Friday, February 26, 2010

Rhodes Helps Burnett With His Change

From Marc Carig:
Encouraged by a full season of watching CC Sabathia dominate hitters with his changeup, Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett spent his entire offseason trying to improve his own version of the pitch.

Burnett said he's never spent more time trying to refine his changeup, even enlisting the help of an old friend and neighbor, Reds reliever Arthur Rhodes.

"I think it's a big key," said Burnett, who wants the pitch to be reliable enough to use when his curveball is off. "Whether I throw it or not, I don't know. But I've been working it."
Carig goes on to explain how the number of changeups Burnett has thrown has gone down, and last year was the lowest since at least 2002 (no data prior to '02) at 3.1%. Obviously he's lost some faith in that pitch and had decided to stay away from it as much as possible. Hopefully this extra work will not only improve the pitch, but give him the confidence to use it. As long as it doesn't take away from his other pitches, mixing in a good change with that fastball and hook would be deadly.

We've also learned this spring that Burnett is going to try to get his walks down and throw less pitches per inning this year, two areas he felt he struggled with last year.
"Not walk as many people and go deeper into games," said Burnett. "Be more efficient like the Big Man [CC Sabathia]."
Clearly control was a major problem for Burnett all season--it pretty much has been for his entire career. He had a AL-worst 4.22 BB/9, was tied with King Felix for most wild pitches with 17, and hit 10 batters. That's a lot of free bases given to the other team.

Efficiency was also an issue. At 16.72, Burnett had his highest pitchers per inning total since 2003. He also averaged 6.27 innings per start, which is OK, but could be better and was his the least IP per start for Burnett since 2004.

I don't have to tell you how much of a boost he and the Yankees staff would get if he improved on these two areas of his game.

Control, to me, is the main thing. If he has better control and is getting ahead of hitters, everything else will fall into place. He'll be in better counts for his changeup, he'll use less pitches because he'll be pitching up in the count instead of pitching from behind, and he'll go deeper into games.

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