19 August 2002

AJ Burnett may be, unfortunately for us, done for the season, with a deep bone bruise on his pitching elbow. Actually, this may be a fortunate thing for him. If this injury keeps him on the shelf for the rest of the year as though it were, it might just save his career. I know, you're saying "Save his career? He seems to be off to a great start! What's to save?" But if something isn't done to help preserve Burnett's arm soon, he could burn out, much like too many talented, young pitchers have in the last 20 years. Steve Avery is a prime example of a guy who was great for a few years when he was very young, but because of overwork, could not sustain the same levels, or even useful levels, of skill into his late 20's. And now Burnett is being abused at almost Livan Hernandezian rates, as the guys at Baseball Prospectus will tell you. Only Randy Johnson has suffered more abuse at the hands of his manager than Burnett, and at least the Big Unit has proven that he can take it. Burnett is only 25, and has averaged over 111 pitches per start. Yes it's great that he's leading the majors in complete games and shutouts, but let's face it folks, the Fish are going nowhere, slowly, and leaving Burnett in for 110, 120, 130 pitches is really not helping anybody. This is the future of the franchise, and racking up pitch counts like you're trying to win a prize at a carnival is a good way to run the "franchise" into the ground.

The funny (funny-strange, not funny ha-ha) thing is, Marlins' manager Jeff Torborg was quoted all over the article saying things like "We would never do anything to hurt him" and "It's an absolute shock." which I'm sure it is, for him. But if he were worth his salt as a manager, he might have done a little research on how to handle young pitchers, since he's been given the charge of developing the likes of Burnett, Josh Beckett, Ryan Dempster (since traded), Brad Penny, and even Carl Pavano and Braden Looper. In doing said research, he might have come across the work that Rany Jazayerli and others at Baseball Prospectus have done in examining pitcher abuse and realized that a pitcher with pitcher abuse levels (based on high pitch counts in individual outings) above a certain threshold are three times more likely to experience a serious arm injury than those whose arms are better cared for. Seems to me like a pretty good reason to take a guy like Burnett out when he's already logged 110 pitches. He's already a pretty damn good pitcher at 25, if perhaps a little wild. I'd like to see him still pitching well when he's 30, y'know?

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