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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yankees - Signed Burnett

New York Yankees - Signed P A.J. Burnett to a 5-year, $82.5 million contract.

The Yankees overpaid for what they’re going to get as Burnett is neither terribly dependable from a health standpoint or particularly excellent (he’s yet to have a season as good as Mike Mussina’s average season).  Burnett’s a good pitcher, but I just wouldn’t want to have him at this price.  Amusingly enough, we’ve seen some doom-and-gloom articles about the Yankees buying the World Series, but if one hates the Yankees, this is the signing that could hurt them the most, given the downside.

ZiPS Projection - A.J. Burnett
————————————————————————————————-
        W   L   G GS   IP   H   ER HR BB SO   ERA   ERA+
————————————————————————————————-
2009     13   9 28 28 179 174   79 19 67 157 3.97   113  
————————————————————————————————-
Top Comps:  Mike Boddicker, Mike Krukow

ODDIBE

ERA   %
Top 1/3 55
Mid 1/3 35
Bot 1/3 10

ERA+  %    BB     %
>150   8

<29 0
>

140   13

<38 0
>

130   21

<48 12
>

120   34

<57 34
>

110   52

<67 55
>

100   71

<76 73
>

90   89
>80   98     HR     %
>70   100   <13 25
<19 54
K % <25 91
>172   19     <31 99
>153   50
>134   80
>115   92

Dan Szymborski Posted: December 14, 2008 at 04:45 PM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. thetailor Posted: December 14, 2008 at 08:28 PM (#3028757)
Is it possible to do an ODDIBE for number of innings pitched? I guess K's works roughly for that but just curious.
   2. *BaseClogger* Posted: December 14, 2008 at 09:14 PM (#3028779)
Is it possible to do an ODDIBE for number of innings pitched? I guess K's works roughly for that but just curious.


Just figure up his ratios like K/9 and work from there
   3. Walt Davis Posted: December 14, 2008 at 10:15 PM (#3028808)
Burnett is neither terribly dependable from a health standpoint

et tu Dan?

Burnett "projects" to 28 starts and 180 IP which are also basically his 4-year averages. In 2008, 89 pitchers had 28+ starts with half of them posting a worse ERA+ than Burnett. 69 had 180+ IP with about a third of those starters had a worse ERA+. And of course in 2008 he had 34 starts (1st in AL) and 221 IP (3rd in AL).

In another thread, I lay out those numbers across a number of time slices and it's hard to make a case that he's not among the 50 most durable starters over the last 1/2/3/4 years. And he is probably around the 30th best overall starter over the same period.

Maybe by "[not] terribly dependable" you mean "no worse than average dependability." In which case there's no argument. Still, over the last 4 years, he's been somewhere around the #1/#2 starter cusp. If the past is predictive of the future, that's a good player to add. Whether he's worth 5/$80 is a good question ... but the pitcher contract over 3 years that doesn't include at least one season's worth of starts lost to injury and/or collapse is a rare beastie so I assume that's just factored into the market price for these guys.

In that other thread, I even looked at pitchers who threw more innings than Burnett in 2006-7 (he made only 46 starts). Of the 22 pitchers with more innings and better ERA+, 8 of them made fewer than 25 starts in 2008 and (at least) another three put up ERA+ worse than Burnett in 2008 (and he didn't do that great). So in 2008 he outpitched half the guys who were clearly better bets than he was and, of course, probably nearly everybody with more IP and a worse ERA+ other than Cliff Lee.

Which I think probably says more about the folly of predicting pitcher durability than it does anything else. But to the extent that past durability predicts furture durability, Burnett is not a big risk from that standpoint.
   4. akrasian Posted: December 14, 2008 at 11:33 PM (#3028836)
Well, how about this? He's definitely not an innings eater in any conventional sense of the term. He's also never been consistently good enough to be an ace - but he's being paid as if he were either a well above average innings eater or an ace. Since he is now signed for his age 32-36 seasons, it is somewhat more likely that he declines than that he improves over the course of the contract.

The Yankees can afford to take greater than average gambles - I'm just not sure the realistic reward is sufficient in this case.
   5. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 15, 2008 at 01:19 AM (#3028873)
Burnett does have outstanding peripherals...
   6. Darnell McDonald had a farm Posted: December 15, 2008 at 02:02 AM (#3028889)
You gotta use your peripherals
   7. tomdaddydollars Posted: December 15, 2008 at 02:17 PM (#3029042)
Anyone else see this as Carl Pavano, v. 2.0?
   8. Loren F. Posted: December 15, 2008 at 07:44 PM (#3029378)
This contract is not a bargain. Burnett has actually been fairly reliable in terms of ERA+, and it's the innings count that fluctuates. Burnett is a difficult pitcher for a ZiPS projection, because I'd bet anything that he does NOT put up 179 IP with an ERA+ of 113 in 2009: he's the kind of pitcher who seems more likely to put up either 100 IP or 200 IP. And although it seems likely that his ERA+ will be in the 105-115 range, who knows? This is an expensive roll of the dice, and while I don't love it as a Yankees fan, the Yanks are one of the few teams that can make this gamble.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: December 15, 2008 at 08:03 PM (#3029418)
He's definitely not an innings eater in any conventional sense of the term.

