Burnett blows his big chance in Hollywood, Yanks fall 9-4 to Dodgers

Big nights for Montero, Heathcott & Murphy
Link dump: catching depth, Nardi and Markie, former Yankees, AJ

You can’t win them all, but some losses are uglier than others. This was one of the ugly ones. A.J. Burnett continued his streak of awful starts, the bullpen wasn’t much better, and the lineup blew a few chances on their end. Kinda felt like business as usual during a Burnett start, didn’t it? With the Red Sox and Rays each winning, the Yanks’ lead in the AL East was trimmed down to two.

That would be a familiar pose for A.J. (Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill, AP)

Can’t Stop The Bleeding

Believe it or not, the Yanks actually held a lead in this game. Not a cheesy little one runner either, Mark Teixeira hit a three run jack after birthday boy Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson led off the game with walks. Yanks were up three-zip before Hiroki Kuroda even recorded an out, but even Bad A.J. couldn’t screw this up, right?

Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill, AP

Wrong. Burnett gave two of those runs right back on a single, single, ground rule double, and sac fly in the bottom of the inning, then gave up even more in the 3rd when he walked the bases loaded and allowed a hit or two. There’s really not much more to say than that. He was wild, got hit hard, same old same old. He and Boone Logan put 16 men on base in five innings. They’re lucky they only gave up seven.

NL Fever … Catch It!

Let’s take a walk through the height of baseball stupidity. It’s the top of the 4th inning, the Yanks are down by one, and there are runners at the corners and one out. The runner at first was Brett Gardner, at third was Nick Swisher. Burnett steps up to the plate and promptly squares around the bunt. It’s a safety squeeze with the intent of getting the runner to second and avoiding the inning ending double play. A.J. eventually got the bunt down and moved Gardner over, but off course the inning ended with no runs scored after Derek Jeter struck out. Icing on the cake: Burnett allowed the first two batters to reach in the next half inning before being pulled. Again, the height of baseball stupidity.

I mean, where do I start with this? You want to avoid the double play with the pitcher up? Fine, then tell Brett Gardner to steal second. It’s what he does. I’d rather see him get thrown out than gift wrap them a free out on a bunt. Also, if you’re just going to pull Burnett at the first sign of trouble the next inning, then just pull him and pinch hit. You’ve got a long man for a reason. If you’re going to make a move, make it too soon rather than too late. Oh, and Logan in a relatively close game? FAIL.

Girardi made a comment during one of FOX’s between inning interviews about being worried about his players when they start thinking too much, well what about himself? We’re not splitting atoms here, it’s just baseball. Stick with the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid. We’ve seen this movie before, doing this fancy smallball crap never works with a team build to hit the ball far, far away.

Random Acts Of Mediocrity

Things would have been worse if not for Matt Kemp getting thrown out at the plate. (Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill), AP)

It really is a shame no one could have foreseen Chan Ho Park struggling in his second inning of work. It’s not like I’ve been beating on that drum for weeks now, but what the heck. Maybe this time will be different. I don’t get how Girardi goes to CHoP for multiple innings in a three run game and wait until they were down by five to use David Robertson. That’s the opposite of common sense.

Jeter came to the plate three times with two men on base. The result? Three strikeouts. Not his best day, but then again this hasn’t been his best month either.

Big ups to Joe Torre for using both Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton for multiple innings tonight. That’ll help tomorrow.

It’s worth mentioning that Burnett’s grandfather passed away yesterday, so I’m not going to get on him for pitching poorly regardless of how the rest of the month played out. I’ve been there, it’s not easy.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Teases. Here’s the box, here’s the other stuff.

Up Next

Another night game for the rubber match, with ESPN carrying the Andy Pettitte-Clayton Kershaw matchup at 8:00pm ET.

Big nights for Montero, Heathcott & Murphy
Link dump: catching depth, Nardi and Markie, former Yankees, AJ
  • http://www.soxandpinstripes.net JGS

    I hate agreeing with Tim McCarver, but what the hell were Cervelli and Burnett doing calling for and throwing a fastball to Manny with men on base in the first?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Q: What the hell were Cervelli and Burnett doing calling for and throwing a fastball to Manny with men on base in the first?

