Grounders and strikeouts help A.J. avoid trouble

Yanks pound Indians for sixth win in eight games
Why Kei Igawa is still a (Scranton) Yankee
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

It’s hard to argue with a scoreless performance. Sure, the Indians have the third-worst offense in the AL. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to hold them scoreless. In fact, neither of the Yankees’ pitchers who went before Burnett accomplished that feat. He allowed 10 baserunners along the way, which is a rough number when you pitch just 6.1 innings. But Burnett’s performance allowed for a few extra baserunners. He was that good.

When a pitcher allows runners to reach base he can help himself out in two ways. First, he can strike out the subsequent hitters and leave the baserunners stranded. Second, he can get groundballs, which 1) can lead to groundouts, 2) prevents the runners from advancing too far, and 3) can produce a double play. While Burnett did allow 10 men to reach base, including five to lead off an inning, he mitigated this by striking out seven and keeping nine of 16 balls in play on the ground. That prevented the Indians from doing much after reaching base.

There were more good signs from A.J., too. For the year his four-seamer had been averaging 93.1 MPH, as had his two-seamer. In last night’s game he averaged 94 with each. It’s tough to make much of one start — there are enough PitchFX issues that comparing one start to an entire season’s worth of data might produce misleading results. The gun in Cleveland, however, appears to be in working order. It had Javy and CC right around where they’d been all season. It’s encouraging, then, to see Burnett dialing it up with the fastball.

As his strikeouts indicate, Burnett was also getting plenty of swings and misses. For the year his swinging strike rate is down to 7.3 percent from 8.2 percent last year and 10.3 percent in 2008. Last night he got 12 whiffs on his 114 pitches, or 10.5 percent. That’s more like it. Most of them came on his curveball (6) and his two-seamer (5). He got just one whiff on his four-seamer, and didn’t get any swings and misses on either of the two changeups he threw. It’s not like he needed that fourth pitch last night.

It was, in almost every way, a good night for Burnett. He got into some trouble by allowing leadoff runners to hit, but then he went to work, inducing grounders and striking out Indians to prevent them from scoring. It was the work of a true No. 2 pitcher, the guy the Yanks are paying $17.5 million per year. More starts like this would be appreciated.

Yanks pound Indians for sixth win in eight games
Why Kei Igawa is still a (Scranton) Yankee
  • Matt Imbrogno

    All those strikeouts just go to show that A.J. follows the organizational philosophy of not caring about defense.

    Rob Neyer

    • CS Yankee

      The Yankees overpaid everyone in getting AJ just to overcome the possibility of facing the Red Sox in the LCS, while Theo has carefully picked up higher end super bargains via free agency and has developed a farm system second to none.

      This is Peter Gammons….

  • CS Yankee

    I wonder how AJ’s quality starts stack up against the elite pitchers in the league (CC, King Felix, Justin, etc)?

    I thought he had like 65% quality starts last season which was upper tier (similar to Lackey) but not ‘Ace” worthy. He also seems not to be able to overcome a bad inning or limit the damage. I recall a Javy vs. Andy writing by RAB that pointed to the fact that Andy can limit the damage…seems like AJ can’t and that’s the real shame as he has better given talent than Javy so if anything we should hold him to a much higher standard.

    AJ & Jeet’ seem to get the pass on accountability when they stink (off night)
    Cano, Arod & Javy seem to get the press when they lay an egg (lazy, chokers)

    • Colombo

      AJ & Jeter = not spanish, hence not lazy
      Cano, Arod & Javy = spanish = lazy at everything.

      • KayGee

        I see comments like this around here quite a bit. I’m not sure if you (or anyone else) are serious, but is this implying that the media and/or fans single out minority players as lazy?

        • Tom Zig

          Yes, the media often will categorize Latino players as “lazy”

          • KayGee

            Can you site examples? Specifically where the media singled out a Latino player as “lazy” who did not do anything to deserve that categorization? I’m not saying it never happens but I think the point is really beaten to death and made out to be a regular occurrence. If this comment is more appropriate for the off-topic threat I’ll be glad to continue the discussion there.

          • Ross in Jersey

            Also, when a black man such as Granderson speaks well, people say “he’s so well-spoken”. Like a literate black athlete is something out of the ordinary.

            • Sweet Dick Willie

              Like a literate black athlete is something out of the ordinary.

              There are obviously many exceptions (Reggie, Winfield, Derek, Mussina, Tex), but they are in the minority, IMO. Hey, they didn’t get moniker “dumb jocks” for nothing.

              • Ross in Jersey

                I can’t agree. The majority of white athletes speak just fine, but no one says “man, that guy is so well-spoken” like they do when it’s a black athlete. Why does no one say that about Gardner? Youkilis? Wakefield? Lester? Swisher? Wright? Francoeur?

                All those guys are white athletes playing in the biggest markets, who are interviewed on a daily basis and speak just as well. I fully believe it’s a race issue. You expect a white guy to be literate. When a black guy speaks well, people find it surprising.

                • Sweet Dick Willie

                  The majority of white athletes speak just fine

                  Do you really think that? Very few can get through an interview without numerous ums, ahs, likes, ya knows, etc.

                  And Youkilis? The only thing I’m aware of that he does well is play baseball.

