Sadly, I’m a day late to this, but what you see in the photograph above is what A.J. Burnett looks like right now. Is he trying to make the Pete Puma comparisons even more accurate?
Since signing his five year, $82.5 million contract with the New York Yankees in December of 2008, Burnett has accumulated 5.7 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs. In 2008, his last year pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays before signing that big contract with the Yankees, he finished the season 5.5 wins above replacement.
As you look through a successful pitcher’s annual numbers, you usually notice adjustments that go along with inevitable declines in velocity. A pitcher will find a new pitch, start throwing an off speed offering more often, or adapt a previous part of his repertoire into something new to get batters out. Up until this season, Burnett had always thrown fastballs 65%-70% of the time, mixing in that 12-6 knuckle curve ball somewhere around 30% of the time and occasionally including a change up.
With the average velocity of his fastball in decline, along with his ability to hit the strike zone, Burnett has been using his change up in more than 10% of his total pitches for the first time in his career. The results have been better than last year, but far from the vintage Burnett that struck out 231 batters in one season.
In his first start since the new hairdo, Burnett lasted six innings on Monday night, giving up four runs on seven hits and three walks.
I assume that this is a photo of Burnett either before or after that outing. It’s hard to tell.