Redsox Supporter @Christopherb609 is a contributor here at Rareunlimited.com. Although we disagree on almost everything (including the below article) he offers a good, knowledgeable insight on the MLB. Here is his thoughts on why trading Yankee pitcher AJ Burnett for Cubs hurler Carlos Zambrano Makes Sense. Keep in mind he sent me this on Sept 15th, I slacked a little on posting. I’m looking forward to the next article about the Redsox 2011 collapse.-AC
This is sure to be an unpopular trade scenario at first, once you read the names you’ll say no way, but allow me to state my case before you slam the gavel and dismiss this idea.
Defendant A. AJ Burnett the most unpopular player in NY since “American Idle” Carl Pavano.
Defendant B. Carlos Zambrano a player that disgusts fans as much as the evil Bart Man.
And here’s why this deal would make sense…..
Looking strictly at the whole numbers their performance is somewhat on par with each other. Both pitchers have been far too hittable, the K’s are down from what is expected resulting in a 2-1 K/BB ratio for both pitchers. Zambrano’s era is slightly lower than Burnett’s which NL lineups could certainly be used as the excuse and both pitchers have had their woes in the second half. Factoring in lineups/league, parks, and more there maybe be no real difference in their performance. In fact #’s wise the only clear advantage Zambrano has over Burnett is more quality starts in less appearances, but that’s if you are just looking at the results and not the entire picture.
Zambrano is widely considered a head case, those who know him best (teammates and friends) label him misunderstood. He’s said to have an intensity that’s unmatched, even if it is uncapped at times. He may no longer be the 200+ K guy he was in ’06 but there’s nothing that suggests he is a 4.81 era type of pitcher either. His previous career high was 3.95 in ’07 and he’s coming off a year where he pitched to a 3.34 era. In fact he lowered his era each year from ’07 through 2010. He’s never been a K per inning guy, always slightly below, as was the case with his hits per innings. His swing and miss rate is roughly at his career norm, he’s simply suffering from a higher contact rate of pitches outside the zone. His approach is vastly different than any other year, he’s throwing a higher percentage of change ups and cutters than in any other season with a career low percentage of fastballs. This could be a result of a dramatic decrease in velocity, however I was not able to find the data that proves this. Reuniting with the only major league pitching coach he knew prior to this season, Larry Rothschild, could be the only answer to getting Carlos Zambrano back on track. I’m not saying top four in CY Young voting (which would trigger his 2013 option) but a great improvement over AJ Burnett’s past two seasons is a certain possibility if he is able to pitch in the same fashion. More quality starts mean he’s keeping his team in contention longer, the improved bullpen + offense could result in far more wins for Zambrano in 2012. He also has been less home run prone than Burnett this season.
For AJ Burnett’s argument I’ll use a pitcher who is similar in age, posted similar results in 2010, but has benefited greatly from a shift over to the National League.
Pitcher A (2010 Season):
K/9 6.99 – BB/9 3.76 – K/BB 1.86 – HR/9 1.21 – AVG Against .279 – WHIP 1.51 – ERA 5.25
> Almost identical
Pitcher B (2010 Season):
K/9 6.92 – BB/9 3.72 – K/BB 1.86 – HR/9 1.83 – AVG Against .254 – WHIP 1.40 – ERA 5.30
Pitcher A (2011 Season):
K/9 8.24 – BB/9 4.00 – K/BB 2.06 – HR/9 1.43 – AVG Against .257 – WHIP – 1.46 – ERA 5.28
> Vast improvement by Pitcher B
Pitcher B (2011 Season):
K/9 7.49 – BB/9 2.50 – K/BB 3.00 – HR/9 1.02 – AVG Against – 2.47 – WHIP 1.25 – ERA 3.92
As shown by the data provided above, pitchers A and B had almost identical 2010 seasons in comparison. In fact both pitchers not only played in the same league, they both played in the same division, facing the same competition. To take it one step further they pitched in the same park donning the same uniform, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, Pitcher B is, drum roll please, Javier Vasquez.
In 2010 Burnett pitched 30 more innings, over the course of 7 games, resulting in 4 more quality stars and 5 more losses, however their peripheral stats are as close as can be.
As seen by the 2011 data, the switch to the more favorable league/park has greatly improved Vasquez’ peripherals. The results in a like amount of innings pitched have lead to 8 more quality starts an ERA improved by 1+, less hits, and a more favorable K to BB ratio. Now I am not saying AJ’s jump to the Cubs/National League would be as extreme as Javier’s, but given both Wrigley and Sun Life Stadium rate below 1.000 on the home run scale for major league parks 14th and 15th respectively (side note: below 1.000 constitutes a pitcher’s park) it appears his fly ball tendencies would result in far less runs scored. Currently, Yankee Stadium ranks as the 3rd most hitter friendly park in Major League baseball.
Looking ahead to the Cubs 2012 rotation currently Matt Garza, Randy Wells, and Andrew Cashner are projected for the rotation. Given that Zambrano won’t be returning to a starting pitching role under any circumstance and assuming Ryan Dempster will decline his player option for a multi year deal there will be two spots that need to be filled. Burnett will give the Cubs what Dempster has provided, a veteran pitcher who is capable of eating innings, however given that Burnett’s contact rate is 3 % lower than Dempster’s already I believe a transition to the National League would produce far greater results. As I stated worse case scenario is a split difference between his and Vasquez’ 2011 seasons which would result in a better year than both Dempster and Zambrano, the Cubs would also have him locked up for 2013 at a discounted rate, I propose the Yankees split the 15 million dollar difference in contract totals and kick in 7.5 million to be paid however the teams see fit. The Cubs would also gain 1.5 million for their 2012 payroll, the difference between Burnett and Zambrano’s salaries.
The ultimate benefit for the Yankees would be to get out from under Burnett’s contract as it has became apparent that he can no longer compete and win consistently in that environment.