For Burnett, mechanics are key
In Game 2 against the Angels, for the first 4 innings, A.J. Burnett was dominant. However, in the 5th frame, the wheels came off and the bad Burnett arrived, as he allowed 2 hits, hit a batter, walked a batter, and gave up a run on a wild pitch (in that order). He managed to escape the inning with only 2 ER on the board for the Angels, though, they seemed poised to score a lot more given Burnett’s complete lack of command in that particular half inning (blame it on the bats, I guess).
Former scout Frank Piliere (Fanhouse) noted that mechanical issues were behind Burnett’s struggles:
Saunders’ performance aside, the key to the night might have been the Angels’ inability to land a knockout blow on a struggling Burnett in the fifth inning. If you examine him closely in that inning, pretty much all the things that could go wrong in his delivery did. Not only did his command suffer, but so did his velocity and the bite on his breaking ball. Normally at 94-96 mph, he was pitching around 91-92 at some points in the trouble innings.
Looking more closely at his delivery, it was clear in several slow-motion replays what was going wrong. Continuing to open up his front shoulder early as he tends to do when he’s going badly, Burnett was suddenly pulling off of his release point, causing the ball to run to his arm side. This is what caused the decrease in velocity and also the loss of command. It also made it far more difficult for him to get on top of his big breaking ball. Instead, we saw him getting around that pitch as his arm slot dropped. When the front shoulder opens, the elbow and arm slot come down. Burnett at his best is on top of the ball, producing that explosive velocity and downer breaking ball.
This was an inning where not even Burnett’s stuff was at its typical level. With his mechanics betraying him, little command of his breaking ball and his velocity down the Angels had their opportunity to pounce on him. They did push two runs across, but this had the makings of a meltdown inning that Yankee fans have seen from Burnett at times in 2009. Lots of things could have gotten Los Angeles a win in Game 2, but the inability to break Burnett might be the most haunting thing about the loss.
Burnett’s mechanical problems have been documented throughout the year, so Piliere’s analysis doesn’t come as a surprise. Hopefully, with the weather much more favorable in Game 5 than it was in Game 2, he’ll be able to maintain control of his mechanics tonight and lead the Yankees to an ALCS victory.
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