The Mockingbird

I’m Here All Year – Try the Veal!

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burnett_aj.jpgAh, the sounds of spring! The crack of the bat, the smack of the rawhide against fresh leather…and the comedy stylings of A.J. Burnett. You remember last year, when he entertained us with his “I’m learning a changeup so I’m not a 2-pitch pitcher” routine? Or his “learning from Halladay how to get quick outs instead of trying to strike everyone out” classic? Well, he’s back! And testing out his new material on Jeff Blair:

“I learned then I didn’t have to go balls out all the time — that it was okay to pitch 94, 95 [miles an hour] instead of trying to hit 100 all the time,” he said. “I felt like I was more of a pitcher. So, I’m going to carry that into this year. I’m 30, but still kind of young in between the ears*.”

*This sentence may be paraphrased.

If you’re that rare breed who prefers empirical data to smartass bluster, here’s what the Pitch FXlinger 2000 has to say about how fast he was throwing in his starts last season.

burnettballs.png

You’ll notice it just completely skips over his injured and “rehab” starts in June, I have no idea why. Maybe it thought that man throwing 92-93 could not possibly be A.J. Burnett. But you get the idea- he didn’t let the foot off the gas pedal for more than a few starts (although incidentally those starts (August 12th, August 27, September 8th) were all 7+ inning, one-run gems…), and otherwise was really firing towards the end of the season. So tell us another one, A.J.!

There’s also the suggestion throughout that article (though not from A.J.’s agent) that Burnett needs to stay healthy and have a good year to score big on the free agent market. I don’t agree. Despite being frustrating and “always” on the DL, Burnett threw 165 ace innings last year! Over the last three years, here’s what he’s averaged, compared to Carlos Silva- who signed a 4-year, 12 million dollar contract this offseason:

Name Innings pitched ERA WHIP
Carlos Silva 190 4.49 1.33
A.J. Burnett 170 4.20 1.25

Now 2006 was probably a blip for Silva, but I don’t think you can call him more “consistent” because of it. And 20 more innings a year? Who cares? Even if you don’t believe that Burnett could pull it all together and be a Cy Young contender some day, he’s still worth more than Silva to a team. If he is seriously injured we’re stuck with him, but as long as A.J. keeps bumbling along like he has over the last three years, he’s going to get a much better offer than the 2 years, 12 million that he would leave on the table by opting out.

Even if it was the same amount of cash per season, there’s the age factor. A.J. has one big contract left in his career. As a pure power pitcher, when would you rather try to convince a team to invest heavily and long-term in you: at the age of 32, or 34? Unless your name is Kevin Brown, it’s just not going to happen. I’m sure I’m not alone in being extremely wary of locking up A.J. through his late thirties because he has shown no ability to re-invent himself (like that other guy we have) and is likely to go poof once his stuff is no longer among the best in the league.

Also interesting in that article was J.P’s comments about future contracts:

“Most of our contracts run through 2010, so I’d probably need direction from ownership to do anything like that.

So it sounds like J.P. is going to have to get special permission to sign anyone beyond 2010 (which is coincidentally the end of his own contract), but he has relatively free rein until then. This is as good a place as any to mention that I think the suggestion (read: media creation) that J.P.’s job is on the line this year is silly. Attendance has been up for five years running (the only other team in the majors that’s true for is the Dodgers) and the team is above .500 in a brutal division on an average payroll.

If you evaluate J.P. based on his ability to live up to this sworn statement that he supposedly made to fans that he could totally rebuild the team then end up leapfrogging the top two spending teams in the league within five years, he’s been a total failure. Rogers is probably much more interested in the fact that he’s managed to turn around a bloated, sinking franchise and put fans back in the seats. The Jays are a much better team than they were in 2001, and for better value (considering inflation). Unless you’ve been grinding your teeth for the last 14 years like most Jays fans, where’s the fire?

hype it up!

Written by halejon

February 16, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Posted in Seriousness

10 Responses

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  1. Oh, I think AJ is definitely gone after this year. He’d be stupid not to, and… well… I guess his agent would have to be stupid not to is more like it. Don’t forget that, too. There’s pressure from Mr. 15% on this kind of stuff.

    What’s more interesting is JP’s comment about contracts and 2010. Remember Keith Law leaving the Jays and almost immediately saying that VW wouldn’t re-sign? This isn’t really new news, but I am almost certain that the ridiculous Wells extension is more of a Paul Godfrey thing than it is from JP. Though I’m sure the Dick Griffins of the world won’t bother to make any distinction.

    stoeten

    February 16, 2008 at 9:35 pm

  2. It would be a slap in the face if he did opt out after this year… but if he finally has a good year it’s hard to imagine a situation where he wouldn’t.

    If one morning he decideds he would rather be in a place he wants to be with people he knows and likes, maybe he’ll stay over a few million more bucks a year? or maybe I don’t understand professional athletes… he’s already got some $25,000,000 in his bank account ($35 million+ after 2008)… whats an extra few million?

