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Rays done with Pat the Bust?

Sep 30, 2009, 5:07 PM EDT

It certainly looked like one of the better signing of the offseason: after missing out on Milton Bradley, the Rays inked Pat Burrell to a two-year, $16 million contract to take over as their DH.  He was coming off four straight seasons with OPSs around 890 and he had averaged 153 games during those seasons.  Sure, there’d be a period of adjustment for him coming over to the AL, but he projected as a well above average DH and he’d come at a fair price.


Of course, things haven’t worked out that way.  Burrell hit .250/.349/.315 with one homer in 30 games before going down with a neck injury that cost him a month.  He entered the All-Star break at .232/.341/.347.  He did do solid work for a month and a half after that, coming in at .257/.335/.493 with nine homers and 27 RBI in a 40-game span through Sept. 2.  However, he’s hit .147/.238/.206 in 22 appearances since.


The truly remarkable thing is that Burrell has gone the whole year without a homer against a left-hander.  He’s hitting .207/.338/.259 in 116 at-bats against them.  All 14 of his bombs have come against righties.  Between 2005-08, Burrell had 38 homers in 587 at-bats versus southpaws.


Burrell’s career is at a crossroads now.  He’s obviously far more comfortable against National League pitching, yet his poor defense limits his value in the Senior Circuit.  The Rays figure to try to exchange him for another lousy contract over the winter.  Burrell for Bradley is one idea that will get tossed around.  The Cubs wouldn’t want Burrell, but since he’s only signed for one more year, they’d save $12 million as part of such a swap.  The Rays, though, would have big problems taking on that kind of salary for 2011 when so many of their young players will be big significant raises then.


Perhaps Burrell could be swapped for a reliever who has fallen out of favor.  Kyle Farnsworth in Kansas City and Scott Linebrink in Chicago would be a couple of possibilities.  The Rays would likely be better off keeping the 33-year-old and hoping for the best rather than taking on someone who would require a longer commitment.  They can always release him and dig up a DH elsewhere if he struggles out of the gate again in 2010.

  1. TheWizard - Sep 30, 2009 at 7:31 PM

    Is everyone such a stat nerd now that we can’t just post batting average alone?
    Such literary clutter.

  2. Hank - Sep 30, 2009 at 11:10 PM

    Having watched Pat play in Philly for his career, he was always a terrible DH in interleague play. Coming into this season, he had a career .199 average against AL pitching. With an OPS of .706. Why on earth would the Rays, or any AL team, want him on their roster as a DH? The last few years he would have a high avg early in the season, disappear for the bulk of the summer, then re-appear in Sept.
    The Rays should have known better, especially after he batted a stellar .071 against them in the World Series. Any wonder why their franchise struggles?

  3. PhilsFan - Oct 1, 2009 at 3:30 AM

    My main disagreement is with the “myth” that Mr. Pouliot has repeated, regarding outfield defense. While obviously not a speed demon out there, Mr. Burrell had a fielding percentage in the very respectable .990’s for most all of his career, and, most importantly, his outfield assists totals were consistently among the top 15 yearly in the National League! In other words, for years he caught most everything he got to, and threw out runners more consistently than most in the National League, and certainly led or was second on the Phillies in put outs for as long as I can remember. And throwing baserunners out, changes the outcome of games, as much as home run can do! In fact, for much of the 2008 World Series season, Mr. Burrell led ALL National League outfielders in assists, and finished in a tie for 3rd with 12 I believe (despite reduced innings being taken out for, you guessed it, defensive purposes). For those put outs alone, he has this die-hard Phils fan’s Thanks. So, if one’s “narrow” definition of outfield defense is Sportscenter catches at full speed over the wall, that is / was not Pat Burrell. However, if you consider a high fielding percentage, combined with an uncannilly accurate arm, in sometimes the toughest of circumstances, and the fact that I pesonally NEVER saw him miss a cut-off man (which can happen weekly with some flashy outfielders!), as positive attributes when considering overall defense, then Mr. Burrell contributed more to the Phillies over the years than deserves the “poor defense” myth repeated in this article.

  4. PatFan - Oct 1, 2009 at 6:00 AM

    PhilsFan: Nice summary. I think Pat would definitely help a team like the Cubs. All you have to do is watch their leftfielder misjudge fly balls, throw to the wrong guy and cost the team a win to know this. How many other teams have outfielders having brainfarts on a regular basis.
    The Phillies knew his limitations and made a good decision not to sign him for big bucks. Pat ALWAYS hustled on the bases, just in slow motion. In Phily he played to the best of his ability.
    I’m just not sure he’d do well with a hyped up manager like Pinella. Pat did not do well with Bowa cursing every time he struck out. He needs a low-key manager that doesn’t add stress to players.

  5. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Oct 1, 2009 at 8:28 AM

    Fielding % is a horrible measure of a defender’s worth because all it is is errors/total chances. If you take player A, who never moves from his outfield position but catches everything hit at him, he has a 1.000 F%. Is that a good defender?
    Burrell has been a below average defender his last two years playing the field (’07 and ’06). he was average in ’05 and slightly above average in ’04, but considering his age it’s most likely he’s only going to get worse.

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