      A: A.J. Burnett only throws fastballs and curveballs. Manny Ramirez crushes both fastballs and curveballs. He’s Manny F$%&#ing Ramirez.

      Either alternative sucks equally. We’re not talking about Shelley Duncan here. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  • Ross

    It’s like Girardi decided he would honor Torre today with awful strategic decisions and bullpen management. I really wonder if Robertson killed Joe’s dog or something, because I don’t think he’s seen a high leverage situation all season. Cashman needs to dump Chan Ho already, every single game he comes in he’s expanding the lead for the other team. Just brutal.

    • Bob Stone

      From your lips to God’s ears. I’ve been saying all year that this guy has to go. Why did the Yanks sign him? Dump him. DFA.

      • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

        They signed him because they were able to get him on the cheap. Also, Park had a very good season last year. I don’t know how that doesn’t make sense.

        He hasn’t pitched well. We all know this, and there is reason to DFA him, but the reasons why the Yankees signed him are obvious.

        • Pete

          he also seems to only really fail when he pitches two innings. Which begs the question, why does he keep throwing two innings?

          • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

            It’s a conspiracy!

            Yankees don’t like asian pitchers!

            Wang, Igawa, and now Park!

  • S.King

    the all-star break cannot come quick enough for AJ. the mental side of sports is such a significant one, and he, like many other athletes we could name, gets into a mental rut. it’s a shame, b/c it’s at the point where i look at his games as losses and i’m surprised if the team wins– sure, they need to score runs, but going up 3-0 and 4-2 and seeing the lead go away so quickly is such a deflating thing. i’m afraid it’s going to take a while for AJ to be trusted in a “we’re going to win tonight” way.

    • Pete

      how do you know it’s a mental rut? How do you know it’s not like…AJ being AJ? You are aware that being able to consistently command and control your pitches is a physical skill, not some kind of illustration of mental fortitude, right?

      • S.King

        if it truly is “AJ being AJ”, then AJ is not a number 2 starter. i’m not saying we’re just dismissing bad performance, but surely there is some tongue-in-cheek with all the “bad AJ” talk we do.

        i’m not so sure that command and control is entirely physical skill. there is a physical element to it, but there is a mental side that is just as important. a pitcher (or hitter, or fielder….or any other athlete) must have the mental fortitude to repeat that physical skill. it’s much like a basketball player at the free-throw line: no one is interfering with you– it’s a physical skill that requires a tremendous amount of mental focus. i think AJ is in a place of “here we go again” once one bad thing goes wrong. all the walks, wild pitches– you can’t just always let if fly. getting “zoned in”, “battling” without your best stuff, it’s all related to mental fortitude and physical ability. and sometimes, mental fortitude can take you past your physical ability.

        • Pete

          I agree that it’s possible that he just stops caring and starts hucking the ball. But there’s no way for us to know that. I can tell you from personal experience that, with no change whatsoever in focus, there are some days when you have command and some days when you don’t.

          I guess I feel for AJ somewhat because when I pitched in HS I was the same way – I’d dominate one game and walk the park in a different game. Yet I approached every game the same way, had the same amount of focus, etc. in each of them. There was nothing mentally different about me from game to game, and I don’t think I lacked the “mental fortitude” to repeat my mechanics from game to game.

          But there are external factors that can affect that. Being just a tiiiny bit off can go a long, long way towards screwing up your location and/or control as a pitcher. Could be the difference between one baseball and another (though likely not a problem at the MLB level). Could be that the other pitcher’s landing hole is too deep, or slightly off center for you. Could be that there’s just the tiniest hitch in your non-throwing shoulder. The point is, when you’re throwing something as hard as you can, any little thing could throw you off.

          Some pitchers, however, possess a very rare skill, and one which I do believe is physical, and that’s the ability to control their pitches even when everything isn’t right. This, I think, is a characteristic of almost all successful, or even somewhat successful major league pitchers, but it is not a skill that is common amongst the majority of pitchers at all levels. AJ’s pitches, though, can be so nasty that on days when it all works, he can dominate as well as any pitcher in baseball. This is why he’s a pretty successful major league pitcher – his “on” days are so good that they make up for his extremely high proportion of “off” days.

