A.J. Burnett didn’t have the best time in his one-year stint with the Phillies. After a start on April 11 against the Marlins, he was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia–or, in other words, a part of his abdomen was bulging or protruding where it should not have been. The injury is not the type to fix itself with rest, and Burnett elected to pitch through the pain, rather than have surgery.
The result, at least in my opinion, was a decidedly sub-par A.J. Burnett pitching for the Phillies. His ERA was more than a full run above what he posted in 2013. His K% was down, BB% was up, and his velocity was nearly a full MPH lower on average than in 2013. He relied on his slider much more than he has in the past, and neglected his fastball.
Still, made 34 starts, which was tied for most in the NL and tied for a career high. He tossed 213.2 innings, which was good for 7th in the NL, and the 2nd most of his career. He threw 3472 pitches–2nd in the NL and also 2nd most of his career.
My point here is that he fought through his hernia injury and gave the Phillies all he could. What did he get in return? A whole lotta criticism from fans and media alike. Now, I understand that it’s fair to criticize his performance. He didn’t have a good year. But that criticism should also come with praise for what he gave the Phils. Had he elected to do the surgery, the Phils would’ve had a really tough time filling his spot in the rotation. The entire dynamic of the season would’ve been different. We may not have seen Jerome Williams. We might have been stuck with Sean O’Sullivan and another minor leaguer in the rotation.
During the season Burnett hinted at not wanting to pitch in 2015. When that decision had to be made, however, he decided that he did want to pitch. Just not for the Phillies. He declined his player option–which was a cool $12.75 million. He then signed a contract with the Pirates for $8.5 million–more than $4 million left on the table. He lost out on 1/3 of what he would’ve made with the Phillies to get the heck out of Philadelphia. He clearly did not enjoy his time here, and the outlook of another bad season in 2015 could not have been too appealing to him. With the Pirates, he has a shot to compete for a playoff spot next year, and I think he will be happier than he was here. And I can’t blame him.