I am as amped up as anyone to see my favourite pitcher this side of Dave Stieb (Roy Halladay) pitch against the prodigal son with the electric arm tonight. Last year I penned an article discussing how AJ lives and dies by his deuce.
Everyone knows that Burnett’s fastball is electric, and I have seen him live pumping it up to 96-97 in the 8th inning of a game. At the MLB level, however, big league hitters can catch up to that smoke. When AJ is dominating them, it is with his hook and when he is getting dominated himself, it is because his curve is very hittable:
If Burnett is not able to locate his curve for strikes, look for the struggling Alex Rios to step up. One thing Rios has been able to do this season is hit fastballs. He’s batting .304 against heat compared with .170 against off-speed pitches. Watch to see whether that translates into success against A.J. Burnett’s heater, as Rios is batting .299 against fastballs 94 mph or higher since 2007. Opponents have batted .360 against Burnett’s fastball so far this season.
I also anticipate the Arnsberg influence to be in full effect tonight. If anyone has any insight into the deranged mind of Burnett, it is Arnsberg. I expect the Jays to take more pitches than usual tonight in the hopes that AJ gets squeezed on a few borderline calls. Once that happens, the walks mount, AJ implodes and leaves hanging curveballs to be crushed into the upper levels of the Rogers Centre. Unfortunately for AJ, Arnsberg won’t be there to save him this time.