A.J. Burnett has pitched like a staff ace so far in 2013 but does not have the record to show for it.
Granted, wins and losses are not good statistics to judge a pitcher’s performance but what is troubling has less to do with Burnett and more to do with the Pirates offense. Burnett has been great at the top of the Pittsburgh rotation and the Pirate offense has shown the ability to score runs, yet somehow the two have not found a way to cross paths. One could argue that Burnett has pitched well enough to win the majority (if not all) of his starts but the Pirate bats have been hiding when he’s on the hill.
Prior to Friday’s game at Milwaukee, Burnett had started 10 games for Pittsburgh so far this season with the Pirates managing just four wins. In those games Pittsburgh has only scored more than five runs once (in a 6-5 win against Cincinnati on April 12). The only times the Pirates scored five in a Burnett start (which they have done twice with both coming in games against St. Louis) they’ve won. In the six losses the Pirates have scored 1, 0, 2, 1, 1 and 2 runs. Add the one run Pittsburgh scored Friday and that gives you a grand total of nine runs in the seven games Burnett has started the Pirates would go on to lose.
It has gotten to the point where one almost feels bad for Burnett. On Friday at Milwaukee he was at it again — seven innings pitched, three hits, six strikeouts, two runs — with the end result another Pittsburgh loss.
In his previous state against Houston he allowed just one run on five hits with seven strikeouts while lasting seven innings and, you guessed it, the Pirates lost. Before that he went seven innings on May 13 at Milwaukee with four runs allowed (three earned) to go with six strikeouts and no walks. Again, the Pirates lost.
While Burnett is not quite in 2012 Cliff Lee territory getting wins with the ace on the mound is something the Pirates are going to need to see a lot more of as the season gets into the long summer months and the team is (potentially) battling to stay with the Cardinals and Reds in the National League Central race. Being able to win games when your pitchers do not have their best stuff helps, but winning when they are on is equally, if not, more important.
Links and Notes
**Tim is away from the site this weekend so First Pitch will be passed around for a few days. Obviously I took over for today’s edition and we’ll have James Santelli on duty Saturday with John Dreker taking the reigns on Sunday.
**The 2013 Prospect Guide and the 2013 Annual are both available on the products page of the site. If you order them together, you’ll save $5.
**The newest Pirates Prospects Podcast is up and available for download or streaming. P3 Episode 5: Polanco the Top Prospect? Can Pirates Keep Winning? Mark Melancon Interview