Splitting Burnett

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty)

Back in November I took a deep dive into the numbers to see whether there were any positives to be gleaned from A.J. Burnett‘s lousy 2011 season and whether we could expect at least a slightly better performance from the enigmatic righty in 2012 (assuming the Yankees don’t eat his deal and decide to make him someone else’s problem). What I found was that Burnett’s season was utterly compromised by a brutal nine-start stretch he put together during July and August — which was in large part due to the fact that he lost nearly two inches of vertical break on his curveball — and that if you removed those performances from his ledger he actually¬†threw to a 4.11 ERA over 135.2 innings. We all know baseball doesn’t work that way, but that would seem to indicate that there’s still a somewhat useful pitcher in there somewhere.

Today I wanted to examine a few key splits, in the hopes that there are some underlying trends that could bode well for A.J. going forward. For the masochists in the audience, feel free to download the spreadsheet I created which has the tOPS+ and sOPS+ data on pretty much every split you could want during the course of A.J.’s Yankee career. For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on sOPS+, as in the case of a pitcher like Burnett I think we’ll get a better sense of just how effective/ineffective he’s been comparing his performances in various splits against the league instead of compared to himself.

Over the last two years, leadoff hitters, cleanup hitters and 5th-slot hitters have really given it to A.J. but good. For some reason, A.J. fared best against #2 hitters last season, and also handled them relatively well last year. While his performance against 1-2 hitters slightly worsened in 2011, his sOPS+ against 3-6 hitters was flat year-over-year and his numbers against 7-9 hitters actually improved over 2010 (although in the case of the latter, he was still only 3% better than league average). Still, none of this data is terribly optimistic.

Last year, Burnett was curiously effective with a runner on 3rd and less than two outs (53 sOPS+). He also fared well with runners on first and third (72 sOPS+). Though one would think that Burnett’s propensity for wild pitches — something that wouldn’t show up in the opposition’s cumulative OPS —¬† likely aided the opposing team’s opportunities with runners on third. Burnett has been atrocious with a runner on 2nd these last two seasons, posting a 143 sOPS+ last year and 152 this past season. Nothing to see here.

This past season A.J. appeared to save his best pitching for when the team was trailing, with an 80 sOPS+. However, as driven painfully home by the August 3 game against the White Sox, he was inexplicably terrible when pitching with a big lead, posting an sOPS+ of 195(!) when ahead by four-plus runs.

In 2011, A.J. saved his worst pitching for the middle innings collectively, although his worst performances came in the 2nd inning of games (154 sOPS+). Burnett was great in the 3rd inning (43 sOPS+), but that was one only three innings he was better than league average in, and one of those innings — the eighth — was one he rarely even saw.

Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be anything in the underlying data that might portend a brighter future for Allan James Burnett in 2012. I’ve been hoping against hope that A.J. can return to a level of effectiveness that he last evinced in 2009, and while I’ll continue to perhaps foolishly expect better from A.J., no matter which way you slice ’em the numbers tell a very different story.

Fan Confidence Poll: January 2nd, 2012

2011 Record: 97-65 (855 RS, 657 RA, 102-60 pythag. record), won AL East, lost to Tigers in ALDS

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The First Open Thread of 2012

Reggie had himself a fine New Years. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The page hass officially turned on 2011, which begs the question: where the hell did all the time go? Hard to believe it’s 2012 already, no? I know it’s cliche to say that, but it’s definitely true. Like everyone else, I have a bunch of resolutions I plan on not keeping, but at least I’ll have a little extra motivation to prove myself wrong over the next few days before settling back into the routine.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the day. There are football games all over the place, plus the Knicks and Nets are playing. Of course if you’re a Time Warner customer, you won’t be able to watch the Knicks [if they were playing] because the Dolans pulled MSG over a contract dispute. That means the first place and fun to watch Rangers won’t be on anytime soon either, so thanks for that assholes. Talk about whatever you want here, anything goes.

