Fug-Ugly style. I heard that Mark Teixeira was sitting for game four just as a precaution to rest his sore shoulder, but I don’t know why The Captain sat for that game, too. Maybe just a scheduled night off for Derek Jeter? Or Joe Girardi is hoping a rest will jump start his bat? No idea. However, I think it is only a coincidence that the Yankees scored a million runs on the night Jeter wasn’t in the line up.
The Starting Pitching – sure, you can argue that the Chicago White Sox aren’t the best offense in the league, but they’re far from the MLB leading worst run scoring San Diego Padres, who have only managed to score 70 runs on the young season. In case you’re wondering, the Yankees have 126 and the White Sox have 103 – the Cleveland Indians lead MLB with 129 and the St Louis Cardinals lead MLB with 136.
So yeah, the Yankees starting pitching blew my mind during this season, performing well above my expectations. We got two stellar eight inning performances from AJ Burnett and Bartolo Colon, and CC Sabathia had a fine night while any time Ivan Nova doesn’t get his ass handed to him, I call that a victory. If you’ve already started building a statue to Colon on your front lawn so you can leave offerings at it before each of his starts, I don’t blame you. Finish that shiz! =)
The Offense – For an offense of the Yankees caliber, a shutout is pretty hard to accept despite who is pitching on the opposing side. And yes, I know they got their hits in last night, but it sure did take long enough. But, Nick Swisher finally got the home run column filled, so maybe he’ll start hitting… wait, did he hit it right handed or left handed? Please tell me he hit it left handed, because he’s been so bad against left-handed pitchers so far this year…
The Bridge to Mo – They only had one chance to get the ball to Mariano Rivera, and they blew it. I’m not worried about Rafael Soriano going forward, but it’s time to pick it up. Blowing leads against the White Sox at home is not acceptable!
The Yankees have Toronto coming in this weekend – hopefully, the Yanks pitching can keep the Blue Jays homers to a minimum. Also: Francisco Cervelli returns to the roster tonight!
The Yankees two game swing in Toronto wasn’t their finest hour. Here’s a few quick notes on what I saw from the Bronx Bombers while they were North of the Border.
*AJ Burnett’s control seems to range from OK to piss-poor. However, his curve ball seems to have plenty of snap this season, so that’s something.
*Russell Martin is EVERYWHERE! Somebody hit a home run? It was Russell Martin. RBI single? Russell Martin! saving an awful pitch from Burnett that was outside of the batter’s circle? Martin again! Somebody selling Yankee souvenirs at an away game? Who’s doing that, way up in the nosebleed seats? It’s RUSSELL EFFING MARTIN! He’s everywhere, making every play. You have to love how that guy is playing right now.
*Phil Hughes, eat your heart out. Bartolo Colon’s first start of the year was a great one, throwing up Ks and going 6.2 IP – LOVE IT! Between Colon and Freddy Garcia, Brian Cashman is looking pretty smart right now.
*Yeah, Mariano Rivera is human. Just because I worship him like a God doesn’t make him one. It’s amazing how close the Yankees were to a two game sweep against the Blue Jays.
* Home Runs should be called Bautistas. Seriously. That guy is an animal.
*The Yankees bullpen is awesome, but at some point, the starters need to step up and… you know, not be the worst starters in the league, averaging under 6 IP per start. Colon and Garcia did a nice job the first time, but who knows what we’ll get going forward. Sabathia always warms up with the weather, and Burnett is as unpredictable as it gets. As for Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova… well, I think Nova will probably be heading to Scranton when Hughes comes off the DL.
*Homers, homers, homers! The Yankees keep knocking it out of the park, and you know what they say: Chicks dig the long ball. As for the press, they insist that the Yankees won’t be able to score runs if they don’t pick up their averages, but hitting a ton of home runs is not a bad thing. That being said, Brett Gardner needs to lay down a text book bunt every time or regain that Yankee leading on base percentage.
Up next, Sabathia leads the Yankees into Baltimore to smack the Orioles around. The most important thing to come out of Friday’s game will be 7 strong innings from the big lefty, and if they get that, they’re on the right track to do damage all weekend.
I read a Yankees blog that jokingly heralded this series as a battle for first place – it was true, but in April, it’s not to be taken seriously. Nevertheless, the Yankees find themselves at the top of the AL East while the Red Sox are 2-9, so for now, life is good. Sure, the Baltimore orioles look like a better team with an improved roster, but they still have problems and their pitching is still suspect – and that’s coming from a Yankee fan. I think the Os will be pesky this year, but nothing more.
