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Posts Tagged ‘Psychiatrists’

There’s something wrong with A.J. Burnett. That news doesn’t come as any great shock to Yankees fans, or anyone else who pays any attention to baseball. But rarely can you find the exact point in a season when a player suddenly, mysteriously seems to lose the ability to play baseball. In Burnett’s case, we can.

Prior to May 5th, AJ was having arguably his best season. Since then, he’s having has worst. The delineation is so profound that I’m certain someone in the Yankee front office has noticed. How sudden is the drop-off? Before May 5th, the Yankees had an 83% chance of winning his starts. Since then, the team has only a 33% chance of winning. Looking at the conventional numbers shows how dramatic the performance drop is:

Win Prob IP H ER BB SO ERA WHIP

to May 5

83.3%

40.2

36

9

11

28

2.00

1.158

After

32.5%

110.2

130

78

52

85

6.34

1.644

If you’re more of a sabermatrician, the numbers get even uglier:

BA(a) TBA SP(a) OBA(a) OPS(a) K/9 BB/9 K/BB

to May 5

0.245

48

0.327

0.311

0.638

0.70

0.27

2.5

After

0.297

215

0.492

0.387

0.879

0.77

0.47

1.6

How does a guy go from less than a hit per inning to being hammered nearly every time out? Ordinarily, you would look for something physical. In AJ’s case, that isn’t the problem – he routinely hits the mid-90’s with his fastball, which is on par with his career velocity. The second most common cause is something mechanical – but AJ’s mechanics look to be the same now as earlier in the year. His pitches still have plenty of bite and movement. And he’s actually striking more hitters out per 9 now than in April.

That leaves something causing AJ to lose focus and concentration. If you don’t think that can serious problems for a pro athlete, ask Tiger Woods. Tiger is known as one of the most disciplined athletes ever, yet his personal life (and distractions) have caused his game to deteriorate to mere mortal status. AJ has always been an emotional guy; the kind of guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. If you’ve watched him lately, he seems robotic, emotionless; not the AJ Burnett we’re used to seeing. He’s gone from a pie-throwing, fun-loving #2 starter to an emotionless DFA candidate.

The Yankees know Burnett’s stuff is too good for him to be getting hit at nearly a .300 clip. Burnett does, too and I have to believe that deep down, his recent performance is tearing him up.  Whatever happened on May 5th that turned AJ’s season upside down, it behooves them to find out and see if it can be fixed. Not only won’t they win a pennant with AJ pitching like this, but they have him under contract for 3 more years. Before this turns into another Carl Pavano or Kevin Brown contract, they need to get AJ back on course.

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