The Final Open Thread of 2011

I have to say, 2011 was a pretty good year. The Yankees won the AL East again, Derek Jeter picked up his 3,000th career hit, Mariano Rivera became baseball’s all-time saves king, Curtis Granderson and Robbie Cano had MVP caliber seasons, CC Sabathia made another run at the Cy Young, Jesus Montero did his thing in September … not a whole lot to complain about. Plus baseball around the league was incredible, mid-September through the end of the World Series was basically the best six-week stretch of baseball I’ve ever seen.

In terms of traffic, 2011 was also RAB’s best year ever. We had more visitors than ever before this year, by a not small margin either, and we set a new record high for page views in a month in three consecutive months (June, July, and August). We didn’t break our all-time single day record though, that’s still July 9th, 2010, when all the Cliff Lee madness went down. Thank you folks for reading and another great year at RAB. We couldn’t do it without you.

We’re going to leave you with this open thread for the day. Have a happy and safe New Years. We’ll see you in 2012.

Buster Olney ranks the ten best everything

Nothing will start a debate quite like a national baseball writer ranking the best anything, and Buster Olney went nuclear on the baseball faniverse by publishing a series of top ten lists this week. The Yankees didn’t place among the ten best rotations, which shouldn’t be all that surprising, but they ranked second in bullpen (behind the Braves), third in infield (Rangers, Reds), second in outfield (D’Backs), and third in lineup (Red Sox, Rangers).

All the links are Insider-only unfortunately, but the Yankees relevant stuff is here. I generally agree with Buster’s rankings, though I’d have the Yanks ahead of the Reds on the infield (who’s their shortstop? what was Scott Rolen’s OBP last year?). That’s just a minor quibble though, I don’t think there are any egregious mistakes where the Yankees were multiple spots off the mark. The Rays didn’t appear in the outfield list though, not sure how that happened.

Open Thread: Kenny Rogers

(Cataffo/NY Daily News)

Man, I really disliked Kenny Rogers. It all started with his dreadful two years in pinstripes, and just carried on for the remainder of his career. I despised watching him take the mound, far more than I do when A.J. Burnett gets the ball these days. The left-hander’s stint with the Yankees officially started 16 years ago today, when he signed a four-year deal worth $20M.

Rogers pitched to a 4.68 ERA in 30 starts during the 1996 season, then was absolutely horrible in three postseason starts. He put six men on base and allowed two runs in two innings in Game Four of the ALDS, then allowed four runs in three innings in Game Four of the ALCS, then topped it off by allowing five runs in two innings in Game Four of the World Series. Amazingly, the Yankees won all three games primarily because David Weathers and Brian Boehringer were nails in long relief (five earned runs in 17.1 IP that postseason, and three came on one Andruw Jones homer).

The Yankees traded Rogers to the Athletics for Scott Brosius after the 1997 season, after he’d pitched himself out of the rotation and the team’s future plans. Brosius obviously worked out well in the sense that the Yankees won three World Series with him at the hot corner, but he wasn’t all that great aside from 1998. Anyway, that’s a trade no one in New York regrets. Rogers … well everyone regrets that signing.

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Here is your Friday night open thread. Both the Rangers and Nets are playing tonight, but talk about anything you want here. enjoy.

Andruw’s Back: Yanks & Jones reach agreement

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

We can cross one item off the Yankees’ to-do list. Jon Heyman is reporting that Andruw Jones has agreed to wear pinstripes for another year and will earn a $2M base salary plus another $1.4M in possible incentives on a one-year contract. The deal is still pending a physical, which probably won’t happen until after the New Year.

The reasons to re-sign Jones were obvious: he mashes lefties (.400 wOBA vs. LHP in 2011, .401 from 2010-2011), plays solid enough defense in the corner spots, and reportedly is a great clubhouse guy. He accepted the role of being a platoon/bench bat last year and thrived, especially in the second half. As a reward, he saw his first playoff action since 2005. Jones had minor surgery after the season to clean up a slight tear in his left knee, but it’s nothing serious.

We heard the two sides weren’t making progress on a new deal as recently as two days ago, so it goes to show how quickly this stuff can come together. Surprisingly, Jones didn’t even get a raise; he had a $2M base salary with $1.2M in incentives last year. He must really like New York. The Yankees have a full 40-man roster, so they’re going to have to cut someone once the signing becomes official. I’m guessing it’ll be Kevin Whelan, but don’t hold me to that.