|Point-Counterpoint - Second-Best Pitcher This Offseason||| Print |||Send|
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on December 17, 2008
AJ Burnett makes scouts salivate. His mid-90s fastball compliments a great breaking ball and an average changeup. Burnett has the ideal pitcher’s frame, standing 6-feet-5-inches and weighing around 200 pounds. He has everything to look good on the mound.
Derek Lowe is not quite the power pitcher Burnett is, relying more on location and movement on his killer sinker for that 6-3 groundout. He is also four years older than Burnett (35 vs. 31) and strikes out 2.5 less batters per nine (8.4 K/9 career for Burnett, 5.9 for Lowe).
With all that said, Lowe is still the better pitcher.
Burnett pitches for contracts. Two of the three times he has surpassed 200 innings have been in contract years (2005 and 2008). The other time he threw 200 innings, he was eligible for arbitration. Burnett also cannot stay healthy. He has been on the disabled list too many times to count, and he won’t pitch with any sort of arm trouble. And there are always control issues to worry about when Burnett is on the mound.
Lowe, on the other hand, has been consistent. His numbers do not spike upward when a new contract is on the table. He has thrown 180+ innings the last seven seasons. Lowe rarely misses starts, whether it be because of a nagging injury or serious.
Burnett may be the flashier guy with filthy stuff, but Lowe is the consistently producing veteran. The latter is much more valuable than the former.
Burnett Is A Better Option
There is a reason that the Yankees signed both CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett and it’s not because they are collecting pitchers with initials instead of first names. There is also a reason that they gave Burnett a guaranteed fifth year. The Yankees, like most of the teams in the Majors believe Burnett that was the second best free agent pitcher out there.
Of course, that’s not to say that Burnett is the most reliable, simply that he has the best stuff - and filthy stuff can translate into great success. Over the last three years Burnett has improved while racking up the wins and having incredible success against teams in the American League East.
Simply put, AJ is a winner, and he’s a winner that is capable of throwing complete games. While that may have been important during his tenure with the Jays, he won’t be asked to do that much with the Yankees. If anything that should only make him better, as will the run support that the Yankees will surely give him. This means that the 18 game winner has a chance to be a 20 game winner.
And at age 31 Burnett should have a lot more left in the tank than the 35 year old Lowe whose best years came in a Red Sox uniform 5 years ago. That’s not to say that Lowe isn’t a great pitcher, he clearly is, but as he moves into his late 30’s his durability, recovery rates and how long he’ll manage to be effective becomes more of an issue.
Clearly, Burnett is a better option for the next few years.