Well, he averages a smidgen over 180 IP a season. So an "innings eater" is 200+ IP? There were just 34 such pitchers in 2008, one of them Burnett. Only 21 have averaged 200 over the last 4 years and one of those retired, one is Moyer, one is Zito and one is Livan Hernandez. The ones with better ERA+ than Burnett are the top paid pitchers in baseball (and incredible bargains like Webb). Then you have the Blanton, Garland, Vazquez types.

Here's an under-rated pitcher for you: Bronson Arroyo.

I'm not sure Burnett is worth 5/$80 either. But over the last 4 years, he's right in there with Hudson, Beckett, Meche in terms of IP and ERA+ with the best K-rate and he and Beckett have basically the same K/BB ratio. Beckett is in the last year of his 3/$30 extension, Hudson in the last year of his 4/47 extension, and Meche entering year 3 of his 5/$55. With inflation, something in the area of $13-14 M a year for Burnett looks about right, so it's something of an overpay. (And while Hudson looked like a better bet going forward when he signed than Burnett does now, you'd have a hard time making that claim about Beckett and Meche.)

Anyway, I'll agree that one can make a good case that Burnett doesn't deserve to be in the top 10 highest pitchers group or even top 20. He's been worse than Arroyo and little if any more valuable than guys like Vazquez and Garland because of less durability. (Of course Vazquez and Garland were pulling down $12 M each last year). I just don't think people appreciate how rare performance at Burnett's level is these days.
   10. The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB) Posted: December 15, 2008 at 08:24 PM (#3029480)
Anyone else see this as Carl Pavano, v. 2.0?


here's Keith Law's take on that question:

I've seen Burnett compared to Carl Pavano by fans, but the comparison doesn't hold. Pavano was more injury-prone at the time he signed with the Yankees than Burnett has been; Pavano had shoulder or elbow trouble in just about every season of his career until he rattled off two straight healthy years with Florida. Pavano also had nowhere near Burnett's raw stuff, nor his ability to induce strikeouts or ground balls. It is, of course, possible that Burnett's tenure with the Yankees will resemble Pavano's; pitchers do get hurt, and Burnett has some affinity for the trainer's room. But Burnett brings an upside to the table that Pavano never did: that of a shutdown No. 1 starter who, in the Yankees' rotation, will always be pitching in the spot of a No. 2 or 3 starter
   11. Wes Parkers Mood (Mike Green) Posted: December 16, 2008 at 04:40 AM (#3030140)
Peripherals don't matter for Burnett. He's been a much less effective pitcher with runners on over his long career. It's not a fluke.

He is a good pitcher, who can be projected to throw 180 innings, exactly as ZIPS has him. If you expect better rate performance, you are in for a disappointment. The best case scenario is that he is healthy again and throws 210 innings.
   12. akrasian Posted: December 16, 2008 at 05:19 AM (#3030171)
Well, he averages a smidgen over 180 IP a season. So an "innings eater" is 200+ IP?

No, an innings eater is a guy you can consistently count on to pitch a solid number of innings. Burnett has good seasons in terms of innings - but he is not consistent in that. In the past 8 seasons (his career as a full time major leaguer) he has thrown over 200 innings three times - but has thrown enough to qualify for the ERA title (and those times narrowly) only two other times in the other five seasons.

The majority of his seasons he hasn't hit 180 innings pitched - it's not accurate to say that his history - even his recent history - is of a guy that the team can count on to pitch a lot of innings in a given season. Some seasons he does - in more seasons he doesn't. An innings eater is somebody that it is reasonable to expect in most seasons to take the ball every fifth day - and even if Burnett's injuries are overstated - it's not accurate to say that he has been somebody to be counted on in that way - not with 80 starts in the past three seasons, from a guy who was the Blue Jays #2 starter.

But over the last 4 years, he's right in there with Hudson, Beckett, Meche in terms of IP and ERA+

Of course, if you use the past three years (generally the most common time period for evaluation in my understanding) he doesn't look quite so good. And going five or six years makes him look much worse.

But I will agree that so long as you don't mind that he might average an acceptable number of innings overall (with significant fluctuation season to season), and that it is somewhat unlikely that he will be a cy young candidate, then the Yankees haven't signed a disaster - it's just that they've given him a contract for an elite pitcher, and he's not - he's a good pitcher when healthy, but not dominant, and not healthy quite enough to make up for being good not great for the price. Of course, the Yankees can afford to overpay. I would have gone with Lowe if I were them, or used the money to pump up the offense, and give a spot in the rotation to one of the kids, rather than go with Burnett.

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