PITTSBURGH, PA: A.J. Burnett #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
If you look at A.J. Burnett's season to this point, there are bright spots, but also a lofty ERA. At 4.19, he's below-average by 10 percent, and if you're below the league average in the majors, you're absolutely worse than average in fantasy leagues with much smaller rosters.
As the headline suggests, though, that's a bit misleading. Burnett has struck out 8.2 batters per nine, owns a 3.3 K/BB ratio, and has quality starts in five of his seven appearances in 2012. The one major blemish on his record to this point is from his third start of the year, when he lasted just 2-2/3 innings thanks to surrendering 12 earned runs.
Now, we're not saying that game didn't happen. There it is, in his game logs, in full 12-run glory. But Burnett has given up just eight runs total in his other six starts, which would equal an ERA of 1.74. He's not likely to pitch at that level forever either, but given he's in the weak NL Central, in a park that favors pitchers, in a situation entirely different than what he dealt with in the AL East and Yankee Stadium the last few years, it's easy to believe he's going to be much better than his current ERA indicates.
Burnett has been efficient for the most part, too, a word not associated with him much during his time in New York. He's averaging just 92 pitches per start on the year (96 if you remove that 2-2/3 disaster where he threw just 72), and over six innings per start as well (just a hair under seven if you once again disregard the one awful appearance).
The reason for the constant reminders about how good he's been in his other starts is this: if you're looking around the waiver wire in a mixed league for the pitchers with the most value who are available, the one with three wins and a 4.19 ERA isn't likely to be very high unless you're in a very deep league. Throw a FAAB dollar or two at Burnett this weekend, before more time passes and additional innings help erase the damage that a start from a month ago caused. You'll be glad you did when you get to take advantage of an A.J. Burnett with context in his favor for once.