A.J.‘s curve: missing bats, missing the zone

After much anticipation, the trade that sent A.J. Burnett from the Yankees to the Pirates was finally completed on Sunday. Burnett had a tumultuous three seasons in the Bronx, with a 4.79 ERA and 4.5 walks/hit batters per nine over 584 regular-season innings.

His signature pitch is an 83 mph spike-curveball with exceptional movement. (Harry Pavlidis mentioned it here a few weeks ago—it’s not quite as nasty as Craig Kimbrel’s). Because he does a consistent job of keeping it below the strike zone, hitters don’t make much contact with the pitch when they swing at it, but it’s taken for a ball if when they don’t. The two tables below are for whiffs per swing and balls per pitch, minimum 2,500 pitches thrown dating back to 2007.

Rank   Pitcher           Pitch     #      Whiff%
1      A.J. Burnett      Curveball 4575   43.9%
2      Cole Hamels       Changeup  4158   43.8%
3      Rich Harden       Changeup  3053   43.4%       
4      Francisco Liriano Slider    2632   43.4%      
5      Tim Lincecum      Changeup  2946   42.9% 
Rank   Pitcher           Pitch     #      Ball%
1      Randy Wolf        Curveball 2562   44.2%
2      Gio Gonazlez      Curveball 2663   43.2%
3      A.J. Burnett      Curveball 4575   43.1%
4      Justin Verlander  Curveball 3244   42.3%       
5      Kevin Millwood    Fastball  2718   41.2% 

Pitch labels are THT’s.

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