My esteemed BSR colleague, podcast co-host and vodka soaked gummy bear eating good pal Patrick Guthrie has been trying to talk me off the ledge about the Orioles for the past couple weeks. A Mets fan has been trying to encourage me — A METS FAN.
As disastrous as this offseason has been for the Orioles, Pat still thinks there’s hope in 2014. One of his chief arguments is that he believes A.J. Burnett could slot in well to the Orioles rotation. “The more I look at the numbers the more I like Burnett,” he’s told me.
Burnett and Bronson Arroyo are the two most realistic targets for the O’s this winter. I can see them signing either. I don’t however expect to witness Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana donning the cartoon bird cap in 2014. Blame it on a cheap owner. Blame it on a lack of funds. Blame it on draft pick compensation.
Blame it on the goose.
Got you feeling loose.
Blame it on Patron.
Got you in the zone.
Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol.
Terrible and outdated Jamie Foxx rap lyrics aside, I think we can all agree that the O’s are more comfortable signing a veteran to a smaller deal than they are handing out big money to the arms currently available on the market.
Up to this point, I’ve been hesitant to agree with Patrick due to Burnett’s age (he turns 37 in tomorrow), his willingness to commit to playing (he still hasn’t said if he’s retiring) and how his stuff will translate back in the AL East. Those numbers that Patrick keeps referring to though, well those are pretty encouraging.
Those are A.J. Burnett’s numbers over 16 starts between July and September. I include the outrageous .339 BABIP to point out the terrible luck Burnett was forced to endure over these 100+ innings pitched.
Burnett posted a 3.56 ERA in the 91 innings pitched in the second half of the 2013 season. Opponents recorded a .340 BABIP against him over that span. In 100 innings pitched in the first half he posted a 3.06 ERA and .270 BABIP against.
First half FIP: 3.24 (3.11 xFIP)
Second half FIP: 2.32 (2.70 xFIP)
Noticing the trend? Burnett got better as 2013 progressed, but his numbers didn’t quite highlight just how much he improved.
Keeping the ball on the ground is a must in Camden Yards. It’s part of the reason I wasn’t a big Grant Balfour guy.
When Burnett fled from New York, his pitching style changed. He went from being a 1.52 GB/FB pitching in 2011 to 2.35 in 2012. 56.5 percent of balls in play were ground balls in 2013, up from 49.2 percent in 2011 with the Yankees and 44.9 percent in 2010.
Burnett produces these groundballs with a sinker that he threw 12.2 percent of the time in 2013 (13.3 percent in 2012). He began using the pitch heavily in 2010 (22.5 percent), but backed off of it during his final season with the Yankees.
Additionally, Burnett became more of strikeout pitcher in 2013 than he had over his prior 14 years of big league experience. His 9.8 K/9 is a career high, nearly two strikeouts more than the 8.0 mark he posted a season prior.
3.12 K/BB? That’s a career high too.
His 26.1 K% was up from 21.2% last season and was his highest big league mark since 2002 (24.1% with the Marlins).
Guthrie might be on to something after all.
There’s still an affordable starter out there for the taking. A guy who happens to reside in Monkton, who told Hanley Ramirez to sit the f— down (GIF below), who transformed his game with the Pirates and could not only provide stability to a poor rotation in Baltimore, but also a veteran locker room presence for guys like Kevin Gausman (and eventually Dylan Bundy).