The Curse of Jerry Hairston, Jr./Eric Hinske:
 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Breaking Burnett Down by Zone Location

So now A.J. Burnett may really lose his spot in the Yankees rotation. I wanted to see if there was anything he's done this season that may provide hope that he could bounce back. When I broke down the zone location to up, middle and down, I found something pretty interesting.

First, the bad:

2011 A.J. Burnett - Up in the Zone

Basically the middle of the strike zone includes any pitch that hits the middle seven inches of the zone (which is normalized depending on the height of the batter). So anything above the top of that seven inch mark (whether inside or outside the actual strike zone) is designated as 'up'. The same applies for pitches down in the zone which you will see further down in the post.

This season, A.J. ranks in the bottom 21% of the league in opposing batting average (.271) on pitches up (min. 500 pitches thrown in that zone). The league average is .240. His opponent slugging percentage of .474 ranks in the bottom 11% of the league and is nearly 100 points worse than the league average. Sadly, this is actually an improvement over last season when he ranked in the bottom 5 and 3 percent of the league in opponent average (.318) and slugging (.588) respectively.


2011 A.J. Burnett - Middle of the Zone

When throwing over the middle of the zone, Burnett has not only been flat out terrible, he's basically been the worst pitcher in the league. He ranks second to last in opponent batting average (.379), and dead last in opponent slugging percentage (.707), opponent wOBA (.452), and HR/FB (23.3%).


Yet, here's how he's done on pitches down in the zone:

2011 A.J. Burnett - Down in the Zone

As bad as A.J. Burnett has been throwing middle and up, he's been that awesome on pitches down. Batters are hitting just .117 against him in 259 plate appearances decided on a low pitch (1162 total pitches), which is the best in baseball this season. Opponents are also slugging just .157 on low pitches, which also leads the league.

Most of this success on low pitches is probably due to his knuckle curve, which has been by far his best pitch this season (and has accounted for 50.9% of his low pitches). Opponents have a .188 wOBA versus his curve this season compared to a .407 wOBA against all of his other pitches. Burnett obviously can't rely on just one pitch, and we're seeing that quite clearly this season. The decline of his fastball is probably the biggest culprit here, as hitters are putting up a .439 wOBA against it, ranking him in the bottom 1% of the league (Only Edinson Volquez and Kyle Davies have been worse with their fastballs). That number has been increasing every year since PitchFX data began keeping track (2008: .364, 2009: .385, 2010: .403).

His stuff is simply getting worse. Maybe moving him to the bullpen will help him regain something, but is it best for a Yankees pen that has been exceptionally good this year?

All heat maps and data courtesy of the In Depth Baseball analytics platform

--Posted at 1:22 pm by Jonathan / 37 Comments | - (0)

Comments

Page 1 of 1 pages:

Is there any way to break down the low-zone data by pitch type?  For example, what happens to low fastballs?  Is there any hope that if he spots all his pitches lower he can regain some effectiveness?

“Breaking Burnett Down”, “Breaking Burnett”

Don’t mock our pain.

So, who else has had a fun earthquake hour?

Breaking Bad Burnett?

[3] Texas gets left out of all the fun.

[3] That was AJ uncorking another wild pitch in his bullpen session. Carry on.

Is there any way to break down the low-zone data by pitch type?  For example, what happens to low fastballs?  Is there any hope that if he spots all his pitches lower he can regain some effectiveness?

Yes, I was actually going to add that but didn’t want to crowd the post.  Here’s how each pitch has done low in the zone:

Fastball (282 pitches, 63 PA): .283 AVG / .370 SLG / .402 wOBA
Changeup (134, 14): .083 AVG / .083 SLG / .167 wOBA
Curve (592, 154): .068 AVG / .103 SLG / .107 wOBA

PitchFX is also registering a sinker from A.J. this season (125 total), but this is likely just his fastball that is getting a little different rotation from time to time. (or its possible he’s changing his grip to try ANYTHING that can help him out)

All of the above numbers for each pitch are improvements over the other locations he’s thrown to this season. 

So if he does like my neighbors tell me to do and keep it down, it could help.  But probably not enough where he’s that much more effective overall.  His fastball is still below league average down in the zone this season.

Maybe moving him to the bullpen will help him regain something, but is it best for a Yankees pen that has been exceptionally good this year?

In September?  Sure, can’t hurt since he’ll still likely be better than some other guys (e.g. Whelan) that would get called up to eat up innings anyway.  Also be useful to determine things like, how much is he regaining?  How quickly can he warm up?  That can be useful to know for next year, or even the playoffs (e.g. one or more relievers get hurt, is AJ a better option than Pendleton?)  Also of course if it is a confidence thing getting that back can be important for next year.

