Since 1920, 391 Yankees pitchers have had a seasonal ERA of at least 5.30. Of all those pitchers, no pitcher has been allowed to pitch as many innings as A.J. Burnett.
Why? Because Burnett is on a five-year deal, and he is making $16.5 million this season. Essentially, he is here to stay. It is mentally very difficult to waste $16.5 million dollars.
In 2010, Burnett is working on the worst ERA of his career. He is also stacking up the most hits per nine innings in a season, and the most home runs per nine innings. His velocity and strike percentage are also way down.
Burnett is not having a good season by anyone's standards. You can sit through a Joe Girardi press conference and listen to myths about Burnett’s stuff, but results are results, and Burnett is simply not performing.
Like I said earlier, the Yankees have stuck with Burnett all the way through this mess, and that is likely due to his big, long-term contract. Say all you want about his potential, but Javier Vazquez has potential too, and you didn’t see the Yankees treat him very well.
So here is my question to you: if you could avoid using one of your worst starting pitchers in the playoffs, would you?
With the playoffs looming, the Yankees are expected to have Burnett in the postseason starting rotation. Here is my message to the Yankees: you don’t need to have Burnett start, so don’t do it.
By now you are aware of Major League Baseball’s brilliant ability to prolong the playoffs. However, in this case, it may actually help the Yankees. Due to the off day in between games two and three, the Yankees could easily get by on a three-man rotation, just like they did last year.
CC Sabathia would pitch game one, and then pitch on short rest in game four. Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes would fill in the other two slots in some undetermined order.
This is all assuming that Pettitte can perform. In two starts since returning from the disabled list, Pettitte has had one great start and one horrible start. Hopefully he'll be on his game as he usually is.
Hughes, the 24 year-old right-hander, has been a bit shaky in the past month, but his lights-out start last time out against the Red Sox was enough to make us believe that he can return to his early to mid-season form.
Bottom line: the Yankees have a much better chance to win in the postseason with a three-man rotation than they do with four-man rotation that includes Burnett.
Burnett has been everything the Yankees feared this season. Money and a desire to keep him happy are not enough to allow this pitcher to sink the Yankees in the playoffs. The Yankees can get by without trouble with a three-man rotation. Avoiding Burnett is possible, and it should be done.