A.J. Finds One Pitch Too Many
A.J. Burnett was clearly a different pitcher last night, and if not for an absolute clanker of a play by Eckstein (you knew the whole “we paid 2 million dollars for the best defensive replacement in the league but aren’t going to play him because that might show up Eckstein” ridiculousness was going to come up eventually, but in such dramatic fashion??), you’d probably be hearing nothing but how the Jays are ready to turn things around now that he’s found his curveball and we have at least one player who can hit with RISP. Anyway, here’s what pitch f/x says about his latest outing:
Pretty standard stuff, really. Burnett had his curveball both curving and dropping for the first time this season. He also had very good definition between his 2-seamer and 4-seam fastball, which is another sign he’s going to have a good day. Only one changeup, but he also mixed in his cut fastball-
Wait a second. A.J. Burnett does not have a cut fastball. A.J. Burnett has never thrown a cut fastball in his life, (let alone all of 2007). Something’s got to be wrong here. *Rustles through papers*.
Nope, that’s a textbook cutter. At 84-85 mph it’s not his curve, and it sure isn’t his normal heater. It moves the wrong way to be a changeup. But ok, I guess he never really felt comfortable with his changeup but still wants to add something different to his arsenal so he was mixing it in throughout the game…*Rustles through papers*
Oh, lord. I’m just going to blurt it out. After throwing his first cut fastball of his life in the 6th inning, A.J. Burnett decided it was time to experiment with it in the 8th after the Jays took a two run lead with a thrilling 3-run rally for the first time in ages. The first one he threw (2nd lifetime), Alex Gordon popped up, even though it was a terrible pitch right down the middle.
Then with a runner on first, Burnett started Mark Teahen with another cutter (3rd lifetime) way inside, falling behind in the count. Then he bounced a curveball in the dirt and missed with a fastball to get to 3-0, and threw threw another cutter for a strike (4th lifetime). Finally, with the count 3-2, in probably the most crucial moment of his otherwise-brilliant game so far, Burnett threw his last cutter (5th lifetime). It that was not even close to the strike zone and walked the tying run on board.
I actually chuckled when I heard Fletch call that 3-2 pitch a cutter, but it doesn’t sound so funny now. Get down on Eckstein all you want for want, but at least he just blew the play in incredibly obvious fashion. Burnett started the Kansas rally with an unbelievable series of bonehead moves, getting cute with a pitch he obviously has neither enough experience with or the feel for.
While I hate, hate, people who just mindless roll off A.J.’s W-L record as some kind of proof of his eternal mediocrity, if there’s a way to be less effective than your numbers would otherwise indicate, it’s messing around in high-leverage situations. Not since Ted Lilly throwing sidearm to give away a 7 run lead has something so unprofessional happened on the mound for the Blue Jays, and we didn’t even get a rumble out of this one. And I’m not even sure anyone noticed but an old catcher and your friendly neighborhood pitch geek.