A.J. Burnett, relief pitcher

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Burnett after losing in relief (Frank Gunn/AP)

A.J. Burnett had plenty of time to prepare what he’d say this afternoon. He knew long before us that he was not going to start a game in the ALDS. I don’t know what went through Burnett’s head in those few days, but it resulted in him getting the best press coverage possible. “Burnett handled himself better today than anybody could have expected,” wrote Mark Feinsand of the Daily news. “Burnett is a super-likable guy,” said Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York*. That type of reaction tends to occur when you admit that you suck and take your demotion without issue.

*The rest of Matthews’s quote reads, “who regrettably seems destined to drive himself and his bosses crazy.” Well said.

Burnett will sit in the bullpen for the ALDS, which raises the question of how Girardi will use him, if he’ll use him at all. Would he use him in the sixth inning of Game 3 if Hughes throws 100 pitches through five. Would he use him in Game 4 if he had used Wood, Robertson, and Chamberlain in the first three games? I doubt he uses him before any of those three, but he probably fits in ahead of Moseley and Mitre. There’s a chance he’ll get an inning or two, which makes me wonder how he’d adapt to a relief role.

Burnett last pitched in relief on April 16, 2008, in an extra-inning game against Texas. In a 5-5 game he allowed two runs on three hits and a walk. The Blue Jays were retired in the bottom half and the Blue Jays lost the game. The time before that came in 2004, on the final day of the season. Burnett hadn’t pitched since September 12. He came into the fifth inning of a 5-3 game against the Phillies and pitched two scoreless innings that included four strikeouts. In his career Burnett has made four relief appearances and has faced 30 batters. They have hit .346/.433/.500 off him.

Of course, four appearances scattered over three different years doesn’t mean much as it concerns his current abilities. Then again, I don’t think that many stats, if any, can explain A.J. Burnett this season. Normally I’d go through his numbers in various reliever situations — first inning of work, men on, late & close, etc — but I’m not sure it would tell us anything. Not only are they small, non-predictive samples, but they’re also almost all bad, because A.J. was bad most of the season. There are very few situational splits in which the opponent’s OPS against dips below .700. It’s tough to find any silver lining with numbers like that.

I really wanted this to be a post on how A.J. might make a good reliever — that he might add a fourth to the setup crew of Chamberlain, Wood, and Robertson. But that’s just not likely. It’s possible, in the same way that it’s possible that the Braves win the World Series. But it would come only in a desperate scenario. I have to agree with Ben; Burnett the reliever is a pitcher I hope never takes the mound in the ALDS. It probably means a grave situation — even before Burnett enters the game.

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  • Carlosologist

    AJ the reliever is a character in which I hope we don’t meet. Can’t wait for him to pitch the ALCS clincher.

  • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

    OK, so top of the 5th of game 4, CC has struggled big time and had to come out after four, but the Yankees offense has picked him up. 6-5 Yankees. Boone Logan blows in his appearance, and there’s bases loaded, one out. Girardi is on record before the game saying he’s not using Joba, Wood, Robertson, or Mo for more than one inning as they’ve all pitched three out of the past four days. Who’s running through the bullpen doors?

    • Sayid J.

      Robertson to put out the fire, i would hope. Then Girardi changes his mind because he realizes this is a do or die situation and he allows each of them to get 4 or 5 outs.

    • http://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

      Mitre. Not saying that its a good choice or bad choice, but I think he brings in the sinkerballer to get the double play.

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

      Girardi is on record before the game saying he’s not using Joba, Wood, Robertson, or Mo for more than one inning as they’ve all pitched three out of the past four days.

      This is where your situation falls apart. That doesn’t happen in the playoffs; all those guys would be available every night regardless.

    • http://www.yfsf.org AndrewYF

      Me, with a knife, to murder Girardi. With the offdays, every reliever is available every day in the playoffs.

    • Ted Nelson

      Correct answer: There is no game 4 because the Yankees have already swept the Twins in 3 :)

  • BPR

    I fully expect good AJ to show up and throw a gem in mop up duty and get shelled in any meaningful innings.

    • Anthony Murillo


    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      Someone wants positive pancakes

      • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

        amazing comment.

  • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

    At 5 years and 16.5 per annum , Can Burnett make the claim of having signed the richest contract in the history of baseball among those whose era were above 4.00 the previous year ?

    • Brian in NH

      At least he’s played through most of his contract so far. Pavano couldn’t even get on the mound.

      • CS Yankee

        Pavano busted his butt, fired his agent, and wrecked his car on the way to the DL.

        The most complete bust in Yankee lore save maybe Andy Messersmith.

        • Sweet Dick Willie

          Steve Trout?

  • Big Stein

    I imagine if the Yanks are winning 8-0 in the 7th and the starter has already thrown 120 pitches, then they’ll let AJ pitch.

    • Sean C

      You underestimate AJ’s ability to cut that lead in half(possibly more) within an inning, turning a blowout into a Mo situation. Huzzah.

      • Ted Nelson

        You may be underestimating Dustin Moseley’s ability to do the same. Furthermore, if a couple of runners get on Girardi can pull AJ (or Moseley or Mitre). I think there can definitely be an argument that AJ is the guy of the 3 long-relievers/blow-out specialists that needs the work (/tryout) in that situation before possibly starting a game in the ALCS. Then again, if it throws off his pitching schedule, maybe not.

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    This is the same pitcher who was a key factor in us winning #27.

