Sep
30

The A.J. and Jose show

By

As Juan Miranda‘s line drive literally off of Kyle Farnsworth escaped the Royals’ fielders and Eric Hinske scampered to the plate, the Yankees came together last night to celebrate their 15th walk-off win of the season. Juan Miranda became the latest victim of the Walk-Off Pie, and with their 102nd win, the Yanks opened a season-high 10.5-game lead over the Red Sox.

Lost in the feel-good defeat of a much-maligned former Yankee was another solid start by A.J. Burnett. Joe touched upon Burnett’s outing in the recap, but it warrants a closer look. Burnett went 6.1 innings, and he didn’t give up much. The Royals managed to plate two runs — one earned — on three hits and three walks. Burnett struck out eight on the night.

For A.J., last night’s outing was another in a string of good September starts. After a rough five weeks in August and September, Burnett has now surrendered four earned runs over his last 19 innings. He has surrendered 17 hits and just nine walks in that span while striking out 25. In fact, if we look at Burnett’s bad start against the Orioles, we see that, after surrendering a grand slam to Brian Roberts, Burnett was nearly untouchable. That day, he retired 17 of the last 19 batters he faced and threw 5.2 one-hit innings.

If we head back to Sept. 8, we see yet another good A.J. Burnett start. Against Tampa, he threw six innings and allowed one run on four hits and three walks. He also struck out eight that day. So over his last five starts, he has thrown 32 innings with a 2.81 ERA and has given up 28 hits and 14 walks while striking out 37. That’s not too shabby for a second or third starter.

There is, however, a downside to A.J.’s success. As Steve Lombardi concisely puts it in a color-coded post, Burnett’s success has come with Jose Molina behind the plate. Throughout September, Molina has been A.J.’s caddy. In August, during A.J.’s bad starts — an early August debacle against the White Sox and a late August shellacking by the Red Sox — Jorge Posada was catching.

And so we fear what this means. As Joe speculated last week, it appears as though Joe Girardi will pair up A.J. Burnett and Jose Molina during the playoffs. Jorge Posada would ride the bench and be available to come into the game the minute Burnett is removed. The Yanks, however, contend that Posada sat out not due to A.J.’s pitching but because of his sore neck. I report; you decide.

It’s hard to stress how much of an offensive blackhole Molina has been this year. His hit today broke an 0-for-19 streak, and his triple slash line is .215/.295/.262. Jorge, meanwhile, is hitting .290/.369/.534. Molina’s VORP is currently -6.7; Jorge’s is 35.1. Molina has contributed -9.0 runs above (below?) average at the plate while Jorge’s contribution is a positive 19.7. Get the picture?

Joe Girardi can get cute with the lineup if he wants to. It is, after all, his team. If he honestly and truly believes that A.J. Burnett is that much better of a pitcher with Jose Molina behind the plate, then so be it. I remain skeptical and shudder to see the lineup card when Burnett takes the mound next week in Game 2 or 3 of the ALDS.

Categories : Playoffs

108 Comments»

  1. Tank Foster says:

    Burnett will be fine in the playoffs. Even if he gave up 5 runs in 7 innings, the Yankees will probably win the game. Even when he “struggles,” he makes it through enough innings to give the team a chance. What I love about him is he never seems to be afraid, either to succeed or to fail.

  2. Yages says:

    It’s not whether or not Girardi thinks Burnett is better with Molina, it’s whether or not AJ does that matters.

    • Stryker says:

      exactly. AJ is a guy with more than 10 years of experience in the majors. by now he should hopefully know that it doesn’t really matter who he’s throwing to as long as he throws the same way all the time. but if he’s got that notion in his head that all of a sudden he’s doing a better job with molina behind the plate, well, he subconsciously will throw stinkers when he sees posada back there.

      i hope that’s not the case, but it’s definitely a possibility.

