AJ Burnett Is Actually Meeting Expectations for New York Yankees

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2011

AJ Burnett Is Actually Meeting Expectations for New York Yankees

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    Yes, you read the headline correctly.

    No, I'm not drunk.

    Yes, I mean THAT AJ Burnett and his multi-million salary with a 8-9 record, 4.54 ERA and 1.35 WHIP—which, by the way, is the lowest of his career in the Bronx.

    So how can I justify such a ridiculous statement? (I might add, this is not as ridiculous a statement as claiming to have invented the question mark).

    I took Burnett's salary of $16.5 million and went $3 million in each direction—looking for pitchers who are making between $13.5 million and $19.5 million this season.

    Besides Burnett, there are nine pitchers who fall into that price range.

    You'll be surprised by what you're about to see.

    I know I was.

Roy Oswalt

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    2011 Salary: $16 million

    2011 Stats: 4-7. 3.84 ERA, 1.41 WHIP

    33-year-old Roy Oswalt has struggled in his first full season with the Philadelphia Phillies with inefficient pitching performances coupled with a balky back, one that cost him the entire month of July.

    As the calendars turned to June, Oswalt sat with a 3-2 record and 2.60 ERA.

    Since May 31, Oswalt has gone 1-5 with a 5.61 ERA and 1.93 WHIP.

    AJ Burnett, since May 31, has gone 3-6 with a 5.04 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.

John Lackey

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    2011 Salary: $15.95 million

    2011 Stats: 10-8, 6.14 ERA, 1.54 WHIP

    Like AJ Burnett with the Yankees, 32-year-old righty John Lackey has not exactly performed up his reputation for the Boston Red Sox.

    This year, against the AL East, both pitchers have been miserable.

    Burnett against the AL East: 2-3. 6.84 ERA, 1.64 WHIP.

    Lackey against the AL East: 5-2, 6.30 ERA, 1.71 WHIP.

    So what does nearly $35 million get you these days?

    A combined 7-5 record with a 6.57 ERA and 1.68 WHIP against the most potent division in baseball.

Jake Peavy

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    2011 Salary: $16 million

    2011 Stats: 5-5, 4.63 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

    Jake Peavy started his career in the National League with the San Diego Padres, spending his first eight seasons in southern California.

    AJ Burnett started his career in the National League with the Florida Marlins, spending his first seven seasons in southern Florida.

    Since joining the Chicago White Sox in 2009, Peavy has made 34 starts in the AL.

    His numbers in the AL: 15-11, 4.31 ERA, 1.19 WHIP.

    After his first 34 starts, Burnett's numbers look eerily similar: 15-13, 4.00, 1.28 WHIP.

    The biggest difference between the two?

    Peavy is a former Cy Young Award winner while Burnett has never been confused with being a contender for the title.

Carlos Zambrano

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    2011 Salary: $18.875 million

    2011 Stats: 9-6, 4.46 ERA, 1.43 WHIP

    Carlos Zambrano, like AJ Burnett, is known to have a bit of a temper.

    Both pitchers currently find themselves allowing nearly 4.5 runs a game.

    The difference?

    Zambrano is doing it in the NL while Burnett is doing it in the AL East.

    While the disparity between the AL and NL this season is lower then some would think, chances are that if were Zambrano in the AL, he would find his ERA closer to the 5.26 mark that Burnett put up in 2010.

Barry Zito

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    2011 Salary: $18.5 million

    2011 Stats: 3-4, 5.62 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

    Barry Zito. Need I say more?

    Everyone knows how incredibly inept he has been since joining the San Francisco Giants on what could go down as one of the worst contracts in the history of professional sports, not just baseball.

    Zito is so bad these days that he has only appeared in nine games this season, the last being July 31.

    Burnett is bad, but even he would start over Zito if both found themselves on the same team.

Chris Carpenter

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    2011 Salary: $14.26 million

    2011 Stats: 7-8, 3.75 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

    Chris Carpenter, the one-time Cy Young Award winning 36-year-old righty for the St. Louis Cardinals started his career in the American League.

    There is really no comparison between AJ Burnett and the NL version of Chris Carpenter, so for this one I am going to compare their career numbers in the AL.

    From 1997 through 2002, Carpenter found himself as nothing more than a mediocre starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Carpenter's numbers in the AL: 49-50, 4.83 ERA, 1.51 WHIP.

    AJ Burnett's numbers in the AL: 69-59, 4.27 ERA, 1.36 WHIP.

    There is no disputing that Carpenter has found great success with the Cardinals and whether that success can be attributed to the lesser lineups he has faced, something that Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan changed in his mechanics or a combination of both remains to be seen.

    But when it comes to throwing off the mound the AL, AJ Burnett has been better than Chris Carpenter.

Derek Lowe

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    2011 Salary: $15 million

    2011 Stats: 7-10, 4.78 ERA, 1.48 WHIP

    Derek Lowe, part of one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history (Seattle traded Lowe and Jason Varitek to the Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb), is on the tail-end of his career. After his contract runs out following next season, Lowe may struggle to find work.

    Now 38, Lowe is struggling to pitch deep into games for the Atlanta Braves—only twice this season has he gone seven innings, the last coming on May 17.

    AJ Burnett, by comparison, has gone at least seven innings eight times this season, most recently on July 29.

    While neither pitcher is having a good season, at least Burnett is not wearing out the Yankees' bullpen as often as Lowe is taxing the pen of the Braves.

Josh Beckett

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    2011 Salary: $17 million

    2011 Stats: 9-4, 2.17 ERA, 0.94 WHIP

    Yeah, there's absolutely no comparison here. 

    Josh Beckett is having the best season of his career and it could be argued that he has been one of the five best pitchers in all of baseball this season.

    But since I set out to compare all of these pitchers with AJ Burnett, here's what I can come up with.

    Both Beckett and Burnett pitch in the AL East.

    Both Beckett and Burnett started their careers and were teammates with the Florida Marlins.

    Both Beckett and Burnett have last names that start with the letter B.

    That's all I've got.

Zach Greinke

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    2011 Salary: $13.5 million

    2011 Stats: 10-4, 4.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP

    Zack Greinke, 27, is finding mild success with the Milwaukee Brewers in his first season pitching in the National League.

    However, Greinke is finding things difficult against teams with a winning record.

    Against teams .500 or better, Greinke is 3-3 with a 5.18 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

    AJ Burnett, by comparison, is 4-5 with a 4.89 ERA and 1.39 WHIP against teams .500 or better.

    Not a huge difference by any means, but without question, Greinke is considered the superior pitcher to Burnett.

Closing Thoughts

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    I am not an AJ Burnett fan by any means. I find his attitude and antics to be nothing more than annoying and as a fan of the Yankees, his mediocre pitching drives me insane.

    But as a writer for B/R, I do try and remove the "fan" in me from the room before putting pen to paper...I mean fingers to keys.

    This led me to taking a deeper look at Burnett and his 2011 season as it compares to his counterparts around the sport.

    The pitchers we just looked at, on average, are pitching to the following numbers in 2011:

    7-6, 4.40 ERA, 1.32 WHIP

    If we remove John Lackey and Josh Beckett from the equation—the pitchers with the worst and best statistics of the group, the numbers only change slightly:

    6-5, 4.47 ERA, 1.34 WHIP

    AJ Burnett this season?

    8-9, 4.54 ERA, 1.35 WHIP

    So, believe it or not, AJ Burnett is pitching just as effectively as his counterparts who are being paid similar salaries.

    The moral of the story?

    You get what you pay for.