A.J. Burnett is now past the stage of just bad. He’s ventured into the stratosphere of the historically awful. Think Carl Pavano. Think Ed Whitson. Think Melido Perez. Yes, Melido Perez. With his horrendous, horrific, 2.1 inning, 7-hit, 7-run, 2-HR, 48 pitch disaster on the very mound that earned him a fat contract from the Yankees, Burnett became the first Yankees pitcher since Melido Perez in 1992 to lose as many as 15 games in a season. Perez loss 16 games that season, and could conceivably be called the “Lesser Perez” behind his brothers Carlos and Pascual – just to put AJ’s company into context.
As a result, the Yankees need to pull the plug on Burnett’s chances for pitching this postseason. I don’t care about the $82.5 million deal they signed him to, and neither should the team. This is a team that has never been afraid of admitting a mistake with a big contract, and they shouldn’t change that now. They can avoid a 4th starter in the first round of the postseason, which they definitely should do. If they get to the ALCS, they probably can’t go with a 3-man rotation. If they get that far, I’d much rather see Ivan Nova start than AJ Burnett. Nova can at least give you 4 innings consistently, and as the 4th guy pitching one game in that series, that would be enough. Six times this season, Burnett hasn’t lasted more than 3.1 innings in a start – SIX TIMES (granted, one was the lightning-interrupted game against the Rays 2 starts ago). To put that into perspective, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Javy Vazquez have hit that low-water mark four times combined (twice each for Lefty and Javy). In seven starts this season, Nova has never gone less than 4.2 innings – they haven’t all been pretty, but he’s lasted that long every time. Since August 1st, AJ has gone 1-7 with a 6.16 ERA, and he’s allowed 6-plus runs in a Major League worst 10 games this year.
For their $82.5 million, the Yankees have gotten a pitcher with a 23-24 record and an ERA just south of 5 (4.64) in 65 starts. So, it’s not like they haven’t given him a chance to prove his value. This postseason, when the team seems less certain than most of their playoff appearances, is not the time for them to continue giving him a chance to prove his value. It’s time for them to let him sit and support his teammates. Maybe he can be the designated pie-face executor – he seems to be much more accurate in that part of his game.