  3. Todd says:

    Pitching is the name of the game in the playoffs. So if the Yanks have a black hole hitting in the 9 hole, the Yanks will still have an advantage because they still have more than enough offense to beat the other team’s 2-3 starter with an effective Burnett. I have no problem with Molina starting during Burnett’s starts in the playoffs.

    • But if pitching is “the name of the game,” doesn’t including Jose Molina in the lineup make it that much easier (2-3 essentially automatic outs) for the other pitcher? Burnett has thrown a whole lot of good starts with Jorge (see June-July) and Jorge’s bat is infinitely better than Jose’s.

      • Todd says:

        There is no disputing the disparity in offense between the catchers. But it has become clear that Burnett is simply more comfortable throwing to Jose. I would rather have a comfortable Burnett (with the potential to dominate). And again, the Yanks still have more than enough offense to beat the other team’s 2-3 starter.

        • But regardless of that narrative, there have been a lot of games in which Jorge caught A.J. and A.J. was lights out. There’s just as much chance he’ll throw a gem or a stinker to either one of them. I’d rather have Jorge’s bat in the lineup for 4-5 PAs. His bat could Burnett’s potential gem look better and his bat could also make Burnett’s potential stinker look worse.

          • But regardless of that narrative, there have been a lot of games in which Jorge caught A.J. and A.J. was lights out.

            Then when you worry about Posada catching Burnett, look at the following:
            (h/t to Mike Pop)

            Games caught by Posada that A.J. has pitched well:
            June 2nd against Rangers – 7 innings, 3 runs
            June 20th against Marlins – 6.1 innings, 2 runs, 1 earned
            June 27th against Mets – 7 innings, 1 hit, 10 ks! 0 runs
            July 8th at Minny – 6.1 innings, 2 runs
            July 17th against Tigers – 6 innings, 3 runs (I’ll take that game 2)
            July 22ns against Balt – 7 innings, 2 runs
            July 27th against Tampa – 7 innings, 1 run
            August 7th against Boston – I think we know how that turned out
            August 12th against Toronto – 6 innings, 3 runs. 10 hits though, got lucky
            August 17th in Oak – 8 innings, 3 runs. CG loss

            http://riveraveblues.com/2009/.....ent-599139

  4. Guest says:

    Oh sweet heavens no. I thought Molina’s numbers were bad, but this post shows in no uncertain terms just how terrible they actually are. The difference between the two catchers as hitters is stunning. Absolutely breathtaking.

    For this reason, I think the Yankees should have forced fed AJ Jorge in September. They needed to do everything in their power to try and get AJ and Jorge on the same page because it just seems ludicrous to replace Jorge’s offensive production with Jose Molina’s.

    Another thing that bother’s me about this: AJ’s pitching should ultimately be AJ’s resposibility. AJ Burnett did not get an 80+ million dollar contract because of success he had pitching to Jose Molina. Jose Molina is not the reason why he is blessed with best “stuff” in the ML. There is absolutely no reason why a pitcher of AJ’s caliber cannot pitch to the same level as he has earlier in his career with Jorge Posada behind the plate.

    But because AJ and Jorge did not spend September working out the kinks, we have the incredibly unpleasant situation before us. At least three at-bats (potentially important ones given that Molina will hit behind two very good hitters in Swisher and Cano and a serviceable one in Melky) might go to Molina in a potenitally pivotal game three. This is really an awful turn of events. It really is.

    Of course the Yankees can and should still win the ALDS, but the odds having Molina in the lineup will help them to accomplish this are slim at best.

    • kunaldo says:

      i totally agree dude…i dont understand how joe didnt try to have them work it out with everything wrapped up…especially in these last 2 starts (although from what girardi said, if the full A lineup is going on sunday, AJ will have to throw to jorge)

      sure, AJ had a bad august w/ jorge…but remember, correlation =/= causation…AJ HAS had success w/ jorge, so there’s no reason to think that he just had one of his usual down stretches while jorge happened to be catching him as well

      if AJ doesnt like what jorge is putting down, then he should grow up and shake him off

      jose molina should not be starting a postseason game unless jorge is severely injured

      • i dont understand how joe didnt try to have them work it out with everything wrapped up

        Jorge still isn’t 100%. You can blame the other instances mostly on day games after night games, or even Jorge’s suspension.

