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A.J. Burnett in an elimination game is scary, but it could be worse

Oct 4, 2011, 8:25 AM EDT

A.J. Burnett

The first thing you’ll read in any story about tonight’s Yankees-Tigers game is that the Yankees are throwing out A.J. Burnett in an elimination game.  And yes, that is far from ideal given how unreliable Burnett has been since arriving in New York. He wouldn’t have gotten a start absent last Friday night’s rain, and a couple of less-than-disastrous outings in September aren’t really enough to instill confidence. Yankees fans can say they are hoping for a nice showing, but they won’t bet too much on the proposition.

But at the same time, let us not overlook the fact that Burnett isn’t the only shaky guy in tonight’s game.  The Tigers are running out Rick Porcello who, in the past two seasons, has himself been pretty awful, posting an ERA+ of 85 in 2010 and 86 this year, which is pretty A.J. Burnettian himself.  While Burnett can often run hot-and-cold in a single game (usually early and later, respectively) Porcello runs hot and cold by month, it seems, with his lackluster ERA the result of a couple of disaster months (June and August).

I guess the point is that given the anxiety A.J. Burnett has instilled in the Yankee Universe these past couple of years, yes, the talk of impending doom for tonight’s game is justified.  But let’s not pretend that it’s just the Yankees relying on a wobbly starter in a big playoff game. Porcello is no one’s idea of an ace, and the Yankees’ slumbering bats could very well get to him.  As such, it’s about the best circumstances under which one can run old A.J. out there.

All of that said, if you rock a pic like this in your Facebook profile or whatever today, you had best not be complaining if Burnett lays an egg tonight, OK?


(pic via reader Mike W. on Facebook, though I have no idea who created it)

  1. Jason @ IIATMS - Oct 4, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    I mean, what could POSSIBLY go wrong?

    • bigharold - Oct 4, 2011 at 1:09 PM

      No worries. Burnett has been so so to terrible all year long and it’s only the bigest game of the year. Outcome: reverse lock. AJ goes 7.0 IP of shut out ball.

      That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

      • pjmarn6 - Oct 4, 2011 at 2:21 PM

        Is it possible that the chemicals from all those tattoos have affected something related to his ability to be a major league pitcher?

      • bigharold - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:12 PM

        OK, so it was only 5 2/3 IP with one run. Sue me.

  2. proudlycanadian - Oct 4, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    A. J. is not as scary as a root canal. It is not Halloween; so, there are no ghosts and hobgoblins. It is not Friday the 13th. On the other hand, I suspect that most Yankee fans are resigned to “wishin and hoping”.

  3. Lukehart80 - Oct 4, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    A.J. is the storyline because every storyline in a Yankees’ series has to be from a Yankees’ perspective, the other team is only there so that the Yankee narratives can be played out.

    I hope the Tigers run him out of the game by the 3rd inning and win going away, not that anyone will talk about them tomorrow, even if they do.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 4, 2011 at 9:03 AM

      the other team is only there so that the Yankee narratives can be played out.

      Are you serious? What coverage have you been watching where the announcers haven’t stopped verbally fellating Justin Verlander, or the Tiger’s “amazing” bullpen? Only thing worse than playing the no respect card is playing it while getting a ton of respect from the analysts/media.

      • Jason @ IIATMS - Oct 4, 2011 at 9:25 AM

        You mean Smoltz’s slurping?

      • Lukehart80 - Oct 4, 2011 at 10:37 AM

        Yes, Smoltz was having a love affair with Verlander last night, but the Yankees still get the lion’s share of the attention, especially outside the actual broadcasts. The only Tigers’ narrative this year has been “Verlander has carried them into the playoffs,” a narrative that only makes sense to people who have paid no attention.

        Burnett and Porcello were basically identical pitchers this year, but all the talk is about how the Yankees will cope with this. “They’re doomed.” “How will they win a game with Burnett starting?” Oh, I don’t know, maybe the same way they’ve won 16 other games he started this year?

      • cmutimmah - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:16 AM

        You’re right… it’s all one sided… they don’t count the batters until Robinson Cano is up each inning (even though he’s just one of their 3 truly scary hitters with Tex and Grandy).

