Are the Pittsburgh Pirates burning up the best stuff 36-year-old A.J. Burnett has left in his tank? Surely, at some point this season the Bucs ace will get some run support. It’s hard looking back at the work that Burnett has done, and not feeling like the Pirates are missing a few wins when A.J. toes the pitching rubber.
Burnett has yet to allow more than three earned runs in any game this year, but his 2.72 ERA/2.91 xFIP has only been good for three Pirates wins.
Burnett cruised through the first four innings against the Detroit Tigers and then allowed three runs in the fifth. Five hits were all that he gave up. The Tigers powerful lineup was patient enough to get four walks over his six innings of work. Burnett punched out five.
A two-run double against recently DFA’d Brewers first-baseman Alex Gonzalez was the only runs scored off Burnett by the Brewers. It got him his fifth loss on the season. Six strikeouts, just three hits and two walks all added up to a 2-1 loss.
Burnett issues the #STFD to seven Astros, but couldn’t get a W. One run on five hits over seven innings. He struck out seven but did not factor into the decision against the Astros.
The fourth loss of the year was pinned on Burnett by the Brew Crew. The right-hander gave up four runs, three of them earned, on seven hits in seven innings of work. Burnett punched out six and allowed no walks.
The third loss came against the Mariners. Burnett gave up two runs and King Felix outdueled Burnett who had nine strikeouts over seven innings of work.
You get the point.
Two more losses came in his first two starts in which he struckout 19 Dodgers and Cubs hitters who combined for four runs. It’s always easy to look at a tough luck pitcher like Burnett and not play the what if game. With Burnett it’s even more difficult. We can point to the walks being the culprit. 22 of his 29 walks this year have come against left-handed hitters. 55 of his 89 strikeouts have come against righties.
Against the first nine batters, he has struckout 39 and walked ten while giving up seven earned runs.
Against the second nine, he has struckout 33 and walked twelve while giving up just five earned runs.
Against the lineup the third time, he has struckout 16 and walked seven while giving up eleven earned runs.
So in conclusion, as the game has progressed this season, Burnett starts to fade.
Maybe it’s from staring at the scoreboard filled with so many zeroes. Let’s trust that changes starting tonight.