        • kunaldo says:

          yeah that’s true…but given the situation, and if joe really thought there was a problem between the two, couldnt have he planned around the day game/night game and forced them together(before the injury issues of course)

          i dont know, maybe it wasnt possible, and I’m not going to kill girardi for that….but god i dont want to see molina start

  5. UWS says:

    If this does come to pass, Molina should bunt every time he comes up with a man on base. Or maybe even the bases are empty.

  6. Chris says:

    If Molina is so good with AJ, then what was the problem on Sept 12 against Baltimore when AJ gave up 6 runs in 7 innings with Molina catching?

    This AJ+Molina thing is just a myth. From June through July 8 AJ had a 2.28 ERA. Of the 7 games, 5 were caught by Posada and 2 by Cervelli. AJ is just getting out of his funk, and Molina happens to be the catcher for these games (in part because of Jorge’s fight).

  7. Maybe si Maybe no says:

    I’m thinking it’s too late for them to experiment with AJ and Jorge or for them to work out whatever is the issue between them. Moose won 20 games last year and was adamantly opposed to Jorge catching him. It’s hard to win 20 games if your catcher (Molina) is truly a scrub who doesn’t deserve to be in the lineup.

    Pitchers have crazy shit in their heads. If you believe something, you act like it’s true. If AJ thinks his pitching sucks because of Jorge, you put Jorge in front of him and he’s going to pitch terribly.

    I’m sure the rest of the offense can pick up Jorge’s production for one game. I’m not sure they can pick up the bad pitching that AJ seems to think he’ll exhibit with Jorge behind the plate.

    Even if it’s not true that AJ is better with Molina, he believes it, as did Moose. And what they believe seems to have an effect on what they do.

  8. Riddering says:

    How do you guys think this will affect the decision of Molina’s contract?

    As much as I dread Molina starting any playoff games, I feel even more wary of that kind of decision being made with A.J. in mind.

  9. JeffG says:

    Burnett’s problems when pitching to Jorge were more of locating his pitches during a bad stretch that he was going through. If I remember right he threw a pretty bad game to Molina as well. Anyways, I think it would be pretty stupid to take Jorge’s bat out of the linup. AJ can pitch to whoever if he is locating and hopefully he will.

  10. The Lodge says:

    That First Comment under Lombardi’s post is pretty much dead-on (I could have done without the disturbing CageBirdHair image – but that’s just me).

    I can only imagine that “Janks -n- Jints” who made that comment is one who walks among us.

  11. Kiersten says:

    Jorge caught 3 World Series-winning pitching staffs. This whole “Jorge can’t catch,” “I don’t like pitching to Jorge” thing really needs to stop. Jorge is a fine catcher and the guy we’re paying $90 million to to start game 2 of the ALDS needs to suck it up.

  12. Nady Nation says:

    I’d love to see video of Girardi breaking the news to Jorge that he’s being benched in Game 2 of the ALDS in favor of a guy who is OPS’ing 23 points higher than Jorge is slugging.

    • Maybe si Maybe no says:

      Maybe Jorge doesn’t mind not catching AJ. And again, he needs to rest for some of the games. I think that the offense can pick up Jorgie’s production at YSIII. If they can’t then maybe I’ve been watching another team all season.

      • Nady Nation says:

        We are talking about Jorge Posada, and we are talking about the playoffs here. If you think Jorge is OK with “resting” for a playoff game, which would be his second game in FIVE DAYS, then maybe I’ve been watching a different player for the past 12 years.

  13. Bo says:

    The “Jorge cant catch” crew wont be happy when Molina goes 0-3. Lets not make it out that posada is the worst def catcher in the game here. Hes only been the primary catcher for the team that has won 100 games.