        • whozat

          Many people here enjoy mocking lazy sports-journalist stereotypes:

          1) short white players are “gritty” guys who “play the game right” even if they aren’t very good
          2) latino players are lazy when they suck and graceful when they don’t, and probably always have some kind of attitude problem
          3) black players are athletic and toolsy, whether they suck or not

        • Pete

          Is this even a question? The only white player I’ve heard get the “lazy” tag was Joba, who is overweight. Meanwhile guys like Manny and Cano are called lazy despite A) being in incredible (baseball) shape, and B) being among the world’s at their craft, something that simply can’t be done without hard work (also, Manny’s hitting workouts are legendary).

          It’s not that the media assumes all white players are hard working or that all latino players are lazy. It’s just that every “gritty gamer” seems to be white, while every “lazy” player apart from Joba seems to be latino or sometimes black. Can you name me one white player (non-fatso division) who has been consistently labeled as “lazy”?

        • CS Yankee


          My comment wasn’t based upon minority players, but didn’t exclude them either.

          Like Moshe’s article below raises some great observations that are cultural biases, I think that is some of it and not sure what the balance is based upon.

          One example would be the different treatment of AJ and Javy…AJ is more gifted (velocity, movement, etc.) but less professional (temper, etc) than Javy. Javy gets jerks around in the rotation when his mechanics were off and velocity was down this year and they pulled him to correct those issues…AJ has one of the worst months ever for a starter in June and not one word was said about him pitching in a simulated game and they tried different catchers to cater to his style.

          I wonder if it was because (in no order);
          a) His temperment…whereas they can get away with demoting a more profressional Javy vs. AJ
          b) The differences in contract size.
          c) The promises made to him when he signed
          d) His agent wouldn’t let them treat him like that
          e) Cultural bias
          f) Overlooked
          g) Past performances net you a pass

          I don’t know but I think it should be discussed somewhat.

    • CountryClub

      AJ doesn’t get a pass from anyone. Guy gets crushed, and usually rightfully so, from the media and fans.

      Jeter gets a pass because of his past success. That will last for only so long. If he stinks in the playoffs (after having the yr he’s had), he’ll hear about it.

      • Sweet Dick Willie

        Only if the Yanks don’t win the WS. If they win it all, he’ll get a pass, regardless of his numbers.

        If they don’t win it all and he has a lousy post season, I agree, he’ll hear it.

      • CS Yankee


        AJ gets a major pass, let’s compare him to what has been said about the other Yankee pitchers;

        CC…when he started off slow in April of 2009, the discussions to those struggles were that;
        1) Over use in Milwaukee, may be done
        2) Unclutch player like Arod in postseason (Cleveland/Sox & Phillies/Brewers), not the fact that he played for the extreme underdogs that had no offense.

        1) Too old
        2) Isn’t HOF worthy, never a feared pitcher

        1) Unclutch (when he tried to clean up Brown’s mess in ’04)
        2) Can’t handle the big city
        3) Has no grit (watered down Ozzie/Schill comments)

        1) lazy
        2) No focus

        • Tim

          Are you kidding me? There isn’t a sportswriter in the entire New York metropolitan area that hasn’t written at least 5 stories over the past 2 seasons about how AJ is a head case, AJ has all the talent but lacks the wherewithall to be a winner, AJ cannot be trusted in big spots, etc, etc, etc. All this, even when you consider that in the single biggest game of the year last season, Game 2 of the WS, AJ dominated the Phillies and turned the series back to the Yankees.

          When you put “pressure” on a scale from one to ten, Game 2 of the WS was a 9, easily. His flop in Game 5 was something more like a 6, and any April/May/June start in Boston has to be like a 3 or 4, realistically. Yet ask any sportswriter about AJ, and they’ll cite his struggles as Fenway with the Yankees, his poor effort in Game 5 vs. the Angels and the Phillies, and his overall inconsistency. There is NO WAY this guy has gotten a pass. If anything, the criticism of Burnett has been too much.

  • Ross in Jersey

    I would have liked to see him walk less batters. I know AJ is effectively wild, but with an 8 run lead it won’t kill him to just get some balls over the plate. If one leaves the park, fine, but there’s a chance it’s popped up or the BABIP gods smile upon you. I know it’s nitpicking, but walking guys in a blow out drives me nuts.

    All-in-all though, a good start.

    • Pete

      It’s not like he was walking guys on purpose…

    • Tim

      I agree, but I think that is just what you get with Burnett – bouts of wildness due to his mechanics and the movement of his stuff. You know what drives me even more nuts than walking guys with an 8-run lead? Attempting to pick someone off first with an 8-run lead and getting called for a balk. That’s what.

  • rek4gehrig

    ..and he had the sexy knee-bending hand-flip strike out move going :-)

  • Jay T

    I think we all knew what would happen when we signed AJ. One day he is a world beater, next start, couldn’t get a HS team out. With Dave Eiland back, I have the feeling we will see more of the excellent AJ.

  • Bondarri

    A.J. is a turd!!! Tonite is just another example. I know it is a long season and only 2/3 is gone but this guy is unreliable and the greater the stage the worst he is.

    I wish the Yankees would find some way to get rid of him. I can’t stand the guy. He and Joba are going to cost the Yankees the division. Mark my words!!!