Fantasy fallout: A.J. Burnett signs with Yankees

The Yankees get one step closer to a super rotation with the signing of A.J. Burnett. Is it a good move for his fantasy value, though? (Icon/SMI)

Just days after inking C.C. Sabathia to a record-breaking contract, the Yankees inched one step closer to forming a super rotation by signing A.J. Burnett to a five-year, $82.5 million deal earlier this evening. Let’s take a look at how this affects Burnett’s value as well as some players who are indirectly affected.

Fallout: Burnett

For sections that are divided, the left section shows his numbers with the Jays and the right shows his numbers translated to the Yankees.
Suggestions for improving the clarity of these tables are welcome.

| YEAR | IP    | ERA  | QERA      | K/9       | K/BB RI | xGB%  | BABIP     | HR/FB     |
| 2006 | 135.7 | 3.98 | 3.69/3.77 | 7.8 / 7.6 | .48/.44 | 51/49 | .317/.302 | 11.8/11.2 |
| 2007 | 165.7 | 3.75 | 3.43/3.50 | 9.6 / 9.3 | .72/.68 | 52/50 | .262/.253 | 17.7/16.6 |
| 2008 | 221.3 | 4.07 | 3.60/3.67 | 9.4 / 9.2 | .64/.60 | 49/47 | .321/.304 |  9.6/ 9.1 |

Note: I use QERA as opposed to the usual LIPS ERA because it is much easier to compute and is similar enough to LIPS for our general purposes.

The first thing we notice about Burnett is that, in all three years he was with Toronto, his actual ERA far exceeded his QERA. This can mostly be attributed to his BABIP in 2006 and 2008 and to his HR/FB in 2007. Toronto’s Rogers Centre is one of the easiest parks to hit home runs in, inflating them by nearly 20 percent. Yankee Stadium inflates them by about three percent, but that is still a huge drop that figures to really help Burnett. In addition, while Toronto is generally pretty neutral in terms of BABIP, Yankee stadium deflates BABIP, which should also help Burnett.

If we take a rough weighted average of Burnett’s “Yankee totals” for the past three years, we arrive at a .286 BABIP and 10.6 percent HR/FB. Both are a good deal better than league average and are great news for Burnett and his fantasy owners. We do need to take defense into account, though, which is a pretty big downgrade. The Jays posted a 2.6 UZR/150 last year while the Yankees came in at -5.2 (third worst in baseball).

This will likely improve a bit with Bobby Abreu leaving (-25.9 UZR/150 last year!) and with a Mike Cameron acquisition looking pretty likely. So while we’d need to crank Burnett’s BABIP up a little bit, the Yanks defense doesn’t figure to be as bad as it was last year.

Taking this into account, Burnett’s BABIP should be league average at worst (assuming neutral luck), and combining it with the nice HR/FB may actually reverse his current trend and allow him to post a lower ERA than his QERA or LIPS ERA will indicate.

Yankee Stadium will cause that QERA and LIPS ERA to be slightly higher than it would be in Toronto (thanks to small decreases in Ks and GBs and small increases in BBs), but all told, Burnett should be able to post an ERA between 3.50 and 3.60, a WHIP between 1.20 and 1.25, and strike out 195 batters or so (given 200 innings). Plus, the Yankees’ offense should allow him to approach 15 wins.

Looking at things from an opportunity cost perspective, Burnett’s fantasy value would definitely have been higher had he signed with the Braves or another NL team, but those are still numbers that will be plenty valuable.

Fallout: Starting pitcher market

After the signing of C.C. Sabathia, we received mixed signals on the Yankees’ plans. Some writers said that they could only sign one of Burnett or Derek Lowe plus either Ben Sheets or Andy Pettitte. Others have said that they would be able to sign both. It’s very tough to get a read on the situation, though Jayson Stark’s report that they’d be able to sign both is the latest I’ve heard.

If the Yanks don’t sign Lowe, that likely increases his value as the Red Sox and Phillies (and possibly the Mets) become the most likely suitors. While the Yanks would be preferable to the Sox, that would make the AL-to-NL ratio 1:1 (1:2 if the Mets get back into the mix) as opposed to 2:1 with the Yanks involved.

Furthermore, if the Yanks don’t sign Lowe, that decreases the value of Ben Sheets, who could become their next target (although they do seem to have an outstanding offer to Andy Pettitte). Sheets has seen a big drop in strikeout rate over the past two seasons, and a move to the AL could send it all the way into the low 6.00s and his ERA above 4.00. I could definitely see the Braves (who have said they’re not interested in Lowe) getting in on Sheets now that Burnett is out of the picture, which would be far better for him than any AL team.

If the Yankees do sign Lowe, Sheets’s value goes up for the time being, as does Pettitte’s. Retirement might be a possibility, but he could also go to a team like the Astros or Dodgers, both of which would be better for him than the Yankees.

Fallout: Yankee rotation

Be sure to keep a close on eye this situation if your a keeper league owner of Joba Chamberlain as there is an outside chance his value plummets. The Yankees rotation currently looks like this:

  1. C.C. Sabathia
  2. A.J. Burnett
  3. Chien-Ming Wang
  4. Joba Chamberlain
  5. Phil Hughes

What happens to Joba if the Yanks sign Lowe and then bring fan-favorite Pettitte back? That shoves Joba back into the bullpen. It’s definitely not the most likely scenario, but I certainly think there is a non-zero chance of it happening. Just something to keep in the back of your mind. As you also may have surmised, things aren’t looking so good for Phil Hughes’s value.

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Derek Carty
Derek Carty
Hey guys, One question that I’ve received numerous times over the past couple of days goes something like this: “You mention using park factors from Yankee Stadium, but the Yankees will be entering a new park in 2009?” That’s something I meant to make note of in the article.  I was talking about the old park, but because the New Yankee stadium has similar dimensions and will experience similar weather, the old figures serve as a rough approximation. The one thing I worry about is the orientation of the stadium.  If it is oriented differently, the wind would have a… Read more »