The only appropriate caption for this legendary photo is "Fuck Yeah!"
I could probably write this post about half of the Yankees pitching staff, and the same thing has probably been written by one thousand Blue Jays bloggers (and the one Marlins blogger), but is anyone more mind boggling than A.J. Burnett? There are few guys who can match the repertoire he boasts: a mid-to-high nineties fastball and a truly great curveball. It isn’t obscene to compare him to Nolan Ryan in regards to the stuff he has, and the strikeout and walk numbers are both fairly comparable. Of course, while Ryan pitched for approximately half of the twentieth century with remarkable durability Burnett has found himself on the DL several times over his career, including Tommy John surgery back in his Florida days.
The injuries are not the frustrating aspect of Burnett’s career, however. I should be fair to him, he pitched over 200 innings last season for the first time in his career and is likely to do the same this year, so it would seem those issues are behind him. No, the pattern that has emerged to Yankee fans watching him regularly for the first time, and to anyone who watched him regularly in the past is present in his game log.
Now the most troubling part isn’t so much that every few weeks he’ll have a meltdown of a game (though that is still troubling). Rather, look at his walk numbers and you’ll see just why he can be incredibly dominant one night and brutal the next. Every few games A.J. will lose all sight of the strike zone, and just on his natural skill he can make an okay start out of a lot of these games. Of course, if you play a patient team like Boston and you have no control they’ll simply wait you out and take all the walks they can get (like what happened last week) and your team gets thoroughly abused.
Just because I think it looks hilarious, here is Burnett’s strike zone scatter plot from the game in April I linked earlier in which he walked seven batters (Curtesy of Brooks Baseball as always):
It’s hard to get mad at the guy who I like watching more than any other pitcher the Yankees have (when he’s on, anyway), and I am really nit picking complaints here. But if Burnett pitched the way he is capable every start he could get Cy Young Winner tattooed along side his variety of other pieces.
I think I just wanted to post that bad ass Nolan Ryan picture and he seemed like a logical comp with Burnett. And if Burnett ever drills someone in the back (he’s fifth in the league in hbp’s with 9 by the way, behind #1 Carlos Marmol who has 11 in only 59 innings!), watches them charge at him, puts them in a headlock and beats the hell out of them he will be my favorite Yankee ever.
Yes, even cooler than Mickey.