        A Rod gets talked about like he’s going to hit a home run, and he’s hitless in the series…

        Sabathia was walking too many people for them to be falling all over him last night like they did Friday before the rain…

        Verlander is a CY Young favorite, in the running for the MVP, and aside from two bad innings, was completely dominent last night. I’m SHOCKED that something was said positively towards a non-Yankee, I tell ya! Shocked!

      • Lukehart80 - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:24 AM

        I guess I’ve touched a nerve.

        I wasn’t saying only good things are said about Yankees or that nothing good is ever said about non-Yankees. I was saying that the story lines tend to be presented in a way that turns the Yankees in the central characters, while other players/teams are merely revolving around them.

        In cmutimmah’s post, the only non-Yankee he used to try to make his point was Verlander, which sort of seems more in line with MY point.

        If you don’t believe the story lines tend to be slanted towards the Yankees, I guess we just see things differently.

  4. hittfamily - Oct 4, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    It could definately be worse. The Rays have to start Jeremy Hellickson tonight. He has a 1.4 WAR. AJ Burnett has a 1.5 WAR. Anybody who has watched the games can clearly tell you that AJ Burnett has been a better pitcher. And WAR backs it up. What a useful stat.

    • Francisco (FC) - Oct 4, 2011 at 9:14 AM

      Far be it for to defend WAR but where did you get those? the B-R ones have Hellickson listed at 4.2 and Burnett at 1.1.

      • hittfamily - Oct 4, 2011 at 9:29 AM


        Apparently Hellickson is one of the worst pitchers in baseball. I watched all his games, and thought he was pretty good. Little did I know I was rooting for a bum who has no business being in the big leagues. Good luck locking up at 7-11 next year Hellickson.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 4, 2011 at 9:47 AM

        They must be using some very strange equations in fan-graphs. I’m sorry people but from this moment going forward I must dismiss out of hand any argument that uses WAR from Fangraphs. Any calculation showing A.J. Burnett has more value than Jeremy Hellickson is deeply flawed.

      • seanmk - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:12 AM

        To explain the fangraphs WAR a litte here, they pitched around the same amount of innings with AJ having the better K rate and GB rate with a 8.18 k/9 3.92 BB/9 49.2% GB rate but a 17.0 HR/FB rate to come up with a 4.77 FIP. Hellickson had a 5.57 k/9 3.43 BB/9 35% GB rate and a 8.1 HR/FB rate to get a 4.44 FIP.

        The difference between the two WAR’s for pitchers is that fangraphs uses FIP and B-ref uses ERA, so fangraphs isn’t going to like Hellickson because of his .223 Babip and 82% Left on Base, saying basically that he was lucky over the 189 innings/his defense really helped him.
        Burnett basically had average rates for those stats with a .294 Babip and 70.0% LoB

        It’s true of course that Hellickson was sort of lucky in that if he was on another team in another park he might have different results(ERA) based on how he pitched, but if i looked at his minor league numbers i’d say i think in the future his strikeout rate will be higher then he’s shown this year since he’s shown the ablity to be a 9.00+ k/9 in the minors and thus he’ll have a lower FIP in the future.

      • seanmk - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:51 AM

        it’s funny because i could have just linked to this and it would explain the same thing iwas trying to do.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 4, 2011 at 2:16 PM

        saying basically that he was lucky over the 189 innings/his defense really helped him.

        Luck plays some part but tthe Rays defense helps ALL its pitchers, I believe this team has a consistently lower BABIP than the rest of the AL. Which is once again why I find suspect trying to divorce defense from the pitchers. I prefer to keep it in perspective: since Jeremy is still pitching for the same defense I still like him far more than A.J. Burnett.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 4, 2011 at 2:18 PM

        One final comment: FIP makes more sense for a guy like A.J. who’s been around quite a while. FIP will be less dependable with guys like Jeremy. It’s like trying to predict Vance Worley’s future ERA using FIP based on 10 starts.

      • hittfamily - Oct 4, 2011 at 3:50 PM

        I find so much of this bogus. David Price is an ace on every team, or is he just getting lucky? He has the same defense behind him as Hellickson. His ERA was 3.5 with the Rays defense. Is anyone going to argue his ERA is 4.5 on another team?

