Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A. J. Burnett Is Killing the Yankees

The arguments on whether A. J. Burnett is just flat out bad, or only bad when he pitches to Jorge Posada is a moot point. Jorge Posada is the Yankee's number one catcher. And if Burnett can't pitch to him, he is of little use to the Yankees. Watching the game on Monday night in Arizona, Burnett and Posada looked like a couple of middle high students dancing together for the first time. But why would that mean that Burnett couldn't hit a target if he had a hundred chances to do so? It's hard to fathom.

Burnett has pitched 39.2 innings to Francisco Cervelli. his ERA is 3.63 and his OPS against is .705. He's pitched to Posada for 28.2 (not including Monday night's fiasco) and his ERA with Jorge is 4.71 and his OPS against is .866. This is certainly not an isolated statistic. Overall, for the Yankee pitchers in 2010, they have an ERA of 3.54 with an OPS against of .680 when pitching to Cervelli and a 4.26 ERA with a .725 OPS against with Posada. That makes this year no different than last year when the same phenomenon occurred.

It would be interesting to get a catcher's perspective to break that down and figure out why. Does Posada call a bad game? Does he set up too late? Does he receive the ball badly and not get strike calls? The Fan hasn't seen enough games to detect a difference. But something is different when Posada catches. And that difference affects Burnett more than any other Yankee pitcher.

Whether you blame Burnett or blame Posada, the situation is untenable. The Yankees don't have enough wiggle room in a three team horse race for two spots in the playoffs to give away games when the tandem are together. Monday night's game was the fourth straight bad outing for Burnett. The last two have been with Posada and the previous two with Chad Moeller. Without throwing any of those games to Cervelli, you can't rule out if Cervelli would have made a difference.

The problem with Burnett has always seemed to revolve around two problems. Burnett can't seem to finish an inning when he gets two quick outs. And he can't seem to finish off a batter when he gets two quick strikes. Burnett's first seven runs given up against the Diamondbacks all came with two outs and all with nobody on base after those two outs.

So what do you do about this situation? Do you have to catch Cervelli every time Burnett pitches? Posada makes a lot of money and is one of the cornerstones on the Yankees. Burnett makes a lot of money and would be impossible to trade and is too expensive to put in the bullpen. In a perfect world, Posada would DH every game for the rest of the year, but you know that won't happen. It's a problem. It's a very big problem


Captain Canuck said...

it's long been known that Posada is a hitting catcher. He doesn't have a great glove, or call a very good game. This gets him in trouble with "thinking" pitchers... but I wouldn't worry about it... Greg Maddux didn't pitch to the Braves number one catcher for years. And he did okay.

Josh Borenstein said...

That's not a very good comparison. Maddux was a model of consistency. Burnett is anything but a model of consistency. For the stuff he has, Burnett is a huge underachiever. Maddux was probably a huge overachiever.

Also, Burnett's strikeouts are way down this year from his career norm, which is disconcerting. If I were a Yankee fan, I would be concerned. As a Fantasy owner, I know I am.