Barring injury, A.J. Burnett will later this year join an elite group of only 7 pitchers with career totals of 2500 IP, 2500 strikeouts, a 2.0 SO/BB ratio, and more strikeouts than hits allowed. But, that’s where the similarity ends as all the pitchers in that group have more than 60 WAR and 35 WAA while Burnett is only half-way to that WAR threshold and has only 20% of that WAA. Sort of the Alfonso Soriano of pitchers, if you will.
More on Burnett’s curious career after the jump.
Here is that group, all pitchers from the recent past and most already HOFers or with legitimate HOF credentials.
So, how has Burnett put up totals placing him in this group, but with so little to show for it in terms of WAR? To find out, I compared Burnett to the 199 pitchers with 2500 IP since 1901, and to the 175 with 2500 IP since 1914. These are some of Burnett’s markers that explain his low WAR totals:
- Back-end loaded career. Burnett logged fewer than 1000 IP thru age 29, one of 33 of 199 to do so, but the only one with 8 major league seasons as a starter aged 29 or younger.
- Modest workload. Despite exceeding 2500 IP for his career, Burnett has never reached 225 IP in a season and has topped 200 IP only 6 times. Only 34 of 199 pitchers have so few 200 IP seasons, and only 5 have never reached 225 IP in any season.
- Modest results. Burnett’s 8 qualified seasons with WAR under 2.5 place him among only 17 of 199 with as many such seasons.
- Too many free passes. Burnett is one of only 23 of 199 pitchers with no more than two 100+ IP seasons with BB/9 under 3.0. His career 3.7 BB/9 is the highest (by 0.3 BB) of 25 of 199 with HBP amounting to 12% or more of walks, with those results placing Burnett among 16 of 199 with 50% more baserunners than Hits allowed. Burnett also struggled with holding runners at their bases, one of 5 of 175 with stolen bases amounting to 9% or more of baserunners, and the only one with wild pitches amounting to 4% or more of baserunners.
- Too many long balls. While Burnett’s career 8.21 H/9 places him among the top 34 of 199, he is one of 42 of 199 with home runs amounting to over 10% of hits allowed, and ranks 39th of 199 in highest career HR/9. Including all extra-base hits places Burnett as one of 21 of 175 with extra-base knocks amounting to 32% or more of hits allowed.
- Jekyll and Hyde home and away. Burnett’s career ERA in away games is almost a full run higher than at home. Burnett is one of only 7 of 175 pitchers with away ERA more than half a run higher than overall.
- Pitching to the score. With 0-2 runs of support, Burnett has one of the best ERA differentials, one of 16 of 175 with ERA 0.45 runs lower than overall. But, when getting 3-5 runs of support, Burnett’s ERA differential is one of the worst, one of only 5 of 175 pitchers with ERA more than 0.3 runs higher than overall.
- Phoenix-like revival. Burnett has two qualified seasons aged 30-34 with 4.50 ERA and ERA+ below 85, and three such seasons aged 30-39. Only 4 others of the 199 matched that age 30-34 total and only one other (Doug Drabek) the age 30-39 mark. But, Burnett also has 5 seasons aged 30-39 (and is working on a 6th) with 100 ERA+ and 175 strikeouts, one of 13 of 199 with 5 or more such seasons, including only 8 with 6 such campaigns.
Some other Burnett oddities.
- With his 2014 season at age 37, Burnett joined Bert Blyleven as the oldest pitchers of the live ball era with ERA+ below 85 in a 200+ IP season. That season by Burnett is the only one since 1901 with majors-leading totals for most Starts, Losses, Walks and Earned Runs. Quiz: of the three other pitchers to lead their league in those categories in the same season, who did so in the only 100 IP season of his career?
- But, Burnett has again revived his fortunes with a 2015 season ERA of 2.11 (as of June 8th) that is the 12th lowest of the live ball era, among pitchers aged 38 or older in 75+ IP over the first 60 games of the season.
- Burnett had one decent season as a Yankee, then crashed and burned in the House that Ruth Built (that eats alive right-handers with suspect command). Yet, his positive 0.65 ERA differential in Yankee Stadium relative to overall ERA is 7th best among right-handers with 500 IP as a Yankee since 1923, this despite the second worst Yankee Stadium HR/9 (even Burnett couldn’t outpace Phil Hughes) among the 56 pitchers in that group.