    More than what we are hearing, & not sure if he is hurt or Yanks looking to make a statement & trying to shake him up. At $87M thats pretty sad to have to get him motivated.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I don’t think it’s a motivation problem. I think it’s a “we have three better pitchers and don’t need you in this round” problem.

      • CS Yankee


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

    A.J. Burnett, relief pitcher

    Mike Francesa: What — what did you just say?

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

    (circles Sunday, October 10th on the calendar)

    CC Sabathia v. Nick Blackburn at YS3? Yeah, we can throw AJ the final two innings of this 8-1 series clinching win.

    • http://www.yfsf.org AndrewYF

      Especially since he’ll be pitching Game 5 in a possible ALCS. Needs the work.

    • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

      Didn’t the Yanks make Blackburn look like the 2nd coming of Cy Young when he started against them in May?

      • RL

        They were just trying to boost his confidence and give him a false sense of security, knowing that this day would come.

  • Mickey Scheister

    Giardi gave Burnett every opportunity to show he can still pitch and Burnett has been awful since he lost those 5 straight decisions in June. He looked amazing at the beginning of the year, what happened to him? I’ve seen pitchers have their woes but we haven’t seen good AJ consistently since May, where is that dude? Since AJ doesn’t care to join in on the wins in the regular season, this mimosa here is hoping AJ throws a couple scoreless innings in relief and gain that little thing called confidence again!

    • Ted Nelson

      “Burnett has been awful since he lost those 5 straight decisions in June. He looked amazing at the beginning of the year, what happened to him?”

      This is simply not true. He was as good in July as any month of the season: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?n1=burnea.01&year=&t=p

      June was the worst, August and September have been terrible too. Perhaps not coincidently, opponents batting average on balls in play (BABIP) mirrors his success pretty closely. I don’t know how much of that is luck and how much is him just getting shelled (HRs are also way up in the bad months). July does offer some hope, though. He also wore down in August/Sep of last season, though not to quite the same level, and still got it together for his first 4 games of the playoffs before getting belted by the Phillies in Game 5.

  • Hughesus Christo

    I see that the Burnett talk has gradually separated itself from reality. He had stabilized before that Toronto start. Let’s chill the F out.

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

      You have a liberal definition of stabilized.

    • Thomas

      Assuming you mean the Toronto start on Sep. 27, AJ’s previous 5 starts were:
      3IP 2H 1ER 2BB 2K 0HR against TB
      7IP 6H 3ER 1BB 5K 2HR at BAL
      4IP 4H 2ER 3BB 6K 0HR at TEX
      7IP 7H 4ER 4BB 4K 0HR against BAL
      6IP 6H 3ER 2BB 8K 1HR against OAK

      for a grand total of
      27IP 4.33ERA 4BB/9 8.3K/9 1.37WHIP

      Not great, but certainly not horrible with 2 starts against good hitting teams and 3 starts against bad hitting teams. However, the problem is this is a 5 start stretch you add in either the Toronto start on Sep. 27 or the Aug 27 White Sox start and everything will balloon.

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

        Important clarifier:

        The 3IP start against the Rays and the 4IP start against the Rangers were shortened by lengthy rain delays. AJ wasn’t knocked out by pitch count or ineffectiveness, he was knocked out by an act of God.

        He pitched well in those two starts.

        • CBean

          Clearly, God hates AJ.

      • Ted Nelson

        July was also a very good month for him, and his performance in Aug/Sep of 2009 was terrible as well. After struggling for those two months, he managed to be good in the playoffs till getting shelled in Game 5 of the WS.

  • Yank the Frank

    I have a feeling AJ will do something great this postseason, even if it only involves pies.

    • Klemy

      I’m hoping that’s all we have to depend on him for.

  • mike c

    way to go out on a limb by hoping that your longman/backup starter doesn’t have to appear in an ALDS game

  • Johnny O

    Another benefit to no AJ starting is that pretty much guarantees we won’t see Ole Blue Eyes Cervelli make an important post season at bat. Hopefully if AJ does start in the ALCS/WS Joe won’t overthink things and try Cervelli there. I’d like to think this year that they’ve seen enough of him to realize he’s a liability at the plate in important situations/games.

    • Ted Nelson

      At the same time you don’t want Posada wearing down/getting injured if the Yankees have a lot of long games and series…

      We’re talking small sample sizes, but Cervelli actually has a .846 OPS against lefties and a .769 OPS with RISP (Posada’s at .833 against lefties and .703 with RISP). With 2 outs and RISP he’s at .840 OPS (Posada’s at .677). Even smaller sample, but Twins pitchers have eaten him up while he’s eaten up Rangers pitchers and done a bit above his average against Rays pitchers (Posada has mashed the Twins and Rays, but not the Rangers). Giving Cervelli a few plate appearances in the ALCS might not be the worst thing.

  • http://riveraveblues sandy g

    a 200 million doller payroll team that has to go to the last game to win a division and home field is a joke.even if they have to eat his contract there is no way aj burnett is on the roster next spring.eat half is contract and trade the guy out of new york

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


    • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

      Sounds like a bet! I’ll take it. AJ will definitely be on the roster next spring.

  • mustang

    “It probably means a grave situation — even before Burnett enters the game.”

    Do I hope for a grave situation no, but we all know that in these series one always comes up. That being said and with the questions surrounding Andy and Hughes also the fact that everyone is so down on AJ the stage is set for a regular season goat to become on a post-season hero. Last year it was Damaso Marte this year I’m calling AJ the sleeper.