A.J. Burnett: 5 Reasons Yankees Have to Pull Him from the Rotation

Rich StoweAnalyst IIIAugust 23, 2011

A.J. Burnett: 5 Reasons Yankees Have to Pull Him from the Rotation

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    Joe Girardi and the New York Yankees have a tough decision to make: Do they move AJ Burnett to the bullpen or keep him in the rotation?

    If the Yankees want to win the American League East title and succeed in October, I believe they need to move him to the bullpen.

    Fans and analysts alike can probably come up with many reasons why this should happen (sooner rather than later).

    Here are the five reasons why I think this should happen.

No. 1: His Season Stats so Far

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    So far in 2011, AJ Burnett isn't having a good season.

    Per Baseball Reference, as of the morning of August 23rd, his stats for the season are:

    9-10 win/loss record, 4.96 ERA, 1.417 WHIP, ERA+ of 85 and is only averaging six innings per start.

    None of his stats scream top-of-the-rotation starter.  His WHIP and ERA are both very high and because he only pitches six innings a game, he makes the bullpen work more than they should.

    For the money Burnett is being paid, you'd expect much better production than this.

No 2: Inconsistency

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    Another big issue many fans and experts have with AJ Burnett is his inconsistency.

    A glance at his Game Logs on Baseball Reference and you'll see this laid out plain as can be.

    You don't know if you're going to get the AJ that will strike out eight while walking one, the AJ that will strike out 10 while walking two, the AJ that will strike out six while walking five or the AJ that will strike out two while walking two.

    You also don't know if today's the day AJ is only able to go five innings or can he go eight or if he'll give up more hits than innings pitched.

    The Yankees are 12-14 when AJ pitches.  Some of this is because the offense isn't there, but most of it is because AJ is one of the most inconsistent pitchers, start-to-start, in baseball today.  The last thing the Yankees need in August, September and October is a starting pitcher that is a huge question mark.

No. 3: Ivan Nova Deserves More Starts

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    Ivan Nova is a 24-year-old pitcher with a lot of potential.

    However, he is losing out on starts to AJ Burnett and others in the Yankees' six-man pitching rotation.

    While Nova's stats on the season aren't very impressive or much better than AJ Burnett's, the simple fact is the Yankees win when he pitches.

    Nova has a 13-4 record on the season (with stats barely better than AJ's).  However, if you look at his game logs on Baseball Reference, you'll see that the Yankees are 16-6 in his starts (including an impressive 10 wins in his last 10 starts).  If you remember from the last slide, the Yankees are 12-14 in AJ's starts.

    Nova is going to be the No. 2 starter of the future for the Yankees, behind CC Sabathia, and he deserves to get the chance now.

No. 4: Phil Hughes Is Looking Stronger

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    Phil Hughes has had a bad 2011 season including a stint on the disabled list and his stats are much worse than AJ Burnett's.

    However, over his last four starts, Hughes is 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA.

    If anything, Hughes is showing signs that he might be reverting back to his first-half-of-2010 self while AJ is continuing to pitch badly and may even be showing signs of getting worse.

    If the rotation should be CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and one other, that one other should be Phil Hughes and not AJ Burnett. 

No. 5: the Red Sox Seem to Own Him

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    In order for the Yankees to win the American League East, they will have to go through the Boston Red Sox, which is not going to be easy.

    AJ Burnett has had a decent career against the Boston Red Sox, but most of his success came while a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.  Over the last two seasons with the Yankees,  he has an ERA of 8.70 against the Red Sox.

    No starting pitcher on the Yankees this season has had much success against the Red Sox, but AJ Burnett is pretty much the worst against them.

Final Analysis

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    What do the previous slides all mean?

    Well, they mean that AJ Burnett shouldn't be in the New York Yankees' starting rotation any more this season and shouldn't even sniff the rotation come October.

    He simply can't be counted on to deliver game in and game out.  The Yankees need a pitcher that you at least believe gives you a great chance to win every game and that's simply not AJ. 

    If you knew he'd deliver a seven inning, eight strikeout, one walk and six hit game, you'd gladly have him in the rotation, but sadly that's not the case.  You're just as likely to get three innings of nothing but walks and hits out of him.

    The Yankees have young pitchers like Ivan Nova already on the MLB roster that need more appearances.  They also have young prospects like Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances in AAA that will probably get called up once the rosters expand and they'll need some starts too.  This all means AJ will be, and should be, the odd man out.

    If the Yankees don't pull the trigger and remove AJ from the starting rotation, they might be looking at the Wild Card and maybe even a quick exit in the playoffs.