Feb
24

Walks a concern for Burnett, but so are ground balls

By

While A.J. Burnett‘s first season in pinstripes was in many ways a success, he left some room for improvement. He knows it, too. As he said the other day, he needs to, “Not walk as many people and go deeper into games.” In 2009 Burnett posted his highest walk rate since 2000 and the lowest innings per start of his career (both discounting his injury shortened 2003). He would clearly benefit from improvements in both, though I do think that he left out one important aspect: his ground ball rate.


Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Burnett has never been known as a control pitcher. In some years, such as 2006 and 2004, he’s posted BB/9 rates below 3.00, which is a good mark for a starter. Yet his career rate is 3.78, meaning he’s had many years above that mark. He also sat below the mark in years where he failed to reach 140 IP. Chances are, Burnett won’t miraculously stop issuing free passes in 2010. Instead, I imagine he’ll fall back somewhere in the range of his last five years, which is 3.52 walks per nine.

What Burnett could do to help his case is to start inducing more ground balls. Or, rather, to induce ground balls like he did before 2009. Last season he posted the lowest ground ball rate of his career, 42.8 percent. Over his career he’s kept nearly 50 percent of balls in play on the ground, which helps a pitcher who hands out free passes. Unsurprisingly, Burnett induced more double plays in 2005, when his ground ball rate was 58.4 percent, than at any other point in his career. In 2009 he induced one double play for, roughly, every 60 batters faced. Prior to 2008, when he saw his ground ball rate drop below 50 percent for the first time his career, he was around one every 38 batters. In 2008 he was at one in every 50 batters.

Keeping the ball on the ground can also help Burnett reach his second stated goal, to go deeper into ballgames. While walking fewer hitters will undoubtedly help, so will inducing ground balls. In his best ground ball years, Burnett kept his hits per nine rate below 8.0. With a decent infield behind him, Burnett shouldn’t have problems with too many ground balls finding holes. Perhaps if this was the 2005 Yankees defense it would be an issue, but it’s not as much in 2010.

At FanGraphs, Matthew Carruth examines ground ball rates and what they mean for pitchers. In terms of the big picture, pitchers with higher ground ball rates saw lower FIP and runs allowed rates. That’s not to say that every pitcher follows this guideline, but Burnett seems to. In the last five years his highest ground ball rates have come in 2005 and 2007, which also happen to be the years he’s posted his lowest ERAs.

We’d all like Burnett to cut down on his walks and pitch deeper into games. The first, in fact, begets the second. Part of the problem with walks, however, is that Burnett has never been a low walks guy. But he has been a ground ball guy. If he can get back to that, and bring his walk rate back to career norms, he should not only pitch deeper into ballgames, but also pitch more effectively overall.

Categories : Pitching
  • steve s

    At this stage of his career AJ is pretty much a what you see is what you get kind of guy. The good AJ showed up enough last year to be considered a good acquistion notwithstanding the bad AJ showings every now and then. If you tinker too much with him you’ll risk ending up with an Ollie Perez.

    • http://twitter.com/tafkasic the artist formerly known as (sic)

      If you tinker too much with him you’ll risk ending up with an Ollie Perez.

      Come on…no one deserves that. Look, you made AJ cry. Apologize.

  • larryf

    AJ’s grounders often find the hole…between our catcher’s legs. Bring on Cervelli-a quicker, better, stronger-armed Molina…

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      (thinks)

      No.

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Peck Templeton “Brendog” Peck

        No.

        for emphasis

    • Guest

      I feel like John McEnroe: “You can not be serious. You can NOT be serious.”

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        CHOOSE ANY CAR I WANT!?!?!??!

      • Jack

        /Jumps over moving car.

    • Chris

      I actually looked up the stats. Here are how they breakdown by catcher:

      Molina: 288 PA, 4 WP, 1 PB, 72 PA/WP
      Posada: 434 PA, 9 WP, 3 PB, 48 PA/WP
      Cash: 117 PA, 3 WP, 0 PB, 39 PA/WP
      Cervelli: 56 PA, 2 WP, 0 PB, 28 PA/WP

      So, Molina did allow wild pitches and passed balls at a better rate than Posada, but Cervelli was worse. I’m not sure how significant this is, especially since AJ had 4 games with 3 WP each (one caught by Molina, one by Posada, one by Cash).

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Peck Templeton “Brendog” Peck

    so then if he can regress to the mean then it’s all gravy? i can see that (and dig it)

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      I knew you’d dig it the most, baby!

      /VincentVega’d

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

    Who is that in the picture background, all the way on the left?

    • http://twitter.com/tafkasic the artist formerly known as (sic)

      Jay Mariotti.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Me: shocked.

