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Friday, August 05, 2011

Bigger Bust: AJ Burnett or Johan Santana?

Small Candy Samples at play here…

In short, he was exactly the ace the Mets wanted and more. Since then however, Johan has spent parts of 3 seasons on the DL including likely missing the entire 2011 campaign. The Mets aren’t getting anything out of their expensive starter other than a lot of headaches, he’s not putting fans in the seats at Citi Field while he sits on the DL, and they’ve won nothing since he’s been there and are currently a below average major league team (no matter what their record says). So the question begs, who is a bigger bust, AJ Burnett of the Yankees or Johan Santana of the Mets?

...In his first year in the Bronx, AJ went 13-9 but he had an ERA over 4 and led the league in both walks and wild pitches. (NOTE: the “league” refers to the AL. You know, the AL with that guy Tim Wakefield in it. The same Tim Wakefield whose team had to trade for a player it had already traded away a couple of months before because he was the only guy who could catch him.)

...Without a doubt, the Burnett signing has been a disaster. The fans can’t stand him. His stuff is electric and he is capable of dominating which, honestly, makes it even more frustrating. His problems are not physical in the sense that he can’t stay healthy. He’s got a consistently mid-90’s fastball and a slider that Russell Martin and Fransico Cervelli clearly have trouble catching, he just cant get his act together.  He misses spots and walks batters and then comes out 5 days later and does the exact same thing. Maybe if he spent less time at the tattoo parlor and more in the bullpen he’d win every once in a while (yeah, that’s a cheap shot but c’mon, did you see him last night?).

Repoz Posted: August 05, 2011 at 12:50 PM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mets, sabermetrics, yankees

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 05, 2011 at 01:31 PM (#3893292)
a substantial haul of minor league prospects including the now rather successful Carlos Gomez and Phillip Humber

Huh? Humber has been good this season, but it's the first productive season of his career and he's 28. Gomez is ok. And the Mets got ~550 very high quality innings from Santana over the last three years. Hardly a bust so far.
   2. NJ in DC (Now with temporary employment!) Posted: August 05, 2011 at 02:04 PM (#3893303)
He’s got a consistently mid-90’s fastball and a slider that Russell Martin and Fransico Cervelli clearly have trouble catching, he just cant get his act together.

...Right.
   3. Mark S. is bored Posted: August 05, 2011 at 02:06 PM (#3893304)
a substantial haul of minor league prospects including the now rather successful Carlos Gomez and Phillip Humber

Huh? Humber has been good this season, but it's the first productive season of his career and he's 28. Gomez is ok. And the Mets got ~550 very high quality innings from Santana over the last three years. Hardly a bust so far.


Including this year, Humber has given 160 innings at the MLB level with a ERA+ of 107 with 117 of those innings coming this year (with a 120 ERA+). And Humber's on his 3rd team post Mets (Min, KC, White Sox).

Gomez had a OPS+ of 77 his first year in Minn and that's arguably his best MLB season.

As a better comparison, since the trade: Santana 14.4 WAR, Humber 2.7 WAR and Gomez with 3.8 WAR. And that's with Santana not even pitching this year.
   4. BDC Posted: August 05, 2011 at 02:15 PM (#3893307)
I don't quite understand the comparison (and as the author is working through it in TFA, he acknowledges the oddness of it). Santana was great going into his Mets contract, and for the Mets has been excellent though oft-injured; injuries are a risk to long-contract free-agent pitchers, so you might as well sign a great one if you're going to take such risks. Burnett was decent going into his Yankees contract, and for the Yankees has been anywhere from mediocre to simply bad. I suppose you could set up a calculus of expectations versus payoff and bring them both into alignment on the scale, but as TFA itself notes, that's difficult to do. If Santana is popular in Flushing while Burnett is reviled in the Bronx, that's because fans don't tend to blame great pitchers for arm problems, even if they're taking the team's money to sit around while recuperating. But Burnett was never all that great to begin with, and fans (perhaps unjustly) do tend to blame overpaid players for simply sucking.
   5. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 05, 2011 at 02:17 PM (#3893308)
Santana is clearly the better contract, up to now. To me, this is simply an opportunity to ##### about two unrelated things:

