Somewhat lost amidst the Yankees' daily scheduled pounding by the Rangers last night was that A.J. Burnett was one pitch away from throwing a surprising gem of an outing and possibly redeeming himself in the eyes of the team and the fanbase. As it was, I'd imagine most people can look at the start and understand that Burnett still pitched more than well enough to keep his team in the game, and that Joe Girardi's overconfidence in his man essentially led to Burnett's less-than-desirable final statline of 6 IP, 5 ER. Granted, even though Joe foolishly intentionally walked David Murphy to put the tying run on base, A.J. still really needs to not serve up a cookie to Bengie Molina, but A.J. shouldn't have still been in the game.
Per Brooks, here's a breadown of what A.J. threw:
While he wasn't dominant, Burnett did pick up seven swinging strikes, which isn't awful. He also had a surprisingly healthy ball-strike ratio, at least for A.J. Burnett, with 62 of his 99 pitches thrown for strikes. As he did all season long, Burnett relied heavily on his four-seamer and curve, only it looked like both pitches had more bite than they'd had in quite some time, with the fastball topping out at 96mph and the knuckle curve generating five of the seven swinging strikes.
While I'm a novice at analyzing the horizontal and vertical breaks of pitches, based on the data it looks like A.J. had a bit more command of his curve last night than he did in his last start against the Sox on October 2, with an avg. vertical break of -5.44 compared to -8.48 two weeks ago. This is also backed up by the fact that Burnett threw the curve for strikes 67% of the time last night compared to just 35% against the Sox. When you're Adam Wainwright and you've got a 17mph gap between your sinker and curve, clearly you can be dominant with a -8.68 avg. vertical break (with an avg. horizontal break of 7.73), but Burnett is obviously no Wainwright.
Here's A.J.'s strike zone plot, again courtesy of Brooks:
As usual, most of Burnett's swinging strikes came on pitches outside of the zone. Unfortunately he lived a bit too close to the middle of the zone in this one; the death knell of course being the 92mph fastball right down the pike to Molina.
Despite working in an out of trouble for a lot of this game, I think Yankee fans can still take some solace in this outing by Burnett. It was far from legendary, but the fact that he was one out away from delivering six innings of two-run ball is nothing to sneeze at, and if not for a questionable move by Girardi, we might all be gushing about Burnett's gutty performance and how he was able to pitch the Yankees back into the series.