I’m Here All Year – Try the Veal!
Ah, 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.
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:
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?