1) How frustrating it is to watch Burnett pitch (he should watch Matsuzaka!)
2) How much the Mets suck.
   6. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 05, 2011 at 02:34 PM (#3893324)
Including this year, Humber has given 160 innings at the MLB level with a ERA+ of 107 with 117 of those innings coming this year (with a 120 ERA+). And Humber's on his 3rd team post Mets (Min, KC, White Sox).


.256 BABIP this year, .275 for his career.

He left his fastball in the OR,
In the minors his BABIP was on the high side, the only thing I can think of is that MLB batters just don't see guys with stuff as bad as Humber's so they are confused,

He has kept his walks down and not allowed HRs...

Looking at his numbers both MLB and minors, he looks like a guy who KNOWS how to pitch, but having seen him pitch up close- he just doesn't have the stuff- pity- if he'd kept the stuff he'd had in college he'd be an ace...
   7. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: August 05, 2011 at 03:00 PM (#3893347)
But Burnett was never all that great to begin with, and fans (perhaps unjustly) do tend to blame overpaid players for simply sucking.
I will say (and maybe I'm the exception here) that Burnett's contract has surprised me. Prior to his Yankee days--and really, prior to 2010--effectiveness was never AJ's problem as much as health. Through 2009, his career ERA+ was 112 which isn't great but is pretty solid. But he had only averaged 144 IP in those seasons. With the Yankees, Burnett has been healthy (he only needs 64 more innings this year to average 200 for the first three years of the deal) but ineffective. It's an odd thing.
   8. Banta Posted: August 05, 2011 at 03:09 PM (#3893352)
So Santana has SHOULDER FATIGUE. Damn boy, you haven't thrown in a year and you're already tired?

I think you can basically scratch him off your dance card for this season.

And as for Burnett, it's funny what walks do for a perception. His Yankee ERA+ is 96... which isn't great, but his contract doesn't seem to be a disaster. But, and I don't know it since I don't really watch him pitch, his walk rate is 4 per 9 with the Yankees... when you get to that level, pitching becomes a lot like dental work, if it's overall adequate. You need to be getting better results in order to stop people from wanting to send you out the airlock.
   9. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: August 05, 2011 at 03:15 PM (#3893358)
I will say (and maybe I'm the exception here) that Burnett's contract has surprised me. Prior to his Yankee days--and really, prior to 2010--effectiveness was never AJ's problem as much as health. Through 2009, his career ERA+ was 112 which isn't great but is pretty solid. But he had only averaged 144 IP in those seasons. With the Yankees, Burnett has been healthy (he only needs 64 more innings this year to average 200 for the first three years of the deal) but ineffective. It's an odd thing.


He was 32 the first year of the deal. There has always been this perception of Burnett as a guy who was going to figure it out at some point and that was the narrative in a lot of places when the Yankees signed him. The reality was he was a 32 year old pitcher with over 200 starts the day he signed the deal, any expectation that he would break out was misguided. He's regressed more than I expected and I think RB had similar expectations to mine for the deal but being frustrated that Burnett can't "put it all together" is on the writer, not on Burnett.

Just to put a little perspective on it because the two are often compared. When the Burnett signed with the Yankees he was older at that time than Josh Beckett is now. It wasn't like the Yanks got some 27-28 year old possible late bloomer.
   10. PreservedFish Posted: August 05, 2011 at 03:41 PM (#3893383)
I feel like this is a pattern we've seen before. You have a pitcher with good potential and poor health and you say: "One of two things will happen. Either he'll be healthy and awesome or he'll be injured and not help at all." But then the other thing happens. He's healthy and crappy.
   11. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: August 05, 2011 at 03:42 PM (#3893384)
Put another way, if you had told asked me to estimate which was more likely, Burnett having an ERA+ over 100 during his first three seasons or Burnett averaging 190-200 IP those years, I would have taken the first one without a moment's hesitation.

