A.J. Burnett’s recent struggles are not a secret.  When you have a June ERA of 10.35 and WHIP of 2.00, it’s kind of hard to hide.  Let’s dissect his numbers in June and see if we can pinpoint where things have gone off course:

5.0 BB/9 IP
He’s had problems with his control on and off, but for his career, he has a 3.8 BB/9 IP and for the entire 2010 season he’s at 3.5.  This shows you two things: first, his control was better than anyone could have expected over the first two months (14 BB in 71.1 innings), and second, he was due to regress.  While this number is ugly, it really isn’t completely surprising either.  Remember, for the full season in 2009 he posted a BB/9 of 4.2.

.321 BABIP
It’s not like he’s been exceptionally unlucky here (the worst BABIP in June belongs to Mark Buehrle, who is at .419).  Yes, you would expect the luck to turn at some point, but this isn’t something to fully blame for his collapse.

65.8% Strand Rate
Like the BABIP, this is a below average mark, but not one that is stunningly so.  Just consider James Shields’ 46.7 percent mark in June.  Again, it’s part of the problem, but it doesn’t really explain his ugly mark.

93.2 mph Average Fastball
That matches his mark for the full season, but it is down from 2009 (94.2 mph) and from his career (94.6 mph).  From 2004-2009  his fastball never fell below 94.2 mph in a season, and three times he averaged above 95.0 mph.  Still, while it is easy to point to this as a reason, he was pitching well earlier in the season (despite averaging 93.5 mph in April and 93.0 mph in May).

4.1 HR/FB
A very telling number.  Is there anything specific to explain the number of home runs he’s allowed?  Well, part of it could be the opponents (Blue Jays who lead the league, Orioles, Phillies who are eleventh in the league & Diamondbacks who are fourth in the league) and part could be the ballparks he’s played in.  Still, there’s no real excuse for allowing nine home runs in four starts (he had allowed four home runs over the first two months of the season).

6.3 K/9 IP
He has a career strikeout rate of 8.3, but it just hasn’t been there this season (6.6 K/9 IP for the year).  Maybe it’s the drop in velocity.  Maybe it’s the fact that he’s depending on his fastball more now (71.6 percent thrown) then he has since 2004.  Whatever it is, he’s simply not getting strikeouts at a rate anywhere close to where he’s been for his entire career.

Could the fall be injury related?  Not that we’ve heard at this point, so it’s tough to blame that.  The fact is the ball is flying out of the ballpark and he’s simply not getting enough strikeouts.  Those are two things that could easily be fixed. Given his history, you have to think that he can.  While he’s tough to watch right now, better days have got to be ahead.

Basically, even in his terrible month, there’s not enough to point to that justifies giving up on him.  You don’t simply stop striking people out.  You don’t just start allowing this many home runs.  Keep him stashed and wait for the better days to return.

What are your thoughts on Burnett?  Is he someone you are willing to stick with?  Would you even consider buying him if someone is selling?

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