Don't forget the Oldest Bucco
No, I'm not talking about Corey Hart. He only seems like he's a gazillion.
I mean A.J. Burnett, the 38-year-and-a-half-year-old Pirate in the middle of what might wind up being the finest season of his fine career.
Yes, it's easy to get excited about young Gerrit Cole. If there's only one Pittsburgh starter on the All-Star team, it's probably going to be Cole. His record is better than Burnett's, his fastball more electric. A lot more electric.
But Cole hasn't actually pitched any better than Burnett, who's enjoying one of the most impressive late-career surges that we've seen in a while. Consider: Not so long ago, Burnett finished two straight seasons with ERA's above five, which were pretty fair reflections of how well he actually pitched.
That was in the Bronx, of course. And things have gone significantly better for Burnett since then, first in Pittsburgh, then Philadelphia, and now Pittsburgh again. So what's the difference this season? I recently asked Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who caught Burnett quite often when both were Yankees...
Now he's less about speed, and his fastball command is incredible. And the way his fastball moves is different. He used to just throw hard-hard-hard-hard, but now he's able to control every pitch.
In fact, Burnett doesn't throw as hard as he used to, and most of his fastballs these days are two-seamers. And as he's thrown his fastballs with less speed, they've actually become more effective pitches. His knuckle-curveball used to be his best pitch, but this year it's been that hard sinker.
Burnett's been talking about retirement for a couple of years now, and he seems serious this time around. If so, it's just one more reason to send him to the All-Star Game for the first time in his career. That Cole kid will have plenty of plenty of shots at it...