Previewing the Yankees' 2009 Pitching Rotation: A.J. Burnett

Jimmy KraftContributor IMarch 16, 2009

With the signing of A.J. Burnett to a five-year, $82.5M deal, the Yankees completed a pair of deals cementing the starting rotation for years to come. Many fans and experts alike thought the Yankees would insert Burnett as the No. 2 starter, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to demote Chien-Ming Wang only one spot, not two.

In this edition, we will examine other high-profile pitchers who have donned the pinstripes this century, like Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, and Kevin Brown. These are three-year totals except for Johnson and Brown, which are two-year totals as their time with the Bombers was limited to two years.

First, let's look at Burnett's line from his three seasons with Toronto.


Burnett (Three-Year Totals)

IP: 521.5

W-L: 38-26

K: 525

BB: 191

ERA: 3.93

ERA+: 109.6

WHIP: 1.279

K/9: 8.93

BB/9: 3.22

HR/9: 0.98

GB%: 51.3

GB/FB: 1.69


From these stats we can conclude Burnett has a penchant for the ground ball with his sinking stuff. This gives the Yankees two pitchers who are predominantly ground ball pitchers with Wang and Burnett. With 525 K's in 521.5 IP over the past three seasons, the Yankees get the strikeout artist they have been missing since the Roger Clemens days.

Mike Mussina came to the Yankees in 2001 and was part of the Yankees' World Series losing team. The knucklecurveballer from Stanford won at least 11 games per season for them, ending in 2008 with a Cy Young worthy 20-win season, his only in his illustrious career. The stats are from his first two years with the Yankees.


Mussina (Two-Year Totals)

IP: 444.4

W-L: 35-21

K: 396

BB: 90

ERA: 3.60

ERA+: 125.5

WHIP: 1.127

K/9: 7.89

BB/9: 1.84

GB/FB: 1.06

HR/9: 0.96

GB%: 40.9


In his early Yankee years, Mussina had a great K/9 rate and was one of the best pitchers at the time with 125.5 ERA+. Mussina had good control, only giving up 90 walks over two seasons or 1.84 BB/9.

Burnett matches up quite well with Mussina. However, he has better K/9, GB%, and GB/FB rates than the Moose. This will go over well in the new Yankee Stadium. 

Now we come to a few pitchers who had a rough go of it while in the Bronx. Randy Johnson was acquired through a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005, and from Day One in New York, everyone knew he wasn't cut out for life in the Bronx. 

He really didn't pitch that badly as a Yankee, but he wasn't the Randy Johnson the Yankee front office thought he'd be. Let's view his stats as a Yankee.


Johnson (Two-Year Totals)

IP: 430.7

W-L: 34-19

K: 313

BB: 107

ERA: 4.39

ERA+: 107

WHIP: 1.182

K/9: 7.98

BB/9: 2.25

GB/FB: 1.08

HR/9: 1.25


He was pedestrian as a Yankee, but did post a good win-loss record. He had an awful 4.39 ERA, gave up an average of one home run per game, and didn't strike batters out like he did in Seattle and Arizona. He was getting older and becoming more brittle every start he made in New York.

Finally, we come to the abysmal Kevin Brown, who was acquired via trade with the Dodgers. Often injured and very ineffective in the Bronx, he just could never get into a groove. 


Brown (Two-Year Totals)

IP: 205.0

W-L: 14-13

K: 133

BB: 54

ERA: 5.30

ERA+: 87.5

WHIP: 1.492

K/9: 5.90

GB%: 48.4

GB/FB: 1.51


In his two years in pinstripes, he has the stats of a four or five starter, not a bona fide No. 1. A bad back led to much of his terrible stats, but the alarming number is his bloated 5.30 ERA. He wasn't as sharp with the Yankees as he was with the Dodgers, where he pitched to a 14-9 record, 2.39 ERA, and 189 K's.

All in all, I'm worried about the Yankees' track record with signing big name free agent pitchers after a good season. Burnett had a great season for Toronto last year, but Carl Pavano had a good year with the Marlins when the Yankees signed him. 

I'm cautiously optimistic with Burnett, but he has been lights out in spring training this year, which helps curb my fears. I believe he will have a career with the Yankees that mirrors Mussina, but if he gets injured, he could very well become the new Kevin Brown.


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