Hall of Fame Case: A.J. Burnett

Hall of Fame Case: A.J. Burnett

by December 12, 2020 1 comment

A.J. Burnett is on the ballot for the first time this year. The right-handed starter had a 17-year career and won a World Series ring. Does he have enough to get into Cooperstown?

Make sure to check out all of our other MLB Hall of Fame Cases.

Burnett made 430 starts in his big league career and many were adventurous. Nevertheless, A.J. managed a solid MLB career with a few highlights and an accolade or two.

Career Summary

The New York Mets selected Allan James Burnett in the eighth round of the 1995 draft. He was just out of Central Arkansas Christian HS in Little Rock, AR. In 1998, Burnett was part of a trade from the Mets that brought Al Leiter to New York. A.J. made his major league debut with the Florida Marlins on August 17, 1999, getting the win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. While his lack of control was a problem, he managed to induce weak contact and keep the ball in the park.

This combination was exemplified by his outing on May 12, 2001.

After missing the first month of the season, Burnett made just his second start on May 12. It was a no-hitter but certainly not a pretty one. The Marlins righty threw 129 pitches, walked nine, and chipped in a wild pitch and a hit batsman. He did strike out seven San Diego Padres on the day.

After the Marlins

After the 2005 season, Burnett signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He had three solid seasons in Canada culminating in 2008 with an 18-10 record and a league-leading 231 strikeouts. Burnett hit free agency again and got rewarded with a five-year/$82.5 million contract from the New York Yankees. He spent three of those years with the Bronx Bombers, winning a World Series in 2009. Despite the ring, Burnett’s seasons in New York were the worst of his career. He led the league in walks once, HBP once, and wild pitches twice.

With spring training starting in 2012, the Yankees traded Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a couple of minor leaguers. He spent two years with the Pirates and had very good seasons, cutting down on his walks and even leading the league in K/9 in 2013. After a year with the Philadelphia Phillies, Burnett returned for one final season with the Pirates and earned his only All-Star game selection.

Pros

Burnett has 2,513 career strikeouts. That total places him among 39 pitchers with over 2,500 Ks. He has a no-hitter, a ring, and an All-Star appearance. Burnett struck out 200+ batters three times and led the league with 231 in 2008. He also led the league in shutouts in 2002 for the Marlins with five. The big righty also avoided a round number by finishing with a 3.99 career ERA. He was efficient at keeping the ball in the park as well, only surrendering 263 HRs in 2,731 1/3 IP (2.25% HR rate)

Cons

While some of the total numbers look at least decent for Burnett, he was wild, walking 1,100 batters. He led the league in walks twice, wild pitches three times, and hit batsmen once. He finished with a 164-157 record which isn’t going to wow any of the voters. Finally, Burnett’s ERA+ is 104 which is only slightly above average.

Verdict

His strikeout numbers are good and he had his moments. His propensity to put men on base at a high rate ultimately hurt his career. Unconventionally, A.J. Burnett had a quite average career overall and won’t be getting a second chance on the ballot next year.

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