Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why Is A.J. Burnett Starting Game 2?

This I don't get, so let's let the first guessing begin!

A.J. Burnett has pitched more recently than Andy Pettitte, so flipping the order means Pettitte will start on 7 days rest while Burnett will start on 4. The Twins two best hitters, Jason Kubel and Joe Mauer are left handed so throwing Pettitte might help keep them out of the short porch in right at the Stadium. Burnett will be caught by a dismal offensive catcher, replacing one of the better bats in the line up with someone who may or may not be replacement level.

The decision forces them to carry three catchers for a 5 game series instead of a pinch runner, who might be a waste of a roster spot, but could theoretically be used in every game. Burnett has pitched in a grand total of zero postseason games. The two guys who stand to be offended by this are dynasty cogs - Pettitte and Posada - in favor of a free agent acquisition and a back up catcher that's probably not going to be around next year.

So why would Joe Girardi choose A.J. Burnett to start in two games of this ALDS including the potential deciding Game 5? Even if Posada figures to catch that Game 5, negating one of the above variables, don't you trust Andy Pettitte to give you a representative effort more than Burnett? Not just because of the lack of postseason experience for Burnett, but the fact that Pettitte surrenders fewer homers and far fewer walks. Wouldn't you trust Andy even more if you were Joe Girardi and had caught him before?

Is Pettitte's shoulder hurting? That would make some sense, and I'd be happy that the Yankees didn't announce that publicly. Are we looking at home/road splits, though? Because those are skewed horribly by Burnett's bad outings at Fenway and have evened out since the All-Star Break. Is Girardi doing this based on Burnett's power "stuff"? Because their K/BB rates are pretty similar and the whole "not giving up walks" part of that equation is a lot more important than striking guys out.

Girardi wasn't around the Yankees back then, but he must have been aware of Joe Torre's decision to start John Flaherty to catch Randy Johnson in Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS. You might recall that didn't work out so well.

If Burnett throws a gem, then fantastic, all's well that ends well. But if this doesn't work out for Girardi, he's going to be taking a world of shit for it. On one hand, you can give him some credit for sticking his neck out and making a very questionable decision and going with his convictions, but on the other hand you can look at this as another instance or overmanaging and a potentially fatal one at that.

I get the feeling that this postseason could bring out the worst fan in some us, should things fail to go as planned. The kind of fan who criticizes announcers and questions the manager. Oh wait, I've already done both and the games haven't even started yet. At least I haven't bitched about the umpiring. We'll leave that to angry Tigers fans.

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree about Molina caddying A.J., Jay. I'm not pleased about it at all.

    On Burnett starting Game 2 (and 5 if need be, making the caddying even more egregious if Molina actually catches two games; hopefully it won't come to that), I think it may have to do with how Burnett performs at home and Pettite on the road. A.J. is far better at home (5-3, 3.51 ERA, 104 K in 105 IP, 1.333 WHIP) than on the road (8-6, 4.59 ERA, 91 K in 102 IP, 1.471 WHIP). Pettite is the opposite, pitching better on the road (8-4, 3.71 ERA, 74 K in 94 IP, 1.257 WHIP) than at home (6-4, 4.59 ERA, 74 K in 100 IP, 1.490 WHIP). Maybe Girardi feels that Pettite's vast playoff experience better serves the team by using him where he has been better this year, and may be relaxed in any scenario unlike A.J. who is spotty and gets rattled on the road.

    I was immediately psyched for the game to start after the Twins won. The Digital Living Room will be open Friday night, if you're interested.