The offseason is unfortunately here and so we are simultaneously tasked with reflecting on the 2015 season and looking forward to next spring. As part of Rumbunter’s off-season coverage, we will be grading out virtually every member of the Pittsburgh Pirates who spent substantial time on the team’s 25-man roster over the past season. We will look at their seasons as a whole, show you their relevant stats, and assign a final grade to each player. Today’s entry: A.J. Burnett
The Pirates had an injury-plagued 2015 season. Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer missed time, as did Jung Ho Kang. The starting pitching also took a hit with the loss of A.J. Burnett, who finished his career with an underrated season. In fact, his retirement as a whole seemed to be rather low-key. Burnett didn’t get a chance to pitch in the postseason, but he still managed to put together a respectable year, arguably his best as a Pirate. Let’s not let a mid-season injury let us forget that.
Burnett came back to the Pirates this past offseason after spending the past year with the Phillies. His time with the Phillies was one of the worst seasons of his career, and he wanted to finish his career strong with a team that he loved: the Pirates. In 2015, Burnett started out hot. In April, he pitched to a 1.80 ERA and in May, he pitched to a 1.82 ERA. In June he let up a bit, but still pitched to a 2.41 ERA. His early-season dominance led to the first and only All-Star appearance of his career.
But Burnett started to fade as the season progressed. He had a 5.68 ERA in July and then was placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury. His injury led the Pirates to go out and acquire J.A. Happ, who was dominant in Burnett’s stead. When Burnett returned from his injury, he performed somewhere in the middle of his dominant first half and his poor performance leading up to his injury. He made five starts when he returned, and allowed at least two runs in each of those starts, but he also didn’t allow more than three runs in any of them. It’s interesting to wonder how Burnett would have performed in the playoffs, considering his history of poor postseason performance.
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Burnett finished his final season with a 3.18 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. His ERA was the best single-season ERA of his career, and the 2.7 WAR he amassed was the highest he had since 2009. Who knows if his WAR would have been higher if he hadn’t missed time due to injury.
His final season will likely be remembered fondly. It was incomplete, but for a time, he dominated like he never had in his career before. He also tailed off as the season went on. He had a 2.92 K/BB ratio and only allowed 49 walks total, which is good considering Burnett’s tended to walk a decent number of batters over the course of his career. He did allow a lot of hits, but was able to limit most of them to singles to to strand runners when they did get on base. Overall, Burnett’s final season was a great one, and a fantastic value for the $8.5 million he signed for over the offseason.
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