    I’ll be around often – arriving here from your feed at my site (http://jayscountry.ca/site-37-bjays.wordpress.com).

    Erik

    Erik

    February 17, 2008 at 6:19 am

  3. Yah, it’s a bad time for the Jays to resign him and a bad time for him to resign him. I think he’s gone barring a disaster. He just can’t take much less if it’s out there for the union, agent, etc, if it’s out there.

    Yes Yes Yes! J.P. was setting us up for years for losing Wells, just like Delgado. That’s the Beane way, let the stars walk no matter what when it’s not right. Then we lost out on Meche and Lilly, and the powers above still wanted to make a splash. Clear as day.

    halejon

    February 17, 2008 at 9:18 am

  4. He might (the Doc sure did) if it’s close, but who knows if he really likes it here, what with JP calling him out in public.

    I don’t think it’s just pro athletes, but the rich in general you’re talking about. There’s no way he has anywhere near 25 mil laying around- with vanishingly few exceptions it’s human nature that once you make way more than you thought you’d ever need you find new things to spend it on and wonder how you got by before. If shaq spends on over 100 grand on vacations a month I’ll bet A.J. spends a million on x-ray glasses or something.

    halejon

    February 17, 2008 at 8:53 pm

  5. It’s just like when you make the last payment on a car; you think “Great, now I’ll have a few hundred more bucks a month”, but you never do.

    The only way Burnett stays is if he is injured for the majority of the year and drops his value below what the option is worth. Even then, I’m not sure that’s possible based on the current market for free agent pitching.

    Marc

    February 19, 2008 at 3:31 am

  6. Yah, I suspect he could get more than 12 mil even if he was injured the first half and then did showed just enough towards the end of the year to get GM’s drooling again. The market is just absurd and getting more so. It might not be in his best interest though because he wouldn’t want to sign long-term at his worst value. But maybe a 1-year deal for 13-14 so he could prove himself…ah, he’s gone. So gone. So so gone.

    halejon

    February 19, 2008 at 3:55 am

  7. Hey, Jonathan, I’m just catching up on your articles, so that’s why this comment is a little late in coming. You say “although incidentally those starts (August 12th, August 27, September 8th)”…did you notice those were also the road starts in that stretch? Toronto’s PITCHf/x system clocked pitches fast by a couple mph last year. Toronto and Seattle. So you have to knock speed numbers from those two parks down a little bit.

    Mike Fast

    March 4, 2008 at 6:37 pm

  8. No, I had no idea…was it just those two parks that were fast? Was it all over the place from one to the next? I had only heard about release point jumping around from park to park.

    I wonder what would cause that- I guess it would have to be taking the release point closer to the pitcher or something. Did someone get the math wrong in calibrating the system?!

    halejon

    March 4, 2008 at 6:58 pm

  9. I would Sportvision/MLBAM have some idea of what caused it, but I’ve not heard anything publicly. I looked through Josh Kalk’s articles on park corrections to the data, and I don’t remember finding anything specifically listing his velocity corrections for the parks, although I’m pretty sure it’s embedded in the data on his site.

    If you look at a list of the 1000 fastest pitches thrown in baseball last year or the 20 hardest-throwing pitchers according to PITCHf/x, both lists will be dominated by Blue Jays and Mariners. If you look at the road data for those same pitchers, they don’t throw as hard in the road games. That’s all I know. I haven’t done a systematic correction to find out if those are in fact the only two outlier parks. Nor do I really know whether it’s a “park” factor that was consistent throughout the whole year or something specific to a smaller time period.

    Mike Fast

    March 4, 2008 at 8:50 pm

  10. Here’s what I get for team by team for Average Home MPH/Average Away MPH/Average MPH Boost At Home:

    ana 87.75 88.20 -0.46
    ari 85.55 85.56 -0.01
    atl 87.62 88.24 -0.62
    bal 87.89 86.88 1.02
    bos 83.34 84.63 -1.29
    cha 87.70 85.88 1.82
    chn 86.32 86.50 -0.18
    cin 85.71 85.51 0.21
    cle 87.70 87.20 0.50
    col 86.79 87.20 -0.41
    det 86.13 88.12 -1.99
    flo 85.67 87.48 -1.81
    hou 86.64 86.72 -0.08
    kca 87.51 87.09 0.42
    lan 87.62 87.80 -0.19
    mil 85.31 86.61 -1.30
    min 88.17 88.63 -0.46
    nya 87.30 87.84 -0.55
    nyn 85.70 85.40 0.29
    oak 85.64 86.30 -0.67
    phi 85.87 86.32 -0.45
    pit 86.68 86.65 0.03
    sdn 87.01 85.44 1.57
    sea 88.44 86.36 2.08
    sfn 85.64 86.04 -0.40
    sln 87.45 87.05 0.40
    tba 88.35 88.12 0.23
    tex 87.10 87.31 -0.21
    tor 87.85 87.48 0.38
    was 83.63 85.43 -1.80

    halejon

    March 4, 2008 at 10:53 pm


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