[5] Our building swayed (5th floor), so everyone got out.  Most of Wilkes-Barre was out on the sidewalks for a while.  I’ve got a friend 3 miles away that didn’t feel anything.  Also have some non-RLYW fans living in VA, and they said scary, some buildings evacuated, but everyone okay.  Hoping our Virginia chapter is doing well.

[6] I was thinking Montero throwing a fit he hadn’t been called up yet.  He can move mountains after all…

Amazing how widely it was felt.  I hope everyone’s okay but I haven’t heard of any injuries yet.

[10] I’ve heard as far west as Kansas, as far north as Boston.  Haven’t heard how far south, but I wouldn’t be surprised if SG felt it…then again, his command center is probably built to withstand these things.

5.9 is pretty sizable. I remember people claiming they felt the ground shake in CT during the earthquake in upstate NY a few years back.

There was another sizable (although smaller) quake in Southern CO around teh same time.

I’m in Plattsburgh for work and didn’t feel a thing, my SO in Syracuse sent a text and she said her building shook enough to be a little scary and she’s on the first floor (on the campus). 

[5] Yes, but it’s not every where that one can spontaneous combust by going outside.

[11]  Mom’s basement is padded with old mattresses.

The first time I felt an earthquake I though someone was vaccuuming behind me. Then people staretd telling me to go outside. Several miles away there were fires and mild destruction.

Thinking back on it, I might not be well designed for the dangers of Southern California, but the weather is totally worth it.

“but is it best for a Yankees pen that has been exceptionally good this year?”

Swap him and Robertson.  He can throw 75% curves, 13% changeups, and 12% fbs.  He never comes in with runners on, though, or when Montero’s catching.

High rise in NYC, I thought the building was going to crack.

Has AJ made any comments about the pen possibility? Just wondering if he’s the complain kind, or whatever is best for the team kind.

Mussina didn’t say much, did he?

He never comes in with runners on, though, or when Montero’s catching.

Or when the lead is less than 4…

Has AJ made any comments about the pen possibility? Just wondering if he’s the complain kind, or whatever is best for the team kind.

Haven’t heard any.  He seems to be the best for the team kind though.  I’m sure if it happens and they ask him, he’d say something along the lines of, “I consider myself a starter, but I haven’t been pitching well and Joe has to do what is best for the team.”

So any Giants fans…wow.  Two corners lost for the year in the same pre-season game.  One lost for year earlier, and their 1st round pick (corner) out for at least a couple more months.  The season looked so bright…

“So any Giants fans…wow.  Two corners”

Tried to make this make sense as “corner infielders” and using wormholes.

So any Giants fans…wow.  Two corners lost for the year in the same pre-season game.

My expectations were dimmed as soon as I heard Gilbride and Fewell weren’t canned.  And with the Eagles locking up the division already, the loss of Thomas, Witherspoon and Austin wasn’t such a blow.

I was the only one on my 50+ floor who didn’t feel it, but when everyone started heading for the elevator I said “feets, don’t fail me now!”

Is it possible they could move AJ to the pen and only have him throw the curve and change? Would that work for an inning once or twice a week temporarily? Just looking for someway to get some value out of AJ as I don’t see running him out there as a starter giving them any sort of value when he is blocking pitchers from AAA that have some upside. Not to mention, if they put him in the pen as a long reliever, it’s just going to lead to them bringing him into a tie game in extras because “he can go multiple innings” (a la Jeff Weaver in the 2003 WS).

NYC building and - nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zippo.

Aaron Hill and John McDonald to Arizona for Kelly Johnson. Odd trade.

[25]  Well, no one NEVER throws a fastball.  Even Wakefield or Edwar.  But yeah, maybe minimizing the fastball would help.

[28] See [17] for the optimized rates.

Almost any rate would be closer to optimized if the fastball were used correctly, the way non-power-pitchers use it - that is, NOT in the strike zone.

Turns out Brackman went back to his old delivery for his recent good outings, something about starting with his hands higher.  I would guess that’s incidental and the real problem went away at the same time…

[29] Why are those rates optimal?

[32] Because I say so.

[32] Because I say so.

SUPER-optimized would be those rates but with another ballclub….

[35] You haven’t forgotten how AJ used to pitch against us…

  I would guess that’s incidental and the real problem went away at the same time…

Depends on how much of his problems were mental.  IOW, it’s a placebo effect and since he believes he’ll pitch better, he is.  Whatever, hopefully he can keep it up and get back on the radar for starting next spring (May/June, not March).

“since he believes he’ll pitch better”

Yes, that had crossed my mind as well - you can call that the real problem if you like.

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