- Ben Jedlovec, ESPN Insider
A.J. Burnett has drawn the ire of New York Yankees fans who expect more from the 34-year-old starter. Burnett signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract before the 2009 season, and though he has two years left on his contract, many fans are ready to have him removed from the rotation heading into October and banished to the bullpen.
It's certainly true that Burnett hasn't matched his previous numbers since donning the Yankee uniform. While Burnett has always struggled with his control and walked more than his fair share of batters, he was almost always effective when healthy with the Florida Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays. Since joining the Yankees, however, Burnett has posted career-worst marks in ERA, strikeout rate and home runs allowed. Though his home run rate has certainly been hurt by pitching in the new Yankee Stadium, his numbers are actually better at home than on the road since 2009.
However, a closer look reveals that a good portion of Burnett's struggles can be attributed to the Yankees' defense; not only has New York been one of the worst-fielding teams in the American League, but the team has been at its worst when Burnett takes the mound. In fact, no pitcher has received less defensive support this season than Burnett.