Up next in our Pinch Hitters series is Delia Enriquez, who describes herself as “a Yankees fan since the early days of Derek Jeter.” She’s currently working as managing editor for the blog Yankees Fans Unite and you can find her on Twitter using the name @dfiregirl4.
For her post, Enriquez took a stance I didn’t expect from anyone: She wrote a post in defense of the Yankees most controversial starting pitcher.
If you say his name during the regular season, you’ll get an in-depth conversation on where he should pitch in the rotation, how his curveball can be effective, or why we even have him in the first place.
If you mention A.J Burnett’s name during the off-season, you’ll get the many reasons he should be traded to a different team.
During the Winter Meetings, it was reported that the Yankees would shop Burnett but only eat $8 million of the $33 million on his contract. Fans took to Twitter and Facebook agreeing that Burnett needed to go.
I know that this is an unpopular opinion, but I do not feel that the Yankees should trade Burnett. To back up my opinion, I have decided to compile a list as to why the Yankees shouldn’t trade Burnett based on opinion, observation and mathematics:
1. A.J Isn’t Pitching as Bad as We Think: Every now and then a pitcher will have a rough patch (or a rough month) where nothing will go right. Sometimes as fans we forget that Burnett is human, and he normally makes mistakes and gets frustrated. Looking at his last few seasons with the Yankees, Burnett has had a rough patch in June (2010) & August (2011). Basically fans scrutinize Burnett based on an inflated ERA, but hypothetically if Burnett didn’t pitch in August, how much different would his ERA have been? I decided to calculate Burnett’s ERA in 2011. If I had excluded August (when he had an 11 + ERA) my findings would show that Burnett would have had a 4.24 ERA for the whole season versus the 5.15 ERA he finished the season with. The difference that one month makes, huh?
2. Burnett Comes Through In Dire Situations: When the Yankees need help, Burnett seems to come through. During the 2009 World Series, Burnett played a big part. His ERA may not have been sparkling, but going 1-1 vs. the Phillies really helped. We also cannot forget the Game 4 ALDS series vs. the Tigers in which A.J saved us from elimination for the time being. At first it looked like A.J was going to send us home early, but he quickly got his act together and dominated the Tigers. Burnett may make mistakes, but he sure knows when to pick up his game when he has to.
3. Larry Rothschild: In the 2010 offseason, the Yankees hired pitching coach Larry Rothschild after firing Dave Eiland. I figured that Rothschild would be just the person to help A.J out. In 2011, A.J’s numbers improved slightly and to me it felt as if Burnett had a bit more confidence in his pitches. He wasn’t as afraid to go to his curveball and it proved to be an effective move for him as he racked up 173 K’s versus the 143 K’s he had in 2010. If Burnett and Rothschild can work together again in 2012, I believe it would be a good thing for A.J and a good thing for the team. Plus, maybe Rothschild can help Burnett figure out how not to throw 100 pitches before the 5th inning.
4. The Yankees Hate Facing Him: We all remember the reason why the Yankees acquired Burnett, right? It wasn’t just because he had a good record or that he was a strikeout machine. It was because the Yankees hate to face him. When the Yankees faced Burnett as a Marlin or a Blue Jay, the Yankees could never seem to figure him out. I bet if A.J pitched a simulated game versus his teammates, they wouldn’t be able to hit him. If the Yankees let go of Burnett, especially to an AL East team, then the Yankees would have to face him all the time, which is what they are trying to avoid. Let’s face it;, A.J Burnett would still haunt them even if he wasn’t on the team.
Burnett may not be the best pitcher in the league, but he knows what he’s doing. He’s a very hard worker and it shows when he is on the mound (even if he gets frustrated sometimes). When you look at the proverbial glass, I see it as half full because Burnett has so much to offer to this ball club. He just needs a chance to prove what he’s worth.
Associated Press photo