          I think we have a tendency, however, to assume that because he can sometimes dominate (when all the little things go right) that when he doesn’t, it’s because his focus is off, or something like that, because small things like mound issues, seams, just being “off”, etc. shouldn’t be able to derail a pitcher who can dominate at the level that AJ can. But I really think you’d be surprised how little it takes.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          if it truly is “AJ being AJ”, then AJ is not a number 2 starter.

          Who ever said that he was? Maybe those people were all wrong.

          • Pete

            that. It seems like for some reason people expected him to come in and pitch to a 3.50 ERA or something. He has NEVER been that guy. He has ALWAYS been exactly the guy he has been this year. And that guy has ALWAYS been productive when healthy.

        • Pasqua

          Notice how you even put “zoned in” and “battling” in quotes, and it’s probably because they are completely subjective terms with no means of measurement. How can you then say it’s connected to “mental fortitude” (which I now put in quotes because it, too, is a subjective term).

          • S.King

            i mainly put those terms in quotations b/c they’re phrases we use to describe some of the situations we’re trying to establish more detail around; to allow them to be highlighted and not lost in my sentence structure which, in threads like these, are not always formatted the way we learned in school (!)

            i really do think there is a connection between mental fortitude and the areas of being “zoned in” or “battling.” sport psychology supports as much. i don’t think that AJ is going into a start with a lack of mental preparation, or is being lazy in his approach, but there is a definite difference between going into a start A) that is following a streak of good starts, or B) that is following a streak of bad starts. to put it even this generally has certain credibility. i think that AJ is doing his best to eliminate these bad starts, but when he gets into his current start, it seems like its a “here we go again” procedure.

            i’ve been encouraged by his comments after games, b/c he is not excusing himself from his performance, which is one of the first things he needs to do to change the pattern. i just hope/want him to show more determination/confidence on the mound. this could be seen in something as simple (and yet still disappointing) as AJ getting beat with strikes. hey, it’s gonna happen, we know that. but something like 6 BB in 3 innings communicates to me a problem with his mental approach along with a physical one.

            we’re commenting on all this, by the way, from thousands of miles away and (at least i know of myself) no actual connection to any of these guys that gives me special insight. it’s all speculation based on observation.

  • zs190

    AJ struggling is so hard to handle. He’s not hurt but he’s just not locating. In a tight race like this, we can’t afford to bomb one game every 5 games, but what can you do except run him out there every 5 days and hope he straightens it out? It’s all mechanical issues. He’s still got good velocity (saw a couple 95 mph fastballs) and good movement, just can’t locate anything at all.

    I feel awkward but I really wish Mitre is back soon so we see less Boone Logan, and he’s better than Gaudin right now too for long man duty.

  • http://www.twitter.com/stophamm3rtime Dela G

    man i know it hasn’t really affected any of the other pitchers, but it truly seems that AJ burnett could’ve been deeply affected by the absence of dave eiland

    every single one of his bad starts this month came when eiland wasn’t there. i’m not saying that it’s a direct correlation, but man it seems odd to me

    his era for the month was 10.35. think about that for a second. that’s ridiculous

    ok, you could say then, dela what about his 8ER start earlier in the season, or the other bad start he had? well i dunno, but he never had this bad of a streak since he joined the yankees

    • http://www.soxandpinstripes.net JGS

      his era for the month was 10.35

      That was before today’s debacle. It’s 11.35 now

      • http://www.twitter.com/stophamm3rtime Dela G

        great god i forgot to include today’s start


    • whozat

      But you don’t get to throw out data that disagrees with your hypothesis. You can’t say that THIS bad stretch means he misses dave eiland, but the earlier bad stretch while eiland was here is meaningless.

