Game 124, Mariners at Phillies
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. AJ Burnett, 4:05pm
Wildcard odds – Fangraphs.com: 42.2% Baseballprospectus.com: 43.2%
AJ Burnett was one of the biggest prizes on the free agent market this winter – a solid right-hander coming off a four win season, whose age would preclude the need for a long-term contract. The righty had an elite GB rate, which helped him avoid the dinger problems that plagued his Yankee tenure.
He signed a one-year, $16m deal in Philadelphia, and, like most things associated with this year’s Phillies, it hasn’t gone according to plan. To be clear, that’s not to say that he’s been terrible. His FIP and ERA are now above 4, as his K%, strand rate and GB rates have all fallen while his walk rate and HR rate rose. That said, he had some room to fall. He’s not going to post a 2-3 WAR season, but hes been mediocre instead of out-and-out bad. He’s throwing the same pitches- mostly a sinker, then a four-seam, a big curveball and the occasional change – at the same velocities. The big thing that’s changed is his command. He’s throwing a lot more balls, and that means he’s pitching behind. It’s interesting – if you just look at zone%, the delta looks tiny. But looking at the ‘ahead’/'behind’ numbers at Statcorner, or the Ball% numbers at Brooks Baseball shows a fairly dramatic decline.
That seems to be because the problem’s mostly affected his fastballs. A few more balls there, and he *has* to throw more strikes with his other pitches, leading to fewer whiffs, and more hitter’s counts mean more fastballs (especially sinkers) overall. This in turn puts pressure on his platoon splits. In his two good years in Pittsburgh, Burnett had the platoon advantage in a majority of PAs. That ratio’s lower this year, and the M’s will obviously pose a particular challenge for him. Of course, they should’ve posed a problem for Jerome Williams, too.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Ackley, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Morrison, 1B
6: Chavez, RF
7: Zunino, C
8: Miller, SS
Great article on a new frontier for baseball analysts by Ben Lindberg today at Grantland.