So, let’s look at two identical contracts. A.J. Burnett and John Lackey each signed for 5 years, 82.5 million. Burnett with the Yankees, Lackey with the not Yankees.
At the time of the contract, both players were roughly the same age.
Lackey started 30+ games 5 times. Burnett did it twice.
Lackey had an ERA under 4 every year since 2004, including 3.44 in ’05, 3.56 in ’06, and 3.01 in ’07.
Burnett had an ERA under 4 5 times also, but he has been in the majors longer. However, his ERA was under 3.75 only three times (not including his rookie season when he pitched 41 innings), and only one of those times did he make 30 starts – that being 2005 when he had a 3.44 ERA in 32 starts.
Burnett pitched in the NL until 2006. His two season in the AL yielded ERAs of 3.98 and 3.75. Lackey has been in the AL his whole career. A quick observation of the ERA+ shows Lackey over 120 from 2005-2007, peaking at 150 in ’07. Burnett has never been above 120.
Yes, Burnett’s strikeouts and K/9 are better, but he also walks more batters.
Some people say Lackey is declining: his 3.83 ERA in 2009 was his highest in years. Burnett? He posted a 4.07 ERA in the year before his big contract – his highest since 2003. In the first year of his contract with NYY, his ERA stayed at 4.04.
Now, I’m not trying to say A.J. Burnett is a worthless pitcher. He’s not. But, you know you play for the Yankees when you make the same amount of money that John Lackey, who is clearly significantly better than you.
A.J. Burnett sucks. And I hate the Yankees.