As it relates to #10, really? Obviously it has happened before, but I don't feel like pitchers--espcailly as they age--tend to get healthier, although they do generally get less effective. I can't, off the top of my head, think of a lot of cases like that. I suppose Lackey is sort-of one, although he had a decent health record and has been hurt some in Boston.
   12. ecwcat Posted: August 05, 2011 at 03:46 PM (#3893387)
Johan Santana has better WAR and Quality Start totals, and better stats all the way down the line.
   13. Dan Posted: August 05, 2011 at 07:53 PM (#3893556)
This is a trick question. The correct answer is obviously John Lackey.
   14. Stosman Posted: August 05, 2011 at 08:29 PM (#3893574)
There is not greater pitching disaster in NY than the immortal Ollie Perez.
   15. bobm Posted: August 05, 2011 at 08:33 PM (#3893575)
Bigger Bust: AJ Burnett or Johan Santana?


[13] This is a trick question. The correct answer is obviously John LackeyMorganna.

FTFY :)
   16. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:11 PM (#3893597)
Obviously Burnett was the better acquisition, as proven by when Santana froze like a deer in the headlights in their historic Subway Series matchup.
   17. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:23 PM (#3893608)
Bigger Bust: AJ Burnett or Johan Santana?

[13] This is a trick question. The correct answer is obviously John LackeyMorganna.


She's lucky she plied her trade in the freewheeling 70s and 80s, today she'd be tazered at least a dozen times and probably have the boots put to her once out of camerashot.
   18. Greg K Posted: August 05, 2011 at 09:40 PM (#3893622)
currently a below average major league team (no matter what their record says). So the question begs, who is a bigger bust, AJ Burnett of the Yankees or Johan Santana of the Mets?

I don't know, they have a .510 pythag and are in the 2nd toughest division in baseball (maybe toughest if you consider the AL East guys get to play Baltimore?).

Really I just have it in for this guy because I want to be a pedantic tool about begging questions.
   19. The District Attorney Posted: August 05, 2011 at 10:02 PM (#3893635)
I feel like this is a pattern we've seen before. You have a pitcher with good potential and poor health and you say: "One of two things will happen. Either he'll be healthy and awesome or he'll be injured and not help at all." But then the other thing happens. He's healthy and crappy.
Rich Harden, last year for Texas.

Of course, then he got hurt this year.
   20. Something Other Posted: August 06, 2011 at 09:25 AM (#3894130)
The author's a cretin, of course, but Santana still hasn't been a very good signing for the Mets--he's been worth maybe 3/4 of his salary, closer to 2/3 depending on how you calculate $/WAR.

Santana's been extremely good when he's been able to pitch, but assuming he doesn't take the mound this season he'll have averaged 150 innings for the last four seasons. He might come back and have two more good years (I'm assuming missing 2011 all but kills the chance the 25m team option for 2014 will vest), but this is, what, his third significant surgery? How likely is it that he'll stay healthy?

Too bad no one gets creative with this kind of pitcher. I'd love to see Santana be the Mets Sunday starter in 2012. Roll him out for 25 starts and see if he can handle that load for the next two years. Alderson might just be creative enough and secure enough to try it, but for some reason I don't see him taking chances. He hasn't so far.
   21. AJMcCringleberry Posted: August 06, 2011 at 11:42 AM (#3894142)
If you knew what would happen is there anyone who'd pick Burnett over Santana?

Edit: I thought Santana's deal ran out after next year, maybe you can argue for Burnett in that case.

Looking up Burnett, he's been better than I thought. Sure, last year was terrible, but his first year in NY was one of his better years and this year he's about average. People seem to think he should be one the best pitchers in the league ever year when he's never really been that before.

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