The Pirates just might acquire themselves a veteran rotation presence (in the form of A.J. Burnett) for the low price of basically nothing. Sounds like a great plan! Except for one thing…a thing we will get to in a moment.

On the surface, the murmurs of A.J. Burnett going to Pittsburgh (not San Francisco, to some local chagrin) are getting louder. That just might be a good thing for the Pirates. Less so for A.J. Burnett.

Getting A.J. Burnett the heck away from the AL East is probably a good thing for all involved. Burnett faces some of the stiffest competition of all starters in 2011 while pitching in one of the hitter-friendliest ballparks around. Burnett surrendered 19 home runs at home in 2011 and 18 home runs against right-handed batters overall last season. Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is a great place to rectify both those problems as it offers one of the lowest HR factors for right-handed hitters (73) in baseball.

Moving to a more forgiving park and facing (slightly) easier competition makes A.J. a more palatable choice. While getting older, Burnett remains very durable, making 30+ starts each of the last four years. Sounds like a plan! Order your Burnett Buccos jersey today!

Except for two things, really: Burnett doesn’t exactly give up cheap home runs. A.J. Burnett doesn’t have the best reputation.

At the risk of overextending/embarrassing myself, I will tread lightly into the latter. At this stage of his career, cast out to the baseball hinterland, what kind of effort does one expect to get from A.J. Burnett? Already secured his final payday, playing out the string without any pressing desire to win a ring (got two, suckers! Your move, Halladay!) or realistically compete for another? I don’t know much about his makeup but the things you hear – they aren’t so good.

As for the former. The average home run surrendered across the Major Leagues in 2011 was thrown 0.375 feet (4.5 inches) from the center of the plate. A.J. Burnett’s home runs were thrown an average of 0.216 feet (a little more than 2.6 inches) from the center for the plate. Less than one full standard deviation but Burnett is clearly not afraid to groove one. Or two. Or thirty-two separate pitches last season. No ballpark can save pitches thrown over the geometric center of the plate, as Jeff Sullivan demonstrates.

Rob Neyer suggests acquiring the flame throwing (past life) Burnett makes sense for the Pirates if he’s healthy as he just might turn into a decent trade chip and will likely cost next to nothing. The big question remains: are the Pirates confident they can get anything worthwhile from, as Mister Parkes so delicately put it, the Rotting Corpse of A.J. Burnett.

Pitch f/x data scraped/borrowed from Joe Lefkowitz. Knowledge gleaned from keen observation!

Comments (12)

  1. searage is pretty good tho

  2. Just for the sake of alliteration I hope he becomes Pete Puma of the Pittsburgh Pirates

  3. Drew (or Parkes) is there any evidence out there that AJ could be better than average in the bullpen? I have zero to base this one, but he strikes me as one of those “late in career starters who suddenly re-born as a closer”.

    AJ’s intagibles will look great next to warm and fuzzy Erik Bedard.

  4. Yankees fan here. You don’t want Burnett, everyone in NY hates him and he is absolutely awful. If I was Cashman I’d gladly eat the whole contract if that means he would be gone and we could get someone decent in return (possibly Tabata or Alverez?). Burnett is inconsistent and even when he pitches well he is still not good. At best, with an easier park to pitch in and easier competition he could maybe muster an ERA just under 5.00. He’s a complete bum. Good article btw.

  5. Tabata or Alvarez for AJ Burnett? Um….

  6. Tabata or alvarez? How drunk are you?

  7. So, Burnett makes 30 starts in the last 4 years, after making 30 only once in the previous 9, and is suddenly “durable?” That sounds more like regression to the mean than any innate ability. His luck could turn around again any time.

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