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Just The Sports: Burnett's Second Year

Just The Sports

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Burnett's Second Year

When Toronto Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi rationalized the signing of oft-injured A.J. Burnett to a five-year, $55 million contract by saying that he was not paying the money based on only the first year of the deal but on all five years of the contract, he was technically correct. Even though the likelihood of Burnett pitching 200 regular season innings for the Blue Jays is infinitesimal, the possibility Burnett pays back the Blue Jays in $55 million worth of production is remains as long as the contract is still valid.

Of course, one would hope that Burnett would be able to provide an improved second season in Toronto to make his case stronger that he is worth his money and on the day of Burnett's annual stint on the disabled list, this time for a shoulder injury, we are all provided with a perfect break in his season during which we can compare the pitching statistics he compiled last year to the ones he has for this season.

Not desiring to lead the reader astray, it is worth nothing that Burnett actually had one of his best years last season, control-wise. His K/BB ratio of 3.03 was the best it had ever been during his career, which is made even more impressive by the fact he did that in the American League East, home to two of the most discriminate hitting teams in the major leagues in the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

Unfortunately for Burnett, he has been unable to maintain his K/BB ratio and it has dropped 2.50. At the same time, Burnett's home run rate (HR/9 IP) has risen from the 0.93 mark it was last year to this year's 1.30 level so of the three aspects of baseball the pitcher has full control over (walks, strikeouts, and home runs), Burnett is doing worse in his second season as a Blue Jay. This has resulted in his fielding-independent ERA increasing from 3.84 in 2006 to 4.45 this season.

As his statistics look now, it appears that Burnett was only able to master control of the strike zone for one season and that the Blue Jays will probably not get better production out of him than they got in the first year of his contract, rendering Ricciardi's rationalization moot.

However, in this day and age, maybe $11 million a year will only get you an A.J. Burnett.



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