Archive for the ‘A.J. Burnett’ Category

MLB: New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates

It wasn’t even a month ago when the Pittsburgh Pirates called A.J. Burnett‘s “bluff”, stating their plans to open Spring Training without him. At the time, this space interpreted that message as one of leverage. The Bucs weren’t about to let the enigmatic right-hander dictate terms between them. So they made a bunch of noise about moving on.

After Burnett agreed to a one-year deal (with an option for a second) with the Philadelphia Phillies, it looks like the Pirates made the right decision. At least they made a decision – they were out of the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes. A report from Pirates beat writer John Perrotto suggests the Pirates were never actually in the Burnett sweepstakes.

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The Phillies have a lot of problems. When general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. went to bed last night, he probably thought his pitching staff was the one thing he could count on in 2014. Sure, there are always injury concerns (as the bicep troubles of Cole Hamels indicate) but with Hamels, Cliff Lee, Cuban import Miguel Gonzalez, and low cost flier Roberto Hernandez

Maybe some outfield depth or viable backups for their aging infielders represent higher priorities. Maybe stripping down and rebuilding a little bit, using Cole Hamels as the future face of the franchise.

Clearly, none of us are familiar with the way RAJ thinks. Ruben Amaro Jr. doubled down for 2014, signing A.J. Burnett to a one-year contract with $16 million. Only the Phillies.

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MLB: Seattle Mariners at Pittsburgh Pirates

If there is one consistent thread running through the long, storied, history of Getting Blanked, it is a befuddled appreciation of A.J. Burnett. Always one of the most entertaining pitchers in the game, Burnett is now something of a marvel. Injury-prone strikeout artist dogged by overrated and “.500 pitcher” claims for years, Burnett figured it out for a while. His walk year with the Blue Jays was tremendous, working on short rest when needed (or “needed”) and putting up a career year. Then he played a central role for the World Champion Yankees in 2009.

Then he was bad (so bad) for a year. Then he was a Pirate. And he was born again! Two years in Pittsburgh, one good and one very good, leading the Pirates back to the playoffs for first time in a generation.

Now he’s a free agent. He’s also 37-years old and contemplating retirement. The Pirates want him and, frankly, need him if they hope to return to the postseason again before 2033, at which time Andrew McCutchen will be the disgraced all-time home run champ if history teaches us anything.

But with this need and a waning desire to play in more places than just Pittsburgh and near his Maryland home, Burnett gets to be choosy. Which means the Pirates need to go on something of an offensive.

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beltran the best

Playoff baseball tends to evoke the memories of great pitching duels. To aces matched-up, throwing BBs for eight innings, demonstrating how and why the two competeting teams made it this far.

Despite David Price‘s gutty effort in the tiebreaker game, we were yet to be treated to such pitching prowess. Until last night, that is.

Clayton Kershaw put on a postseason pitching performance to remember, a far cry from the guy who appeared near tears in the Dodgers dugout in the 2009 NLCS, having just walked five Phillies in just 4.2 innings.

Clayton Kershaw pitched exactly how one expects an ace and Cy Young shoo-in to pitch. He seemed to get strong as the game went on, striking out 12 Braves — recording eight of his last nine outs by strikeout — while allowing just one run on three hits and three walks.

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Cincinnati Reds v Pittsburgh Pirates

Unless you are a fan of the recently-struggling Cardinals (Baseball’s Best!), it is hard to imagine not enjoying the rise of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sure, compared to the Pythagorean record or projected true talent, Pittsburgh seems to have been pretty lucky so far. First of all, almost any team that wins their division has some luck. Secondly, are we really going to complain about the Pirates having good luck for once?

In any case, I did not really see them as contenders of any sort this season, and I would guess I was not alone. The Pirates themselves thought they had a chance, given the moves they made to shore up their team over the last year, particularly the starting rotation.

The Pirates primarily have relied neither on big-time draft picks nor big-name free agent signing. Rather, they have put together a staff good enough to contend through shrewd trades and buy-low opportunities. Unless a team is going to get exceptionally lucky with their draft picks or has a huge payroll (not an option for Pittsburgh), this is what they have to do, thus, the Pirates’ rotation is worth examining.

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Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics

Another day, another ho-hum eight innings of one-run ball. Only six strikeouts and he did allow a walk and a five hits, all in service of a 2-1 Mariners win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh today. I think he’s finally slipping.

According to Fangraphs, this outing brings his season ERA down to 1.53, his FIP down to 2.16. It does shrink his strikeout to walk ratio down to a pedestrian 56/8. He’s slipping, obviously.

Matching Felix pitch for pitch today was A.J. Burnett, who allowed two runs and walked four but managed to strikeout nine Mariners. Both pitchers posted identical game sores of 70, which isn’t Matt Harvey but it ain’t Mike Leake, either.

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Not sure what A.J. Burnett was doing on this one, but his natural reaction must have taken over after he caught the ball on the mound on Russell Martin’s attempt to throw out Jon Jay.