After A.J. Burnett signed a five year 82.5 million dollar contract, the Yankees expected front of the rotation performance from the former strikeout king and at times, Burnett has been just that; A consistent, above average strike-thrower.
But often he has been erratic and inconsistent. It could be merely inning to inning—and that has been his biggest problem, his susceptibility to the big inning.
Since his May 9th start, Allan James has an ERA of 6.33. He has walked 41 in 85.1 innings and struck-out only 68. His fastball velocity for the season is down to 93.2 MPH, a very respectable figure, but his lowest since 2003, when he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Both Burnett’s fastball and his signature knuckle-curve have been below league average. The point is, Burnett is not the same pitcher the Yankees overpaid for last year.
Burnett has always been unpredictable, but always managed to right the ship before it was too late. Yankee fans will remember his 15 inning pitching duel with the Red Sox’s Josh Beckett—matching him for 7.2 innings before Alex Rodriguez hit a walk-off in the 15th .
Does anyone really see Burnett putting on that same performance this year? Or more importantly, putting on a performance like that in a game that matters?
Many Yankee fans thought we’d need another arm to replace Vazquez, who certainly had among the worst April’s in recent memory. Or to supplement our rotation when Pettitte and Hughes inevitably come back to Earth. But it seems to me that the Yankees could have desperately used another arm to replace Burnett until he can at least return to his moderately inconsistent self.