He did this armed with one of the best curveballs he’s had all season, locating on the outside corner to lefties, and burying it below the knees of righties. He threw the curve over 40% of the time, compared to his season average of 31%, which may have contributed to how poorly the hitters were reacting to his fastball. Interestingly enough, he also varied the spin on the curve, as can be seen on the following chart:
The curve is represented by the bottom group of pitches on the above chart. The concentric circles represent spin–the further from the center the circle is, the more spin (and thus more break) Burnett threw curves tonight ranging from 1000 RPM to 2000 RPM. The big breakers dropped a full 100% more than the lesser breakers, and they’re all around the same speed. Also, note the yellow circles amongst that group–those represent swinging strikes–and you can see that they’re spread across the range of break shown. This is what A.J.’s curve looks like when he’s on, and it’s why he dominated the Phillies tonight.
And now I’m left bemoaning the fact that I spent the majority of my paycheck on tickets to last night’s game instead of tonight. Saturday, the fight begins anew with Andy Pettitte going up against Cole Hamels in Philadelphia. Let’s just pray Swisher’s in the lineup this time around.