Burnett’s reaction after surrendering a homer

The 2010 RAB Pledge Drive reminder
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Photo credit: Elise Amendola/AP

Last night was not one of A.J. Burnett‘s finest starts. He lasted just five innings, throwing 94 pitches along the way. He managed to limit the Red Sox to one walk, but he also allowed four runs, three earned, through those five innings, including a game-tying double just after the Yankees had given him the lead in the fifth. It took some excellent pitching by the Yankees’ bullpen to set up the late-inning win.

One thing did stand out to me about Burnett’s outing. Perhaps it’s a narrative infused by the media, but I was impressed that Burnett came back to get the next two batters after surrendering a two-run homer to Victor Martinez in the third. As the storyline goes, Burnett can’t let go of bad pitches and he lets it affect him going forward. If that is, or was, indeed, the case, then he did a good job of bucking the trend last night, as he followed the home run with an excellent sequence to Kevin Youkilis, freezing him on a two-strike curveball, before getting David Ortiz to ground out for the second time.

Has this really been a problem for Burnett? Or has it been a narrative created because of a few notably frustrating situations in which Burnett fell apart after surrendering a long fly? Since I’m no good at database work, I did what I could, which was go through his 2009 game logs and record what happened after each home run. The results are a mixed bag of sorts.

Part of the problem is Burnett’s performances against the Red Sox. In 2009 he surrendered five home runs against them, which is frustrating enough to begin with. After three of those home runs he allowed more runs to score in the inning. After the two biggest home runs, though, a three-run shot on August 22 and a grand slam on April 25, Burnett retired the very next batter to end the inning. It was of little consolation at that point, though, considering the damage, so perhaps that’s why it gets glossed over.

It looks like Burnett had the most trouble after surrendering a home run with none or one out. He allowed 10 home runs with two outs in the inning and in six of those instances he retired the next batter to end the inning. Again, small consolation, and we tend to forget when he does something like that because of the home run’s effect. He had the most trouble with leadoff home runs. He allowed eight of them, and then allowed 16 runners to reach base later in those innings.

What I’m not sure of is how Burnett compares to his peers in this regard. Surely a home run will frustrate any pitcher. Does it get to Burnett to a greater degree than other pitchers? I’m not sure. He did a good job of recovering from two-out home runs in 2009, and struggled after allowing a leadoff home run. Last night was a nice change of pace, as he recorded two quick outs, one in impressive fashion, after allowing a go-ahead two-run home run with one out. There are plenty of things that Burnett has to improve upon in 2010. His walks and his recovery from home runs rank among them, and he got off to a good start on both fronts.

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  • Jonathan

    I have to say that I was for the most part very pleased with AJs start versus a really good lineup. He threw strikes, I think that this is the first time AJ has gotten roughed up and I didnt say “AJ just beat himself.” I agree that he did get roughed up, but if he can work from here, I think we could see more “good AJ” this season.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

      I agree that he did get roughed up, but if he can work from here, I think we could see more “good AJ” this season.


      • http://www.livingwithballs.com Living with Balls

        I thought he was decent. He gave up a bogus run in the top of the first. His only major mistake was the home run to Victor Martinez.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    It’s funny, it wasn’t Good AJ or Bad AJ, which I take as a good sign. He didn’t let the defensive blunders really get to him, or the HR. And I love the 5/1 K/BB ratio. Of course he’s AJ, so he’ll be back to the maddeningly inconsistent AJ we know and love (or hate) soon enough.

  • http://stateofmlb.blogspot.com/ Hangoverologist

    One thing I liked about AJ’s performance was how he kept the ball on the ground (4/3 GB/FB ratio). I know it’s a SSS, but it seems he’s able to limit his walks and he can keep the ball from leaving the park. Hopefully he won’t implode in his next start.

    • Rose

      I know it’s a SSS, but

      IT IS!!!


      (I kid, I kid)

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

        Rose, you can’t say that that’s how we always respond to you, because our responses to you aren’t a large enough sample size to be meaningful or predictive yet.

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

    Only threw one changeup. I’ll be interested to see if he works it in in his next start.

  • UpstateSteve

    Now correct me if I’mr wrong on this, which is always possible, but wouldn’t it always make sense for Burnett or any other pitcher to have more problems after a leadoff homer. This is because it happened first and there are still three outs to get. You def. have more of a chance of giving up more hits, walks, runs, etc. if there are more outs to get.

    It would be the same thing as saying a team is more likely to have a big inning after a leadoff walk compared to a walk with 2 outs.

    The best thing that happened last night for A.J. was that he did allow the leadoff man to get on/or allowed runs early in the innnings, then recovered without a really bad inning. All this w/o going crazy with the walks.

    • Rose

      In 9 out of the 17 innings pitched collectively thus far, the Yankees have allowed the lead off man to reach base.

      53% of the batters leading off have reached base over the past two games.

      It only gets worse when you add 4 errors into the mix.

  • V

    :shrug: I’m really not sure there’s an ‘AJ Burnett narrative’ here.

    What is a homerun? It’s usually a bad pitch. (Sometimes, it’s an excellent pitch, but an excellent hitter crushes it (Pujols and Manny Ramirez can hit your best pitches out of the park); but usually, it’s a bad pitch).

    Well, if you have a pitcher who has nasty stuff (like Burnett) and he gives up a homerun, that usually means something’s wrong. His grip’s off, or his arm angle is off, or his follow through is off, etc. If that’s true on the first batter of the inning, it’s probably also true of the second, and the third, etc.

  • larryf

    He didn’t turn his back on Jorge and curse after the homer. Progress. Did anyone notice if he shook off Jorge much? I didn’t think so.

  • Mike

    It might be more instructive to figure out how many times Burnett gave up additional *runs* in an inning following a HR, as compared to the league average. After all, the bases are cleared after a home run so you kind of have to fall apart to allow another one, even with 0 outs (though performance should definitely be broken out according to the # of outs following the HR). And if he doesn’t give up any additional runs, does it really matter if he coughed up a couple of walks or hits?

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      And if he doesn’t give up any additional runs, does it really matter if he coughed up a couple of walks or hits?

      I’d say yes, that certainly speaks to his performance. If he’s giving up multiple walks and hits in an inning after a HR, he’s not pitching well, even if he manages to strand them.

      • Mike

        It’s a pretty nebulous question to begin with, I guess. If he’s shaky during the inning after giving up a HR but pitches out of it and settles down for the rest of the game, is that really much of a “rattling”? On the other hand, if he continues to pitch poorly in the following innings, isn’t that just a generally crappy outing?

        It just seems like it would only be a significant psychological factor for a pitcher in situations where he completely implodes immediately after a bad pitch.

  • Bob C

    um… probably a bit of a nitpick here, but a success rate of 6/10 on 2 out situations indicates at least a .400 OBP against after a 2 out home run, so he actually didn’t do well after 2 out home runs.

    In fact,(taking the stats that you supplied) he was probably a little bit better in 2 out situations than no out situations as giving up 16 base runners in 40 PA’s also constitutes a .400 OBP against, its just easier to escape from 2 out situations without giving up a run

    • Bob C

      wait… i mean better in no out situations than 2 out ones

  • mryankee

    I think Burnett baffles me more than Joba. In one instance he is giving up a bomb to Vmart then he looks like a Hall of Famer against Youk and Ortiz. Kind of the story of his career so much talent yet so inconsistent.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

      (fighting the urge to say something)

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      ::head explodes (again)::

    • V

      I think Joba needs to file a preemptive restraining order against you.

  • Jammy Jammers

    Maybe his aunt Carol had a talk with him?