There’s lots to smile about so far this season:
- AJ Burnett looks like he’s finding his way through his 2010 troubles (which I still maintain weren’t that bad – drop a comment if you disagree and we’ll battle it out!) with some decent starts
- CC Sabathia looks good even when he’s not happy with the way he’s throwing
- The offense is showing plenty of signs of life, particularly when it comes to power. Jorge Posada has only 7 hits on the early season, but 5 of them are home runs… figure that out!
- Joba Chamberlain has regained his vintage form, and suddenly, the bullpen is a force to be reckoned with. If a starter can go 6 innings and limit the opposition to to 3 or 4 runs, the Yankees have a decent chance of winning that game.
- Batolo Colon has pitched great as the Yankees long reliever – without him, last night’s come from behind win would have not happened.
There’s lots to frown about, too.
- Pedro Feliciano is done for the year and Damaso Marte might be available by September. Maybe. Perhaps once Manny Banuelos has pitched a significant number of innings as a starter in the minors, he can join the major league pen to finish off his 2011 innings limit. Otherwise, Boone Logan will be the go to guy all year long when it comes to lefties out of the pen – not that its a bad thing, Logan can certainly throw, but he makes me nervous sometimes. He’s certainly better than Phil Coke.
- Phil Hughes is making Burnett’s 2010 season look like Aaron Small‘s 2005 season. If Hughes is truly healthy, I assume he’ll come around at some point; again, I’d take 6 innings of 4 run ball from him and call it a day, but right now, he can’t get out of the fifth inning.
- It’s pretty wild that we still haven’t seen Freddy Garcia on the mound this season (except that one relief appearance) – If I were a betting man, I’d go all in on Garcia getting shelled his first time out.
- Brett Gardner has yet to find his swing yet and I’m not liking his at bats at all. I was surprised Girardi didn’t go to the bench and bring in Andruw Jones in the 9th inning
- I wish I could say I was shocked when Derek Jeter hit a ground ball to short stop last night in the 9th inning, but that’s his new favorite spot to ground out to dating back to last year. Before 2010, I think the negative broadcaster quote everyone loved to say was ‘Passed a diving Jeter!’ in reference to his limited range at short stop, but this year it’s definetly, “Jeter hits a ground ball to short.” You know, like last year.
The Yankees have the Texas Rangers coming in this weekend, minus Josh Hamilton. The Rangers have a ton of young starters this year, and if they aren’t left handed, I’m hoping the Yankees tee off on them… if they are left handed starting pitchers, be prepared for our beloved bombers to take a beating at the plate.
The Yankees opened the 2011 season by welcoming the Tigers to the Bronx. Well, it wasn’t exactly a warm welcome for the Tigers – check out game 1 here. As for games 2 and 3, see below – but the short version is the Yankees starting pitching is trickling out of the gate and the ball is flying out of the park just like in the 2009 stadium inaugural season.
Tigers at Yankees April 2 , 2011
A.J. Burnett and Brad Penny got the call from their respective teams, and right away, RED FLAG: say what you want about Burnett, if Brad Penny is the Tigers number two starter, then its going to be a long year for Tigers fans. That being said, I know next to nothing about the Tigers organization, so lets hope for their sake that Penny is just a place holder. Predictably, this game turned into a slug fest. Burnett was OK; a lot of Ks early,but only 5 innings and 3 ERs – but only 1 walk. So while there is hope for AJ, Penny was hammered for 8 ER in 4.1 innings, and you can say, “Oh, it’s still early, Penny can turn his season around,” I’m here to tell you he can’t; at least not in the American League. Stick a fork in that guy.
Mark Teixeixa continued his hot hitting, and if you weren’t a fan of the Russell Martin signing this off season, how bout now? I’d love to sing songs and write epic poems about the Yankees offense, but the Tigers pitching was pretty abysmal in this game.
Tigers at Yankees April 2, 2011
Much has been made about Phil Hughes and his lack of velocity this spring, and like those anti smoking commercials YES plays during the games, I turned a blind eye to it. But there’s no getting around it; his fastball is not where it was last year. Will it come as the season goes on? I’m sure that’s entirely possible. Should we be worried? Probably, but then, I’m always worried about Phil Hughes. The guy has had a lot of injuries in his young career, and that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to continue to have those troubles, but it’s always turning in the back of mind. Again, I’d like to sing songs about the Yankees offense and praise the potential we all see in Max Scherzer, but the Yankees lost this game because of Phil Hughes, pure and simple. Sure, Bartolo Colon didn’t stop the bleeding, but if you expected him to – well, he hasn’t pitched in who knows how many days, not to mention it was the first time he’d been in a regular game in well over a year, and all things considered, he pitched OK. If your starter can’t give you at least five innings, it’s going to take a lot of things to go right for your team to win that game.
Tonight, the Yankees welcome in the Twins for what I believe will most likely be yet another ass kicking in the history of beatings the Yankees have inflicted on Minnesota in their history.