  5. Francisco (FC) - Oct 4, 2011 at 9:49 AM
  6. yankeesfanlen - Oct 4, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    I’ve heard similar Porcello complaints from Tigers fans all year. So game four will be “Best possible worst matchup”
    The Yankees have been known to win 2 games in a row.

    • CJ - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:50 AM

      they’ve been known to lose 4 straight too. just sayin

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 4, 2011 at 2:21 PM

        Well if they lose today they WON’T lose 4 in a row, that’s a guarantee.

  7. tashkalucy - Oct 4, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    A billion dollar payroll and Burnett is the guy they have to run out to start a possible playoff elimination game?

    The Red Sox and Yankees are bloated franchises toppling before your eyes. It’s like the US financial crisis in 2008 as people refuse to admit what they see, and refuse to admit that competitors have learned to get better results for far less money.

    And may I add — this is also a sign of how diluted “talent” is in MLB, and how overdue contaction is….4 to 6 tears would be a good first step.

    • hittfamily - Oct 4, 2011 at 10:14 AM

      getting that jelly bean out from under the “r” key would be helpful too.

      When in the history of baseball did every team have 4 guys in the bullpen who throw 95 MPH, because when Rafael Soriano or Mike Gonzalez are middle relief options, I’d say there is a plethora of talented arms never seen in any other generation?

      • tashkalucy - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:39 AM


        Oh, so throwing 95 miles an hour is what makes a great relief pitcher?

        Gonzalez has washed out wit 3 teams as a closer, and Cashman didn’t want Soriano and the Steinbrenners have admitted that he was correct.

        Your team is down 2-1 and about to be dumped in the 1st round of the playoffs.

        Tell me some more about the 90-something regular season wins. LB is like the NBA…..who cares abut the regular season except for kids like you. You get in the playoffs and then the real season starts. And don’t look now, but with the Rays and the improving Blue Jays with a crackerjack front office and the best manager in the AL East, it’s going to be a problem for the Yankees and Red Sox to get in the playoff for quite a few years.

      • Alex K - Oct 4, 2011 at 12:08 PM

        tashkalucy- hitt is actually a Rays fan.

        Also, there is no need to contract any teams. There is plenty of talent for everyone. To stick with really good relief options how about Mike Adams, Daniel Bard, Johnny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, and David Robertson just to name a few. Those are all pretty good pitchers that are middle relief options.

        And if you want to say what happens in 5-7 games in October shows who the better team is rather than the 162 games in April-September then we’re not going to agree.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 4, 2011 at 12:24 PM

        and the improving Blue Jays with a crackerjack front office and the best manager in the AL East,

        Wait what? John Farrell is the best manager in the AL E?

        it’s going to be a problem for the Yankees and Red Sox to get in the playoff for quite a few years.

        Yanks have been in the playoffs 16 of the last 17 years.

        Do you ever say anything that’s based in reality?

      • Lukehart80 - Oct 4, 2011 at 1:10 PM

        Let me see if I’ve got this right:

        The Yankees and Red Sox are going to have a hard time competing because there’s so much good baseball going on in their division that $150-200MM payrolls won’t matter.


        Baseball also needs to contract some teams because there’s not enough talent.

        No, I don’t see any contradiction between those two ideas at all.

  8. pisano - Oct 4, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    I’m sure A.J. will be on the shortest leash you’ve ever seen, so get ready Colon, Hughes, and whom ever else is breathing in the Yankee pen. They figure if they can take it back to N.Y. Super Nova can finish the Tigers off. We’ll find out soon.

    • lukeslice - Oct 4, 2011 at 10:14 AM

      It’s Hughes…Colon’s not even on the postseason roster.

      • pisano - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:20 AM

        Thanks, I didn’t no he wasn’t on the roster, but with A.J. pitching maybe it should have been “all hands on deck” I hope it doesn’t come to that.

      • cur68 - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:29 AM

        I shall miss seeing the Dugong. I have grown accustomed to his little face…

  9. sparky1002 - Oct 4, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Yes, AJ can win any game at any time as long as the Yankee bats don`t go back to sleep. The problem with AJ is will he generate enough consistent control that allows him to do so? Here`s hoping he will finally know better than to throw any kind of pitch he has a problem controlling with a Tiger on third.

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