Baseball

Analyzing the 2021 Hall of Fame class: A.J. Burnett

Nobody walked more batters (1100) or threw more wild pitches (161) between 1999 and 2015 than A.J. Burnett, but that’s less a reflection of his quality and more a testament to how long the Arkansan was a major league-caliber starting pitcher. Just look at his strikeout numbers: Burnett racked up 2513 by the time he retired, putting him at 38 on the all-time leaderboard.   

Never a superstar, the righty was the platonic ideal of a good number 3 starter. At 6’4”, 225 lbs., Burnett had the frame and the four-pitch mix necessary to eat a ton of innings, especially after returning from Tommy John surgery in 2004.

As good his game was though, little about it really stood out. Burnett finished most years with an ERA around 4. He posted good, but not extreme strikeout and groundball rates (career 8.28 k/9 and 50.6% gb), and he threw in the mid-90s during an era where aces began to touch triple digits with some regularity.

This might be why Burnett managed only one all-star appearance during his 17-year career. He earned that honor while pitching for the Pirates in 2015, Burnett’s final season. Burnett went on to finish the year with a 3.18 ERA, a career best. It was a fitting capstone for a pitcher who played pretty much as well in his late-30s as he had in his 20s.

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