        I figured it was probably DBHOF or SBGL, since they both know that the only way to evaluate a guy is to go watch him in person with your own eyes.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      Buck Showalter’s orange-glow half-brother?

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Peck Templeton “Brendog” Peck

        i thought it was buck at first for a second too. creepy resemblance

    • Rick in Boston

      Butch Wynegar

      Source:
      http://tinyurl.com/ygou6w8

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        We had a good thing going. Don’t ruin it with your facts and shit. Sheesh!

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada
          • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

            I was half expecting some off-kilter reggae remix of this song. I was pleasantly surprised to not see some guy named Hackie Sack Man or whatever the name was.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ok7D3qHakLQ

              Bad dancehall >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Justin Bieber

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Obkw8OdWUDs (safe)

                Good dancehall >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> bad dancehall >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Justin Bieber

              • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

                Those lyrics very closely resemble the end result of a game of Scrabble and Early Times whiskey.

                Besides, I’m off the Bieber horse. It’s all about Ke$ha right now.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  Good dancehall >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> bad dancehall >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Justin Bieber >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Ke$ha

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  BTW, if you enjoyed those lyrics, listen to the uncensored version. VERY VERY unsafe for work.

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTZrx8kf0YI (NSFW-profanity)

                • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

                  How could you?!

                  It’s cool. The extremely edgy Adam Lambert is drowning out the sound of your criticism.

                  LA LA LA LA.

                • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

                  Lyrics? It’s just a bunch of mumbled vowels, or possibly mad libs on quaaaludes.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada
                • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

                  Great, now I have to learn a whole new language for when I start teaching in the Bronx. Thanks a lot.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  A who dem a talk bout
                  Yuh haffa ting dem get a ting saat out
                  Or she could be waak out
                  A murda! Mercy time! Jah jeh!

                  Well a nuh mi mek di catty want stray
                  A nuh mi mek yuh a wifey fi get up an guh gi it away
                  A nuh mi mek she ah beat off mi gate some odda day
                  Nuh! A nuh nuttin personal so di playa playa

                  Cause anywhere we go
                  Mi seh a bare gyal a run we down
                  Some bwoy seh that em nuh like that want fi done wi
                  Wi done know… seh ah tru dem woman want fi gi we some
                  It bun dem out dem getting bun

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related (safe)

                • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

                  I’m going to attempt to translate as best I can.

                  Who is this they speak of?
                  You have to think they get to think…sit down
                  Or she could be walking out
                  A murder! Prayer time. Yes, yes.

                  Well, uh huh, my cat is lost.
                  I also believe, in this difficult period, my life has left and gone away
                  Uh huh, she ran out the gate the other day
                  No, it’s nothing personal since she knows the games a player will play.

                  ‘Cause anywhere we go
                  I see a nude, lustrous girl jog, we are down
                  Some boys says that they want it done this way
                  We don’t know…we see a true woman want to get some
                  We fuck them in the bun.

                  /glad I never majored in Linguistics

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  IETBT.

                  I enjoyed that bungled translation.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Butch Wynegar

        Source:
        http://tinyurl.com/ygou6w8 The Internet

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      A name from my youth, who now looks older than dirt, therby making me feel old by seeing said player look like Father Time?

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Fun Fact: In 1976, Butch Wynegar was the youngest player (at the time) to ever appear in the All Star Game (20 years, 212 days).http://www.yorktownsquare.com/.....106_9.jpeg (safe)

  • Christos

    “He posted his highest walk rate since 200″ Might wanna fix that.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      Might wanna e-mail them next time instead of posting it in the comments.

  • Accent Shallow

    One thing that I find worrisome about the low ground ball rate is that I was under the impression that ground ball rates are relatively stable year to year, and thus a significant swing in either direction may indicate a change in approach.

    However, Burnett didn’t look all that much different than he did in 2008, either peripherally or by eye.

    • http://twitter.com/tafkasic the artist formerly known as (sic)

      Interesting. The only thing that stands out, when looking at his pitch selection for 2009, was that he threw his changeup about 2.5% less than his career average and his curveball about 4.0% more.

  • larryf

    Not to get off topic-easy boys-if Posada is gonna catch 100/120 games….why not Cervelli for our strike zone-challenged, wild pitch- producing #2 starter??? Is Posada’s 38/39 year old bat that much better than a better defender at the catching position?

    • JGS

      Posada wOBAed .378 last year. Cervelli wOBAed .283, and even that was higher than people expected. Until Posada falls off a cliff at the plate, the answer to that is an emphatic yes

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      Did you just call me easy? Anyway, point at hand: I suppose it’s not the worst idea in the world, though I don’t necessarily like the idea of pigeon-holing him to a specific role, particularly since it would create tremendous brouhaha when the playoffs come around. Perhaps that’s just silly narrative, too.

