POTD A.J. Burnett
of xFIP's, Big Games, and SP Ferraris like Erikkkk


Just the Fa'ax, Ma'am


1.  A.J. Burnett unretired and is a free agent.

2.  At age 37, he would be a "bridge" pitcher for the Mariners, and therefore a gorgeous fit in terms of the 5-year plan.

3.  He is one of the best starters in baseball.*  With a "Big Game" asterisk.  His xFIP last year was #3 in baseball in the second half, to Lee and Kershaw.  

4.  He is a two-pitch righty.  SSI therefore loves him, since he is a walking refutation of baseball dogma.

5.  His grounder percentage, the last two years, is 56-57% ... much higher than Felix Hernandez' at 51%.  Only the famous scuffballer ;- ) Justin Masterson is higher than Burnett on GB percentage.  (So, you could play Corey Hart in right.  And DaddyO in center. Burnett increases the value of Hart and LoMo.)

6.  Last year, Burnett fanned 10 batters per nine inings.  That is, 9.89, which is 10.

6a.  Leading the league in both GB and K, simultaneously ... that's like losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time.  It's an urban myth.

7.  Last year, Fangraphs was completely mystified as to why Pirates fans wouldn't want Burnett starting in the playoffs.


Light Bulbs You Won't Get Anyplace Else, Sir

7a.  Bill James gives A.J. Burnett as the 5th-WORST Big Game pitcher who ever lived.  (Burnett also completely imploded when he tried to be a Yankee.  It was ugly, guys.  The fans were horrible after his cake-outs, and it took him some time after leaving to recover.)

8.  With this particular roster, I don't care whether Burnett is a "gamer" or not.  Do. Not. Care.

8a.  Big Game performance is relative.  Burnett doesn't lose every Big Game.  

8b.  So the knock on Burnett, that he's not a "gamer" ... in this case, you've got a very creative Moneyball situation:  buy the wussy as a glamor support player.  East Coast contenders are liable to offer "soft" on Burnett because of the Yankee thing.  Good, good, good.

Compare the whole situation to that of re-acquiring a healthy Erik Bedard.  You just want those great innings in June, July, and August.  (Although Erik Bedard was a "gamer."  We're talking about SP Ferraris.)

9.  James' data is pasted below.  Funny that Javier Vazquez is in there; he is my Poster Boy for great performance when it doesn't matter.  Burnett is the modern Vazquez.

10.  I liked Javier Vazquez.  You don't need every player to be the captain, now do you?

11.  Seattle is a great, great place for the ... um ... "sensitive" athlete.Here's your second go at the Erik Bedard "SP Ferrari", this time healthy.


The Mariners just signed a TV deal that gives them $115M a year -- in regional TV money alone.  You grab Burnett and Rodney on short-term deals, NO long-term risk, and you put together a real contender to put on those TV shows.  

What's the excuse this time?



Dr D


5.  The Ten Worst Big-Game Pitchers in the Data

                So, these are the guys to whom I may owe an apology the next time I write about this, if additional research undermines what I now believe:

10.   Danny Jackson.     I always liked Danny Jackson.   He was a favorite of mine to watch, but. …32 career starts in Big Games.   7 wins, 15 losses, 4.86 ERA.

9.   Ron Villone.   A long-term reliever, made 93 major league starts between 1999 and 2004.   In Big Games he was 4-11, 5.58 ERA. 

8.  Ed Whitson.    I kind of hate to pick on Ed Whitson, because he is such a media target, anyway.   45 career starts in Big Games, which is a lot, but only 8 wins, 15 losses.  

7.  Armando Reynoso, 1991-2002.    Twenty starts in Big Games, 4 wins, 10 losses, 6.10 ERA.  

6.  Julian Tavarez.    Red Sox fans remember him as the kind of goofy guy who would roll the ball to first base to for a 1-3 putout.    The great thing about him was that he was always willing and able to take the mound.    But unfortunately he had an 8.38 ERA in 10 starts in Big Games—the worst of any pitcher in the data who made ten or more starts.  

5.  A. J. Burnett.    Career record of 147-132.   In Big Games, 15-21, 4.61 ERA.  

4.   Jerry Garvin.    Garvin, expansion pitcher in the 1970s, made only 65 starts in his career, which we could sort into the 35 biggest starts of HIS career. … not 35 Big Starts, but 35 that were bigger in relative terms. . .and the other 30 starts.    In the "other" 30 starts he was not too bad; he was 12-9.    But in the "Big" 35 starts, which would be mostly the games in which he was pitching against a good team, he was 2-22 with a 5.05 ERA.  

3.  Shawn Estes.   8-10 in Big Games, but with a 5.52 ERA. ..the worst of any pitcher with 25 or more starts..  

2.  Javier Vazquez.   Vazquez was around for a long time and always had Bert Blyleven’s problem, only worse.  .Bert Blyleven’s problem being that his won-lost record lagged far behind his strikeout/walk ratio.  Overall, Vazquez had a winning record (165-160).  In Big Games, he was 9-20, 5.06 ERA.   This will not come as a shock to Yankee fans.

1.  Frank Tanana.    Tanana was a power-pitching phenomenon in the late 1970s who morphed into a semi-cagey veteran who stayed in the majors for 21 years, winning 240 games but losing almost as many.

                In 1987, with the Tigers in a red-hot pennant race, Tanana pitched three brilliant games at the end of the year, giving up only one run in 24 innings.   That was some big-time clutch pitching, but unfortunately, Tanana had also been pounded in every one of his previous eight starts, giving up 35 runs in 33 innings.   His career record in Big Games:   35 starts, 5 wins, 19 losses, 4.04 ERA.




GLS's picture

Well, if it's a 1-year deal, you'd think the Mariners would go after it hard. Tack an extra 2 million on top of the offer. A one year deal makes it easier to do that sort of thing. If the wife doesn't like flying, move her out here for the season.
This is so frustrating. Do the Mariners not see the same things we do?

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