Deep diving on AJ Burnett

AJ’s ineffectiveness really manifests itself with 2-strike counts. With the charts below, you can see that Burnett is less in-the-zone this year versus last year. Could that be because of his decreased FB? No matter the reason, AJ’s staying away from the zone with two strikes, allowing batters to wait for something more to their liking.

Up, up and away! The heat charts below shows the swinging strike locations for AJ.  This year, more strikes up in the zone. Up in the zone is bad news.  Hits/9 are up this year (9.6 vs 8.4 last year), HR/9 remain flat at 1.1, while K/9 are down (as mentioned earlier) at 7.0 vs 8.5 last year. Is this his ineffective curveball manifesting itself?  If it’s not diving down, it’s getting hit.

Location, location, location. I’ll let Brian explain this one: “The chart below seems to show Burnett getting less called strikes up in the zone (more blue up top in the 2010 plot). This could be for one of two reasons: 1) he’s not throwing as many pitches up in the zone or 2) he’s not getting that call this season. But, since we see that he’s getting more swinging strikes up in the zone from the previous plot, maybe people are just swinging more at those pitches and therefore there are less strikes CALLED up in the zone.” Sounds good to me.  The chart:

Ahead in the count, behind in the count.  Here are the charts of AJ pitching both ahead and behind in the count, this year versus last:

Just for giggles. And lastly, a contrast of AJ and Mariano Rivera:

Thanks again to Brian for his contributions. 

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.

9 thoughts on “Deep diving on AJ Burnett

  1. jon

    I like the last 4 charts – comparing AJ and Mo; from the charts, AJ seems to be the better pitcher.  Mo can't even hit the strike zone – AJ is much better - lots of balls right down the middle.

     

    I know I hear the experts on tv saying that he needs to throw more strikes – looks like he's got that down pat.

     

    (good work guys – the charts illustrate things nicely.)

  2. Hey Jon,

    Rivera's abilities are uncanny with respect keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate.  That's a good thing, especially with two strikes.  Keep in mind a lot of those 2-strike pitches out of the zone are being swung at (and missed relatively often) by the batter.  On the other hand, Burnett is giving up a lot of contact with his pitches in the zone–and the results this season haven't been pretty.

    I think what the last plot is showing us is that the two take different approaches to pitching.  Rivera almost always hits the corners with his cutter, while Burnett is a bit all over the map (in and out of the strike zone).  Knowing the results of the two, we can say the stuff Rivera has along with his approach seems to be working better.

  3. Brad

    Its not so much control (which does need work) that he needs to work on, but rather his command.  What is clear when comparing AJ v. Mo is that Mo is excellent at being just enough out of the strike zone with two strikes to ensure either weak contact or a strikeout, whereas AJ just seems to be trying to stay alive.  This is probably also a product of the fact that AJ tends to have 2 balls or more by the time he reaches 2 strikes in the count a sure sign of what we already know, AJ does not command his fastball well.  In particular look at his 2 strike location on lefties.  He has to be getting killed puttin the ball in the middle to inner half of the plate.  As a rule lefties live for that pitch and to give it to them on two strikes is a get out of jail free card.  I tend to think this is where the change in curveball effectiveness is showing.  That is his out pitch so it is likely he's throwing many of them to try to finish off a hitter.  That big red line in the middle of the plate is a sure sign that he's hanging many more of them (also falls in line with the high pitch theory noted by Brian).  Without that curveball AJ goes from being a talented enigma on the mound capable of dominant stretches to your average 20 year old AA pitcher throwing 95. 

    Good stuff on the heat charts.  I actually prefer that to the spray charts of pitch fx.  You guys need to get Brian on board for more appearances here.

  4. Curtis

    Jon,

    I think you are confusing better with locale and purpose of pitches. When you look at Mo and AJ's 2strike count location, over the plate is a TERRIBLE place to put the ball. If you are ahead in the count why put the ball over the plate? Look at Mo's chart again, you'll see to LHB the frequency of his pitches are all 1-2 (balls/inches/not sure what the length indicator is according to the increments) inside the plate. That's right under the hands of hitters and away from the plate. And similar to RHB. Granted AJ throws more pitches per appearance, throwing that many pitches over the heart of the plate is a recipe for disaster. Balls over the plate, mainly UP in the zone, equate to a higher rate of contact thus a higher chance at balls in play which means a higher chance for batters to get hits hence his higher Hits/9.

  5. Millsy

    Curtis,

    I was on the fence as to whether Jon was being sarcastic as well.  Oh well…a little more explanation never hurts.

  6. Curtis

    When i look back at your post Jon, it’s apparent that I can’t pick up on sarcasm.

    Thanks guys for your great work!

  7. jon

    sry to mislead – I’ll admit – I did have my tongue in cheek.  Those graphs really are astonishing – it is almost amazing how consistently Mo is painting a circle (square?) around the strike zone.  Yet staying close enough that batters have to honor the pitch, since who knows what the ump is going to call any of those close pitches.
     
    And thanks for any and all explanation – I still have tons to learn.  This is my first year of having MLB.TV, watching every game, and then spending way too much time on the sites here on the net.

  8. jon

    sry to mislead – I’ll admit – I did have my tongue in cheek.  Those graphs really are astonishing – it is almost amazing how consistently Mo is painting a circle (square?) around the strike zone.  Yet staying close enough that batters have to honor the pitch, since who knows what the ump is going to call any of those close pitches.And thanks for any and all explanation – I still have tons to learn.  This is my first year of having MLB.TV, watching every game, and then spending way too much time on the sites here on the net.

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