With the troubles that the Yankees have at the back of their rotation, A.J. Burnett has become a key figure in the Yankees’ pitching plans. He is currently slated to be the #3 starter, meaning that another season like the one he had in 2010 (186.2 IP, 5.26 ERA, 4.83 FIP) would make it difficult for the Yankees to mount a playoff charge. It is important to note that 2010 was his worst season, and that all of the projection systems currently available have him bouncing back to some degree in 2010:
CAIRO: 187 IP, 4.77 ERA, 4.50 FIP
Bill James: 191 IP, 4.01 ERA, 4.05 FIP
Marcel: 174 IP, 4.53 ERA, 4.30 FIP
Fans: 181 IP, 4.46 ERA, 4.33 FIP
PECOTA: 186.2 IP, 4.56 ERA
These projections take age and natural decline into account, and the rebound that you see in these statistics blend the fact that 2010 was an anomaly for Burnett with the fact that he is aging and cannot be expected to return entirely to pre-2010 levels. The projections range from 174 to 191 innings pitched, and from an ERA of 4.01 to 4.77. Regarding the ERA, Bill James tends to be optimistic, and I think the generally accepted projection would fit somewhere in the 4.50 range.
These statistics would be a nice improvement over 2010, but I am certain that the Yankees are hoping for more from their #3 starter. The question is whether this hope is reasonable. Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi, and Burnett himself have all insinuated that he had some issues last season that were effecting his mindset, and have suggested that he is once again mentally prepared to pitch effectively. I am uncertain about what to do with this information due to its vague nature, and I leave it up to you to decide whether you are willing to put any stock in it. I do not think it would be realistic to expect much more than the projected numbers listed above, which would certainly be an improvement but may not be enough to convince Brian Cashman that he does not need to acquire another top/middle of the rotation starter.
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