Is A.J. Burnett Due for a Crash?

Jun 11, 2011


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A.J. Burnett sits at 6-4 with a 4.37 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, and 60 strikeouts in 80-1/3 innings. He got bombed by the Red Sox (5-2/3 innings, seven earned runs) the last time out. Was that a bump in the road or a sign that things are about to sour for the enigmatic pitcher?
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He got off to a great start last year going 3-0 with a 2.43 in April and 3-2 with a 4.03 ERA in May. He nosedived in June going 0-5 with a 11.35 ERA. So far this year A.J. was 4-1 in April with a 3.93 ERA, 1-2 in May with a 4.06 ERA, and 1-1 in June with a 6.39 ERA. While the trend is alarming, it’s not a certainty that history will repeat itself.
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Burnett’s BABIP is cause for concern though. He’s among the league leaders with a .242 mark. The past three years his BABIP was .319, .295, and .314. In his 12 seasons before this year he never  had a BABIP below .250 and eight times it was above .280. While it’s possible that he can keep his mark low, he has a pretty lengthy track record that suggests otherwise.
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His strikeout rate continues to decline. At 6.72 K/9 it’s the lowest it has been since 2001. At 34 and with 290 starts and 1850-1/3 innings under his belt that is not uncommon. Veteran pitchers have to find new ways of getting people out or find a new line of work.
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While the signs of regression are there, Burnett is a streaky pitcher. Ride him while he’s on. If you want to sit him when the match-up is not in his favor, that makes sense. He’s not the backbone of your fantasy staff, but he can get the job done on occasion. If he continues to struggle then you’ll obviously want to cut bait.
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