Yesterday against the Chicago White Sox, A.J. Burnett was staked to an early 12-run lead by the New York Yankees' potent offense. Burnett then proceeded to give half that lead back and was out of the game with one out in the fifth inning, resulting in a no-decision for him.
In his previous start against the Baltimore Orioles, Burnett went eight innings, struck out 10 but took the loss as he allowed four runs, while the Yankees only scored two. This was one of his best games in his last 10 starts.
Over Burnett's last 10 starts, he's received seven decisions: five losses and only two wins. Out of his two wins, only one was a good game (against the Milwaukee Brewers, in which he went seven innings and only allowed two runs). In the other win, he went 5.1 innings, gave up two runs and the Yankees won the game, 4-3.
This is the problem with Burnett; you simply don't know which pitcher you are going to see when he takes the mound. Will you see the pitcher that has some of the nastiest stuff in baseball or will you see the pitcher that gives up a lot of walks, a lot of hits and simply looks like he doesn't belong on an MLB roster? I don't even think Burnett knows which pitcher will show up.
Burnett went into this season slotted as the No. 3 starter behind CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. However, so far in this season, Burnett is, at best, pitching like a No. 4 starter, but is actually closer to a No. 5. The only reason he's a No. 4 at best is because of the issues Phil Hughes has had.
Burnett has been out-pitched this season by the rejuvenated Bartolo Colon and by Freddy Garcia. He's also been out-pitched by a young pitcher still trying to figure out his role on the Yankees pitching staff in Ivan Nova.
The Yankees' goal every season is to win the World Series. In order to do that, they need their pitchers pitching at a high level at all times. Burnett is making $16.5 million in salary this season, but is pitching like a pitcher worth much, much less than that.
The Yankees will have a hard time in reaching their goal if the only starting pitcher they can count on is CC Sabathia. While Colon and Garcia are pitching far above expectations, the questions are there regarding whether they can maintain that level through October, and the concerns about Phil Hughes are ongoing.
The Yankees need Burnett now. The Yankees need him to simply be consistently good start to start. They need to know they can count on him being the No. 2 postseason starter behind Sabathia.
If Burnett cannot become consistently good, the Yankees just might be in for a short October, and that's the last thing the Yankees, the Steinbrenners, MLB and the Yankees fans want to see.