    • Maybe si Maybe no says:

      No one is saying he can’t catch. We all know he can. What we’re saying is that Jorge’s catching is in AJ’s head. And we don’t want AJ’s rhythm disrupted by spending the whole damn game shaking Jorgie off. We know Jorge can catch. We know he can catch AJ. But it doesn’t matter what we know. It matters what AJ knows. And AJ thinks he’s better with Molina (again, as Moose did) and we 1. have the offense to pick up Jorgie’s production and 2. JORGIE NEEDS TO REST ONCE IN A WHILE ANYWAY

      • Jorge will get plenty of rest. There are so many off-days built into the postseason schedule.

      • Nady Nation says:

        Your “Jorge needs to rest once in a while” argument is absolutely ridiculous, as I noted above. He will probably play in no more than 3-4 of the team’s final 7 regular season games, and Game 2 of the DS would be his second game in a 5 day stretch. You are basically claiming that Jorge cannot handle catching 5 games in a 12 day period.

      • To follow up on Joe and Nady Nation’s responses… Posada does not need rest in the postseason, and especially not in the ALDS.

        ALDS Schedule:

        Game 1 10/7 or 10/8
        Game 2 10/9
        Game 3 10/11
        Game 4 10/12
        Game 5 10/14

        (And, obviously, the ALCS and WS also have off-days (travel days) built-in to the schedule.)

        Please stop using this as a way to back up your argument that Posada should not be the starting catcher for every game of the 2009 playoffs.

        • Maybe si Maybe no says:

          It’s not my main argument, it’s a tack on. Take that off and the argument remains: AJ thinks he’s a better pitcher with Molina and that might be true. The offense should be able to make up for Jorge’s production. They might not be able to make up for AJ pitching a shitty game. So take out the rest argument. The other arguments remain.

  14. hal says:

    I wouldn’t want to be Girardi if they lose a playoff game with Molina behind the plate….AJ or no, it is still Girardi’s decision and if it leads to another playoff ouster…well that would be pretty bad for the manager

  15. Here’s the better solution to the “AJ doesn’t like throwing to Posada” problem:

    When AJ pitches, Posada DH’s. Matsui plays RF. Nick Swisher catches.

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM, THAT JUST HAPPENED. IS YOUR MIND BLOWN?

  16. Pete says:

    Would it be a sin for Girardi to simply come out and say that AJ and Molina have a little better chemistry than he and Posada?

    I don’t think that takes anything away from Jorge, and as has been proven over the course of the year, this lineup can sustain the loss of his bat for 5-6 innings. IMO, anyway.

  17. hal says:

    Can’t wait for Molina to come to the plate with the bases loaded and 1 out in the 2nd inning of Game 2…..can you say 6-4-3

  18. Joe: AJ, Georgie, Jose, thanks for coming.
    Jose: What’s up, skip?
    Joe: Look, let’s get down to brass tacks. AJ, it’s clear that you like throwing to Jose better than Georgie.
    AJ: I think I just like the sequences he calls a little better. I feel more comfortable with the plan he has against the hitters. Jorge calls pitches in orders I don’t like, and I don’t feel as confident in that pitch in that spot.
    Jorge: With all due respect, I’ve caught Cy Young winners, I’ve lead staffs to the best team ERA in the league, I’ve won rings. I think you should defer to my judgment, AJ. I haven’t been peeing on my hands for the last 20 years because I don’t know how to win a baseball game.
    Joe: I understand. Look, all three of you guys are vets, you like doing things your ways. But we need to resolve this issue, because I need you pitching at your best, AJ, and I need your bat in the lineup, Jorge. So, here’s my plan: We’ve got some tapes queued up of some of your starts with Jose behind the dish. I want the three of you to go watch them together and break them down, so Georgie can better understand what you like about Jose’s gameplan. I want you to be able to better anticipate AJ’s needs, Georgie, because we need you starting in the playoffs. Maybe Jose can help you switch up your routines just a bit so that AJ doesn’t get out of his comfort zone as much. Is that doable?
    All: Yeah.
    Jose: Whatever I can do to help, skip.
    Joe: Thanks. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go try to find Juan Miranda. Apparently, Derek, Melky, and Robbie took him out last night to get him some pussy, and nobody has seen or heard from him since 2 am.

    … aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, SCENE!

  19. jsbrendog says:

    doesn’t burnett have one mroe start before the end of the season? no? if so throw posada out there and he’ll pitch fine and everyone can stfu

  20. CountryClub says:

    1. This may explain why AJ could only be getting one game in the ALDS. If Molina is going to catch him, you might as well only have it happen once.

    2. I think it’s all a bunch of bunk. AJ has been an up and down pitcher his whole career. This season looks like just about every other season he’s had. he’s a streak pitcher and right now we just have to hope that streak lasts another 6 games.

  21. Tom Zig says:

    Can we dress up Posada to look like Molina?

  22. Tom Zig says:

    It will all work out, Jose will start in the playoffs and he’ll hit a HR.

  23. Ryan Schutz says:

    Aug
    24
    About that Burnett-Posada rift
    Posted by: Mike Axisa

    …..Amazingly, small little stuff like this manages to become a big story because the team is kickin’ so much ass right now that there aren’t many problems to complain about……
    …..Here’s the thing: Posada is going to catch everyday in the playoffs. Every single inning of every single game. And if he doesn’t for any reason other than injury, Joe Girardi should be fired because that’s like, Managing 101…..

    The small little stuff apparently is a story. Maybe Burnett’s stats aren’t too effected by his catcher, but if he’s more comfortable with Molina then so be it. It’d be great for the Yanks if they faced a lefty while pitching Burnett. Let Posada DH and have Matsui as an outstanding pinch hitter. Also, I suppose Joe Girardi should be fired???

  24. Sam says:

    I saw this filed under playoffs but if it’s in the wrong place, please delete.

    Has the official playoff schedule been released yet? Is it possible Game 1 of the ALDS could be during the day?

    • jsbrendog says:

      doubt it. the point is to generate revenue. and people work so they cnt turn their tvs to fox/nbc/what have you

    • If you have questions not related to the topic of the thread, please just e-mail us. This isn’t the place to ask barely related questions about the playoff schedule.

      The schedule hasn’t been released yet because the teams haven’t been decided. When it is, you can pretty much expect the Yanks to get the 8 p.m. slot for Game 1 of the ALDS.

  25. Never has the “Horrendously Retarded” tag been more appropriate.

  26. Ryan Schutz says:

    lol yea yea with effect affect
    And I’m saying that IF they are really set on using Molina with Burnett then why not keep Posada in the lineup. Wasn’t aware MAtsui’s splits but that just eliminates the aspect of hopefully facing a lefty

  27. matt b says:

    With Thursday being an off day, do you give any consideration to skipping Gaudin and giving AJ an abbreviated 4-5 inning start in the season finale on Sunday, throwing to Posada?

    Benefits: a chance to maybe iron out the kinks, move past this “psychological hurdle” of pitching to Jorge if it actually exists; additionally, it means you get AJ on regular rest for ALDS Game 2 on Friday assuming they choose the short series, rather than on very extended rest.

    Drawbacks: of course, even the slighest chance of injury might render the whole idea moot; A.J., who’s been on a pretty good roll, blows up, heads into the ALDS a mess and further solidifies the “AJ-JoPo rift” meme.

    I’d do it, maybe not even so much b/c of Posada, but b/c I’d prefer to keep A.J. on a normal routine. But I’d probably limit the outing to 3 innings, 4 tops.

  28. bonestock94 says:

    Well, I totally don’t get wtf AJ’s problem is, but if it means he’ll be throwing 1 or 2 run ball with Molina behind the plate I’ll take it.

    • Maybe si Maybe no says:

      Yeah, I get that too. I’d love Jorgie in every game but I’d rather AJ pitch well. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I think that AJ should be in top form for the playoffs and if that means Molina, then it means Molina.

