What Should Pirates Fans Expect from AJ Burnett?


AJ Burnett. Millions of dollars. Prospects headed to New York. No prospects of high regard going to New York. A two-time champion headed to PNC Park.

It’s a lot to take in isn’t it?

AJ Burnett, the New York Yankee, has won 34 games, lost 35 games and has a 4.79 ERA in doing so. The peripheral numbers are very good for Burnett, but those numbers like his 49% groundball rate and a 3.69 xERA don’t mean much to fans from the Bronx. The most prominent number that stood out yesterday was one that was tweeted about Burnett that said, Burnett was paid $1.455 million per win with the New York Yankees.

We don’t think that’s the return on investement Yankees fans were looking for when the Bronx Bombers shelled out the huge contract for his services a few years ago. When big deals go bad, it isn’t usually the Pittsburgh Pirates who stroll up as primary trade partner numero uno. Well, except that one deal a long time ago, but I think most of us would rather forget about that mistake. This deal is of different sorts, much different.

So this weekend, here were the Bucs pulling up a chair in the biggest of markets making headlines as they try to work out a deal for AJ Burnett. It’s all a bit much to take after an offseason of being thrwarted by pitching talent of all sorts, but nonetheless, the closer we look at Burnett, the more it seems it could work out in the PBC favor should a deal be worked out.

Some numbers show that even how disappointing Burnett was last year for NY, if he would have been a Bucco, he would have been the teams third most valuable pitcher and also the one who threw the most innings.

The game we will remember is his start on September 25 when against the Boston Red Sox Burnett (11-11) allowed just five hits. Three of them were to Jacoby Ellsbury, two of them were Ellsbury home runs. Those homers were the only runs he would allow in his 7.2 innings pitched. One would think the Yanks would have been pumped, but no. The positive comments were quickly dismissed and comparisions piled up. It was his first outing of more than six innings since he went eight on July 29. Burnett was 0-4 in his 10 previous starts against Boston–this one just didn’t seem to matter.

It was well known then, and only seemed a matter of time until AJ Burnett was on his way out of New York. We just didn’t think at the time that the Pirates might be a fit.

We always see New York as being the worst for pitchers and had a thought this morning that lead us to to think Burnett might go all Javier Vazquez upon his escape to the National League? What an article that could be!

But with so much negativity being thrown around from the Big Apple, and even from some Pirates fans that feel that Brad Lincoln could just as easily pick up the slack this season, we went the simple route. Bill James predicts Burnett to start 30 games and throw 173 innings. Burnett is projected to strikeout 8.3 battters per nine while walking 3.9 per nine innings. We think those numbers might even get better if they were projected in the NL, don’t you?

Some say PNC Park could help Burnett, that makes sense. The Pirates improved defense will certainly help as Burnett has been apt to turn nearly half of the opposition into groundball hitters. So would leaving a division with some of the most talented hitters in baseball.

Add it all up and we think Burnett might be much better once he escapes New York, especially if the deal works out right, Pittsburgh could do Burnett some good.