Feb 19, 2015; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) talks with one of his teammates before Thursdays workout at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
A.J. Burnett’s 2014 can only be summed up as disastrous. An 8-18 record and an ERA over 4.50 can earn that label. As we all know, Burnett was pitching with a sports hernia injury almost the entire year. This had an interesting effect, as his velocity was only down a tick, but his approach changed wildly, throwing more sinkers than fastballs for the first time in his career. With a fully healthy outlook, Burnett figures to re-establish his fastball, but he would do well not to ignore his knuckle-curve.
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Burnett’s wicked knuckle-curve is above average in all of these crucial categories. A mark of a good pitcher is how he changes his approach as the years progress. Burnett came into the league in 1999, which almost seems like a different era as we sit in 2015. (In fact, he outdates Fangraph’s pitchf/x data, which started being collected in 2007.) Burnett so far has relied on his fastball, which has only gradually decreased in velocity through the years. This has afforded him to be highly effective as the collective wisdom accrued in those years has given him insight into his own stuff. Now, in his final year, perhaps he will continue to use the knuckle-curveball as an ‘out’ pitch and rear back and get the fastball when he really needs it.
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