Friday, December 05, 2008
As this offseason and free agency period moves on I continue to be amazed by one thing, the massive hype surrounding AJ Burnett and the fact that not one word has been spoken about Ben Sheets. Let's compare and contrast the two and see if I can come to a logical conclusion as to why Burnett is Free Agent Pitcher #2 and Sheets is Free Agent Pitcher Meh.
Burnett turns 32 in January while Sheets turns 31 in July. Not really a big deal.
Everyone seems to be focusing on Ben Sheets injury history but does it only take 1 season to forget about Burnett's? Sheets started off his career with 25, 34, 34, & 34 starts per season respectively. The past 4 years have been injury riddled with 22, 17, 24 and 31 this past season where he couldn't finish out the last week. Burnett on the other hand had 34 starts this season and limited signs of injury, but does that make it disappear? After his rookie year in 1999 when he was a late season callup Burnett has never been the epitome of health. He made 13, 27 and 29 starts his first three full seasons. Then in 2003 AJ blew out his ucl and needing Tommy John Surgery. He came back in 2004 made 19 starts and then in his free agent year in 2005 he started 32 games and had a 3.44 ERA. After that he went made only 21 and 25 starts respectively his first two seasons with the Blue Jays until this year his free agent year when he once again had a fully healthy year.
So to recap, both pitchers have thrown 200+ innings 3 times. In the past 5 years both pitchers have pitched a full season just twice.
If you look at the career statistics of Sheets and Burnett or more specifically focus on their recent past you will notice that Burnett does one thing and one thing alone better. He strikes more people out. Since Sheets ungodly season in 2004 his Ks per inning has dropped below 1, whereas Burnett typically strikes out around 1 per inning. Meanwhile, Sheets WHIP and ERA have been better in 4 of the past 5 seasons. There of course is something to be said about pitching in the National League rather than the American League, but in 2008 was the difference in leagues big enough to explain away the 3.09 as compared to 4.07 ERAs or the 1.15 as compared to 1.34 WHIP?
Do I think Sheets is the bigger injury risk of the two? Yes I do, mostly because his recent history is worse, but if I was a GM and I could get him at significantly less money than Burnett than I would take him in a second.*
*All of this Assumes He will Be Able to Start the Year in the Roatation