(Okay giggle at the title)
A.J. Burnett was a tough luck loser yesterday, going eight innings while allowing just seven baserunners (four hits, three walks) and striking out six. Bryan Bullington out pitched him, allowing zero runs in eight innings, giving up just two hits and a walk while striking out five.
What struck me most during the game–well, aside from the fact that the Yankees put together pretty bad at bats the entire game–was the way Burnett used his curveball. He threw it 27 times by Brooks’ count and it landed for a strike 74.07% of the time, way above his season average of just over 51% (per Texas Leaguers). This helped make up for A.J.’s fastball (61.22% strikes, 65.5% season average), which wasn’t as well located.
As he should’ve done, Burnett kept his breaking ball away from left handed hitters while mixing a few back leg breaking balls in there, too. Five of Burnett’s six strikeouts–the Mitch Maier strikeout in the 7th as the lone exception–came on his curveball.
Hopefully, three people watch and learn from this start. Obviously, pitching coach Dave Eiland will watch this with Burnett, but Phil Hughes should be in on this film session as well. If anyone on the team could stand to learn that a pitcher can use his breaking ball successfully when his fastball isn’t quite working, it’s Hughes.