      • FIPster Doofus

        I don’t remember a stretch this bad since Burnett became a Yankee. He’s now had five consecutive poor starts; before that, he pitched very well for the most part with a couple lousy outings sprinkled in. Last year, it was largely good AJ for a few games and then you’d get the awful version for a start or two. It wasn’t a big deal because, as the numbers show, he pitched terrifically more often than not.

        Despite how horrid Burnett has been lately, one good start and he should rebound. He’s not a lost cause or “Cashman’s biggest mistake,” as some melodramatic fans have been saying recently.

        • Captain Jack

          As far as “Cashman’s biggest mistake” comments go, look, I hated the AJ deal and I have a feeling I’ll hate it even more. I’m firmly in the NoMaas camp regarding AJ, but since I’m not a dipshit I realize that Joe Giradi doesn’t change his number this year if AJ Burnett didn’t sign last year. Flags fly forever, and the Yankees have the resources to cover a bad long term contract for AJ Burnett. He has a good enough history and enough ability to where even if he can’t perform at a high level as a starter, he can still contribute something.

          That being said he’s been down right awful, I can’t think of a good enough perjorative to describe his performance as of late. Perhaps it’s just a bad month, but it’s not like his K and BB rates have been great and he’s been getting BABIPed to death either.

    • Salty Buggah

      I don’t agree with you but at least now people might actually like Eiland, instead of blaming every bad game on him. Also, people might finally realize Cervelli is not the answer to AJ’s problems.

      Oh, who am I kidding.

    • Pasqua

      But where was Dave Eiland when AJ was making his starts in Florida and Toronto? That’s the problem with the argument.

  • Captain Jack

    When there was a piece on the Ms scouting the Yankees farm system, perhaps the Yankees were worried about AJ Burnett long term, or at least the rest of the season, and wanted to shore up the playoff rotation. If they want to sign him next year, perhaps he’s worth parting with some very good prospects in order to sure up the playoff rotation.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Still no.

      Even if we have to write off AJ as a sunk cost, Chien Ming Wang style, we still have CC, Andy, Hughes, and Vazquez. We can get by with Mitre/Nova/Sanchez/etc. until September, and then build a foursome with what we have in house.

      If we trade prospects for a starting pitcher because we’re worried about AJ never finding his groove again, we’re still not trading good prospects for Cliff Lee; we’d sooner trade mediocre prospects for Jake Westbrook or something like that.

      • Pete

        is there anyone who actually believes that AJ will never find his groove again? Seriously? How dumb are people?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Whatever is currently happening that is bad will continue to be this bad forever. Whatever is currently happening that is good is a fluke and will stop happening tomorrow.

        • Captain Jack

          I’m more concerned that something may be wrong with him, perhaps that he’s hiding an injury and trying to pitch hurt. A la Javier Vazquez in 2004.

      • Captain Jack

        I wasn’t suggesting that the Yankees do that, for a pitcher with his history he should turn it around. The reality of the situation is that The Yankees have two pitchers with ERAs over five in the rotation (FIPs of 4.63 and 4.7) Just with AJ’s recent bad streak and the Ms scouting the Yankee farm perhaps that’s what they’re looking to do. I doubt the Ms would be spending valuable time scouting the Yankee farm system if the Yankees told them no to Cliff Lee or haven’t expressed interest in him.

  • Mark from Chicago

    Burnett’s outing yesterday looks even worse when you see how well Carl Pavano pitched yesterday

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


      No, it doesn’t.

  • bonestock94

    lol, great recap, it was dripping with venom

  • Pete

    Last night I noticed (or rather, continued noticing) that, while AJ is obviously off, it seems like he has been getting a lot of bad strike/ball calling. This is, I’m sure, true for tons of pitchers, and is obviously not a good enough excuse for a pitcher pitching in a league umpired by human umpires (he’ll have to deal with bad strike calling for the rest of his career, as does every pitcher, so he needs to be able to succeed despite it). I did wonder, however, just how much of an effect something like that could have.

    When I pitched in high school, I remember that those days where you felt fringy but wound up getting blown out always seemed to correspond with at least a couple of blatant strikes being called balls, along with not getting anything close. Again, not playing the blame game, but it’s interesting to think about how much just a few bad calls can change the face of the game, especially for a pitcher like AJ.

