Burnett Underrated?

As we near the trading deadline, there is essentially one good pitcher left on the trade block – A.J. Burnett. Because of his ability to opt out of his contract at years end and their placement in the standings, the Blue Jays are willing to move him if the right offer comes along. But Burnett has always been something of an anomaly, so what is the right offer?

First, we have to know what we expect Burnett to do the rest of the year. For that, we’ll use Sal Baxamusa’s Quick-N-Dirty Marcel spreadsheet, which he made available a couple of weeks ago. Plugging Burnett’s numbers gives us an updated Marcel projection for the rest of the year, and produces the following results for Burnett:

84 IP, 82 H, 34 BB, 80 K, 9 HR, 3.73 ERA.

That’s right – Marcel is so effected by his struggles in the first half of the season that it actually projects him to do better in the second half than he did last year. That should tell you all you need to know about the predictive power of ERA right there.

So, if we do away with the idea that Burnett’s current 4.73 ERA is somehow his new true talent level, we see that Burnett is still quite capable of being a solid addition to a contender’s pitching staff down the stretch run. If he was replacing a guy with a 4.82 ERA projection, the difference between Burnett and that starter would be one full win, and most teams that would be trading for Burnett would be replacing starters even worse than that hypothetical.

A.J. Burnett isn’t Sabathia or Harden, but he’s not chopped liver either. If there’s a team that really wants to make a run at the title and needs a starter, they’d be wise to overlook Burnett’s reputation and pay for his expected performance.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


4 Responses to “Burnett Underrated?”

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  1. salb918 says:

    Hi Dave, thanks for using the Marcel utility. Just a head’s up, the “projected” ERA is actually an FIP using the projected K, BB, and HR rates. I agree that Burnett would be a solid addition for a team making a run at things.

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  2. Chris says:

    I will now direct you to my post a month and a half ago… *shameless plug*

    http://www.fangraphs.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2961

    Burnett got unlucky. He’s legit and all those people that say he isn’t any good because he loses 2-1 games are out of their minds.

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  3. dan says:

    Teams know that Burnett is better than his 4.73 ERA, and I’m sure they also think he’ll have a sub-4 ERA from here on out. However, what scares them is the contract. He is owed between 3.5 and 4 million for the rest of the season, which any team would gladly take on. But if he’s good in the last two months, he can opt out and cash in somewhere else. If he gets hurt or starts sucking (getting hurt is more likely), then you have him for the next 2 years.

    Burnett is very, very good. But he just can’t stay healthy. He hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2005, and starters are expensive enough while they’re healthy and pitching.

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  4. Yakker says:

    On the Baltimore broadcast a few nights ago, I actually heard Gary Thorne say (quite definitively) that he’d rather have Carlos Silva than A.J. Burnett.

    Now, I’ve heard broadcasters say some pretty dumb things through the years, but Wow. Just Wow.

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