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A.J. Burnett likely to find new life in Pittsburgh

Feb 17, 2012, 3:07 PM EDT

A.J. Burnett AP

It’s a small sample size for sure, but when Jeremy Guthrie was traded earlier this month, I pointed out how the last nine established starting pitchers to leave the AL East lowered their ERAs by an average of a full run upon setting up shop elsewhere.

If A.J. Burnett can keep that up after the Yankees and Pirates agreed to a trade Friday, the 35-year-old right-hander is looking at an ERA right around 4.00 this season.

After a successful first season in New York, Burnett finished with ERAs of 5.26 and 5.15 in his final two years in Pinstripes. Given that he’s a two-pitch pitcher who has lost something off his fastball, it’s easy to see why the Yankees wanted to move on.

Still, Burnett did manage to strike out 173 batters in 190 1/3 innings last season. Now that he’ll get to face pitchers instead of designated hitters, he could fan even more batters this season. And he’s going from baseball’s toughest division for pitchers to what might be its easiest in the NL Central. Burnett had a 6.22 ERA in AL East play last season. In 2010, it was 5.82.

So, no, Burnett is no longer worth anywhere near $17 million per season. But $13 million over two years, which is what the Pirates will be paying him, seems like a pretty fair price. Once one of the game’s most injury-prone starters, Burnett has no made 32 starts four years running. He’s not going to lead the Pirates back to the postseason, but he should be an asset.

  1. seahawks80 - Feb 17, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    Steinbrenner: AJ, thanks for time in New York and all the hard word and dedication to the Yankee family. I’m sorry but you are now going to be a Pirate.

    AJ: NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, anywhere but there!!!!!!!!

  2. yankeesgameday - Feb 17, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    Captain Obvious says, “thanks for this blog post.”

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 17, 2012 at 4:24 PM

      Captain Not-a-Dickhead says, “Follow my lead.”

  3. SmackSaw - Feb 17, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    Dear PGH,

    THANK YOU!!

    Sincerely,

    Yankees middle relief corps

    • okobojicat - Feb 17, 2012 at 4:07 PM

      190 innings in 32 starts, that’s 5.9 innings a start. That’s actually not terrible.

      • chrisexv6 - Feb 18, 2012 at 1:24 AM

        What IS terrible is Girardis seemingly long hook for AJ, allowing him to get the 5.9 innings per start.

        AJ should have been yanked after the 4th or 5th inning regardless of how good he was doing……anything after that was borrowed time and you were just praying to lose a lead.

  4. SmackSaw - Feb 17, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Seriously, if he returns to form, he’ll be the best No. 1 starter the Pirates have had in a long time.

    • foreverchipper10 - Feb 17, 2012 at 5:06 PM

      Didn’t they also sign Erik Bedard? If he returns to form as well I would rather have him over AJ.

  5. scatterbrian - Feb 17, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he made an All-Star game with the Pirates.

  6. florida76 - Feb 17, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    If the Bucs do contend this year, clearly Burnett won’t be the ace of the staff, just a solid starter. The NL Central winner may have only have 88-90 wins, no dominant teams in that division.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 17, 2012 at 4:21 PM

      Who would be Pittsburgh’s ace? MacDonald? I think it’s AJ. Definitely not Bedard.

  7. uyf1950 - Feb 17, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    None of my comments this afternoon have been showing. I’ll keep trying.

  8. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 17, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    We need a shorthand so we won’t have to read full articles describing a phenomenon we generally understand. I propose the following:

    Moving from success in the the NL to difficulty in the AL East = The Javy Vasquez Effect.

    Moving out of the AL East to thrive in the NL = The IPK Effect

  9. uyf1950 - Feb 17, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    I think this is a win, win for both teams. AJ should do much better in the NL Central and the Yankees got some salary relief as well as a much clearer picture of their starting rotation. Without forcing AJ into the starter role where he has failed miserably the past 2 years.

  10. cool10857 - Feb 17, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    A.J. sucks, pain and simple. Being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates is the functional equivalent of being dumped on a heap of garbage.

  11. pisano - Feb 17, 2012 at 5:52 PM

    All I can say is thank God AJ’s gone, he has to go down as one of the worst free agent pitcher signings other than that buck tooth loser Kei Igawa. Again, thank God he’s gone.

    • jimbo1949 - Feb 17, 2012 at 10:20 PM

      Kevin Brown, Ed Whitson, Carl Pavano, Jeff Weaver…any more?

      • pisano - Feb 17, 2012 at 11:56 PM

        Good point jimbo, but this guy pissed me off more than all the above combined. He was supposed to be a great one two punch with CC and all he did was take a crap for two years.

  12. jimeejohnson - Feb 17, 2012 at 7:27 PM

    Every time I get out of the Bronx I am thankful!

  13. hushbrother - Feb 17, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    When was the last time the Pirates had a power arm of any kind in their rotation? Even the 90-92 team didn’t really have any hard throwers. Ted Power doesn’t count.

  14. mlhlite - Feb 18, 2012 at 4:10 AM

    I going too baseless and book it and say AJ has a solid 2 or 3 starter year, Pittsburgh style which would be ten wins 4.50 era and Yankees will miss him production wise but not salary wise

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