No, there’s been nothing to my knowledge that suggest this is a possibility, but I think it’s in the back of our minds. During the top of the 7th in last night’s game, friend of the blog Lucas Apostoleris had a suggestion:
You know what? I’m done with A.J. Burnett. Put him in the bullpen.
His next tweet:
I don’t want to hear the “he’s too unpredictable for the bullpen” argument. It’s not so random; he just loses steam throughout the game.
That, of course, sent me to A.J’s splits page to see if there was any truth to what Lucas said. And, not shockingly, there was something to it.
In innings 1-3, 69.0 innings going into last night, Burnett held batters to a .206/.292/.366/.658 line. His ERA in the opening innings has been 3.00 with a 4.08 FIP.
In innings 4-6, 62.0 innings going into last night, Burnett allowed a line of .276/.354/.488/.842. His ERA? 5.81. FIP? 5.07.
Innings 7-9, only 11.2 going into last night, saw Burnett surrendering a .234/.339/.468 line. The OBP and SLG aren’t pretty, but these innings are so few that they’re not horribly important. For the record, his ERA in this time has been 6.94 and his FIP has been 6.68.
The numbers seem to point to putting A.J. Burnett into the bullpen. In 2011, he’s simply gotten less effective as the games have gone on and we saw that last night. But, we’ve got to remember that removing Burnett from the rotation isn’t an instant fix for him or the rotation. As we like to say, pitchers are creatures of habit and Burnett hasn’t thrown out of the bullpen since 2004. And while it’s likely that his already electric stuff could play up in a relief role, his control problems could be a hindrance.
We should also take note that there is no clear cut upgrade to Burnett to take his starting spot. Phil Hughes looked awesome last time out against Chicago, but that’s basically the only good thing we’ve seen out of Hughes this year. Are any of the minor league options going to be anything all that great? Probably not. The only thing I could see is if the Yankees shift Burnett to the bullpen, let Hughes take his spot, option Hector Noesi to the minors and stretch him out to start in case Hughes reverts back to his early season form.
I wouldn’t count on this happening, but it might make some sense. One thing is for sure, though, if Burnett does continue to start and keeps up the act he’s put on for 2011, he won’t be in the playoff rotation.
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