      Posada will not be catching 150 games; he’s not a good defense catcher and AJ is best paired with a strong defensive player for the reasons you listed. If say he starts 32 games, Posada’s magic number is already down to 130. Scatter a few more starts to give him a break, he’s quite easily at 115-120. Still, if playoffs come, you need a big bat and AJ is starting, it may not be dicey…

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        *it may be dicey.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

          It might be dangerous… you go first.

      • Chris

        You need to have Posada catch AJ regularly during the season so we don’t end up with Cervelli starting playoff games. Use the regular season to work out any kinks so they’re ready for the playoffs.

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

          My head sort of wanders about at this hour, but in a roundabout way I was saying that there would be (warranted) concern in the playoffs if they haven’t worked together in the regular season.

          I also, however, did acknowledge that Posada will be catching in 100-120 games (leaving for roughly a 40+ game gap), so that chunk needs to be made up somewhere. It happens that his biggest weaknesses defensively and Burnett’s wildness create a primordial soup of wild pitches and pass balls, so I can understand the argument to have Cervelli be the personal catcher of AJ. In theory, it could greatly wound two birds with one stone.

          I’m not necessarily advocating it, though.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      A) I don’t want ANY of our pitchers having a designated personal catcher. Let’s nip that in the bud immediately.
      B) That being said, if we happen to slot our backup catcher primarily lined up with one of our five starters, I want Cervelli to be the quasi-personal catcher for JOBA, not AJ. Joba needs a defensive-intensive catcher more than AJ does, IMO, and while the AJ/Posada rift was way overblown and totally a media creation, the Joba/Posada rift seems much more tangible and real.

      They don’t like each other’s pitch sequencing decisions. I’d like to see our young starter throw to a different catcher on occasion. See what happens.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        Joba: I want to throw five consecutive sliders.

        Posada: No.

        Joba: Yes.

        Posada (to ump): Time.

        Mound visit…

        • H.W. Plainview

          Wouldn’t you if your fastball was valued at -1.26 wFB/C that year?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

          Joba: I want to throw another slider here.
          Posada: No, you just threw one.
          Joba: Yeah, and it was freakin’ bad-ass. It made him look like Jason Varitek. I can strike him out.
          Posada: Fastball.
          Joba: Damn you, Jorge, I know what I’m doing. Slider.
          Posada: Fastball.
          Joba: Slider, George.
          Posada: Shut up, you punk snot nosed kid. I’ve been in this business 15 years.
          Joba: What’s your name?
          Posada: F&$% YOU, THAT’S MY NAME. You know why? Cause’ you drove a Hyundai a few years ago, I drove an $80,000 BMW. That’s my name. If I say you’re going to throw the fastball here, you’re going to throw the fastball here.
          Joba: My slider is really good. I can get this guy out with my slider. I got lots and lots of guys out with my slider. It’s my out pitch. This is prime out pitch time.
          Posada: Trust me, I know what I’m doing here, Justin.
          Joba: Do you also know what you’re doing when you piss on your hands, grandpa?
          Posada: Shutup, you flat-brimmed-cap-wearing uppity brat. You belong in the damn bullpen anyway; it’s your body type. I can run this team better than Cashman.
          Joba: You really want the fastball, huh old man?
          Posada: Yes.
          Joba: He knows it’s coming. And he knows my fastball has been crappy all year.
          Posada: Throw it.

          (Joba throws a fastball, which is promptly deposited into the 8th row)

          Joba: You stupid motherf#$%er.
          Posada: You stupid motherf#$%er.

          … aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, SCENE!

      • Am I the only Kevin?

        Where do I sign up for this?

        One fringe benefit – Joba/Phil are the most likely to be put in the pen in the postseason, so you won’t have the situation where Joe and the media feel it is a good idea to start your backup catcher in the postseason.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      I feel like I’ve said this a hundred times, but I frankly do not care when people say “not to get off-topic.” It inevitably leads to an off-topic comment, which this is. Making things worse, we actually have a catcher thread coming up at 11:30.

      Please, larry, refrain from posting off-topic in our threads. We have an off-topic thread, plus an open thread every night.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        6th period…by the swimming pool…after Spanish 2. Be there, punk!

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Why is Eiland stealing the face of Travis from Du Jour?

    • Christos

      He just finished a lemon is what it looks like

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Sweet lemonade MMMM sweet lemonade
        Sweet lemonade YEAH sweet lemonade

  • smurfy

    Yep, Joe, you got your finger on Mr. Burnett’s key, and I sure hope he was listening. If he’s quit trying to make everybody swing and miss, and let them to beat it into the ground, his games would roll!

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