      If we had made the playoffs last year, should Moose have suddenly been pitching to Posada? I think he might have had a huge problem with that.

      • whozat says:

        “Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I think that AJ should be in top form for the playoffs and if that means Molina, then it means Molina.”

        Everyone is entitled to the opportunity to present their case. The problem is that you’re acting like Molina catching == AJ being good, and Posada catching == AJ being bad. It doesn’t. People have cited, in this thread, a plethora of starts in which AJ has pitched well with Jorge behind the plate. You choose to ignore them, because they don’t support your point.

        AJ is inconsistent. He has always been this way. People want a narrative to explain it. The tired “Some pitchers don’t like Jorge” meme got dusted off to fill the void and generate page views for lazy journalists.

        Having AJ pitch to Molina when we have PLENTY of evidence that he is perfectly capable of pitching just fine with Jorge behind the plate would be horrendously retarded.

  29. YankeeDoodleDandie says:

    There should be no problem with starting Jose Molina as catcher in the playoffs when AJ pitches. He would bat 9th in the lineup and only bat twice in each game. After the 6th inning the Yankee bullpen will be on the mound and by then Posada will have replaced Molina behind the plate and at bat.

    • Rob in CT says:

      Yes, there’s a problem with it. Jose Molina cannot hit. At all. He’s one of the worst hitters in all of baseball. Meanwhile, there isn’t any convincing evidence that AJ Burnett pitches better with Molina behind the plate. He’s been up & down with both catchers.

      Starting Molina would be stupid. It means losing Posada’s (or Matsui’s) bat in exchange for the hope (not guarantee) that good AJ will show up. Good AJ has shown up for both Jose and Jorge, and bad AJ has done the same. Therefore, I don’t see why you’d hamstring the lineup with an automatic out (not to mention his propensity for GIDP).

      • YankeeDoodleDandie says:

        He would only bat twice in the playoff game…and then Posada would replace him as the bullpen takes over. The Yankees aren’t going to lose a playoff game because Molina bats twice before the 6th inning in games that Burnett pitches.

        If, on the other hand, Burnett feels more comfortable pitching to Molina it could have a much bigger impact on his performance in those first 6 innings than Posada batting twice instead of Molina.

        I’ll be gald when next year arrives and the Yankee catchers are Cervelli and Molina. Then there will be no problem letting Cervelli catch Burnett as needed.

  30. [...] the postseason roster, there are only a few questions to ask. While some might be wondering if Molina will catch Burnett, I’ve got a bigger question in mind. Will the Yanks start Burnett in Game 2 or Game 3? This [...]

  31. DB says:

    It’s amazing how this is still an issue. Although, Ben I’m not too sure Jorge was intentionally left out of catching last night as a conspiracy.

    The neck thing would make perfect sense since he hasn’t caught in almost a week. And low and behold, Posada is penciled in for tonight as C.

    If Molina catches Burnett on Sunday, I guess we can take this to the step Ben is going. Until then, I’m giving Girardi the benefit of the doubt.

  32. YankeeScribe says:

    The Yankees’ lineup isn’t feeble without Posada. It’s still pretty intimidating lineup even if Molina is batting 9th.

    If it helps AJ mentally to have Jose catch him then why not sacrifice some “potential” offense(Posada could catch AJ and go 0 for 4 but Molina is more likely to go 0 for 4) for a quality playoff start?

    The Yanks have proven that they’re capable of scorign a ton of runs and winning without JoPo in the lineup. He no doubt makes the lineup better but the starting pitcher’s performance has the greatest potential to affect the outcome of the game. So if AJ wants Molina to catch him, so be it…

  33. YankeeScribe says:

    I don’t know the splits between catchers but it seems like Burnett has more wild pitches/passed balls with Posada behind the plate. Am I right or left?

  34. [...] Lombardi (WW) and Ben K. (RAB) have already demarcated the issue. Jose Molina has been there for each of A.J.’s 31 [...]

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