AJ Burnett is clearly in denial. After his latest blow-up – against the AL basement-dwelling Orioles no less – he answered the now-familiar "what went wrong" question as follows: "Just one pitch today if you ask me". You will forgive me if I am less reasssured than I am concerned by the fact that none of the other 40 pitches he threw in the six-run second inning of that game seemed to trouble him.
Postgame interviews need to be taken with a grain of salt. Players often say what they need to say to maintain their confidence, put up a facade for the public so as not to let them (us) in, etc. And if this is the case with AJ, that's fine, I guess. But they are also some of the more unguarded moments you get from players. And AJ does not strike me as a particularly complicated or calculating guy. I think he believes that he really only threw one bad pitch in his last outing.
Now it is true, if it weren't for the grand slam he gave up in that second inning AJ's line would look pretty great – 2 ER in 7 IP with 2 BB and 6 hits. But that's just it. For weeks now, pondering AJ's latest outing brings to mind the famous question "Other than that, how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln?" One bad batter-faced is a problem but fairly standard, even in a great outing. One bad inning, especially when your starter goes off the reservation for three, four, five, or six hitters in a row, is often the ballgame. And in tight post-season games, it is likely the series and then the season. It seems to me that if CC doesn't win the first game of the ALDS, this team is in deep trouble because the ostensible # 2 can't seem to limit the damage in the one bad inning-per-game that seems to be his quota lately. And herein lies the concern. Or at least, my concern. When asked if he was concerned given that October is around the corner, AJ reiterated the one-pitch-mantra: "It's one pitch here or there. You eliminate your mistakes and keep them to a minimum, we'll be all right." Really? Well I would assume throwing only one bad pitch out of 108 in a 7 inning game is pretty much "limiting your mistakes". Unfortunately, when that one pitch is preceded by dozens of others that walked the bases loaded, it likely means the team won't be "all right".
AJ is 1-5 with a 6.14 ERA in his last 9 starts. His WHIP over that preiod tops 1.500 (!!!). I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that averages out to more than one bad pitch per game. If he does not get it straightened out, the team with the best record in baseball will be awfully vulnerable come October.