    I couldn’t find a specific run expectancy model based on counts, but this Joe Posnanski article was very helpful (gotta love him): http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/joe_posnanski/04/22/pitch.counts/index.html

    Looking at that, you can see the difference in opposing OPS between counts wherein a pitch went one way vs. the other, as follows (these are all assuming only one blown call in an at-bat, so no 2-0 vs. 0-2 or anything)*:

    0-1 vs. 1-0: .811 vs. .903, or 92 points of OPS
    0-2 vs. 1-1: .409 vs. .842, or 433 points of OPS (essentially, hitters are twice as successful if the 0-1 pitch goes their way)
    1-1 vs. 2-0: .842 vs. .976, or 134 points of OPS
    1-2 vs. 2-1: .448 vs. .892, or 444 points of OPS
    2-1 vs. 3-0: .892 vs. 1.738, or 892 points of OPS
    2-2 vs. 3-1: .498 vs. 1.329, or 831 OPS points

    As you can see, even when you exclude situations where the wrong call would either send the hitter to first base or the dugout, blown calls are wildly significant. If we assume random and even distribution of blown calls amongst counts, then we get an average OPS differential between non-AB-ending counts of .471. That’s more than the difference between Albert Pujols and replacement level.

    Knowing this, I decided to take a look at AJ’s strike zone plot from last night (here: http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/zoneplot.php-pitchSel=all&game=gid_2010_06_26_nyamlb_lanmlb_1&sp_type=1&s_type=7.gif). Just looking at AJ’s pitches (the triangles, and assuming that anything inside or touching the perimeter is a strike, anything outside of it is a ball), 9 pitches that should have been strikes were called balls. According to the fuzzy and incomplete math above, that’s like turning Juan Pierre into Justin Morneau for 9 pitches – roughly 2.3 ABs. That’s big.

    Evening things out somewhat are 5 pitches that should have been called balls but were called strikes (and two very close ones that just barely touched the perimeter), but none of those pitches was more than ~1.5 inches off the plate, versus several that were an inch or more (one looked like about 3 inches) from being balls.

    Even more astounding – AJ threw what appears to be 13 pitches in the lower quarter of the zone, of which an absurd three were recorded of strikes (and we have no idea which of those may have just been hit, but even if we assume all were called, that’s unacceptable). In essence, AJ did not have the bottom of the strike zone. At all. If we assume all of parts of the strike zone are created equally (they aren’t – the bottom quarter is most definitely the “pitcher’s zone”), then that means that AJ’s disadvantage amounted to, ignoring missed calls in other parts of the zone for a second, having 3/4ths of an ordinary zone to pitch to. The outside strike calls certainly help, but not having the most important part of the zone will go a long way.

    Again, this is not an excuse for AJ. As anybody can see, he also threw several pitches that missed by a few yards, too. But for a two-pitch pitcher like AJ, not having the most important part of the zone to work with and not having good command will go a loooong way towards turning a potential fight into a blowout. That looks to have been what happened last night.

    *note: does not include calls that could have ended a count (strike three or ball four), so is obviously incomplete

    • Pete

      (cries silently at lack of responses to my hard work)

      • The209

        Hey, I really enjoyed reading this…but a ton of assumptions there, no?

        • Pete

          which assumptions?

          • The209

            so that’s a ‘no,’ then?

            • Pete

              more of a “which”. As in, which assumptions do you think I made, so that I can clarify them either as assumptions, or back them up as statements by providing evidence

  • Total Dominication

    jesus’s line last 10 games is 316/316/658. The average and slugging is there now, but the walks aren’t.

    • Pete

      I’m not overly worried about the walks. They’ll come in time. He may wind up having to “deal” with being a Cano-type hitter. I, for one, would have no problem with that.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        This year for Montero is kinda like 2009 with Brackman. Last year, his goal was simply to stay healthy; results didn’t matter much.

        For Montero, the goal this year is to become a legit MLB-worthy defensive catcher. His offensive production is pretty moot. We know the bat is legit and will be there when he arrives in the bigs. He’s focusing on defense.