Let’s pretend you didn’t look at the title of this article and let’s check out what happened in the 2009 playoffs and the first month of April 2010. In the 2009 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cliff Lee-led Phillies dominated the Yankees in Game 1 en route to a Game 1 victory. The Yankees absolutely needed a win in Game 2, and it was delivered. Their starting pitcher went seven innings and only gave up four hits and one earned run and effectively started the series for the Yankees. His nine strikeouts set the tone for the rest of the series, as the Phillies had no one besides Cliff Lee to win match up with the Yankee starters.

After great World Series appearances, this same pitcher went 3-0 in April with a 2.43 ERA, striking out twice as many batters as he walked (20/9). It appeared that AJ Burnett had all the pieces in place. Then, the rest of the season happened. Let’s take a look at AJ’s horrid six months and see if there’s anything that can be built on for 2011.

No caption necessary - Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

There is honestly nothing I can say to make you feel good about AJ Burnett’s season. Here’s some of the fun stats that will make you wonder how on Earth he is making $16.5 million for the next three seasons. AJ went 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA, which was the worst ERA EVER for a Yankee starter. He allowed 204 hits in 182.2 innings which lead to a WHIP of 1.511, his worst since 2002. He allowed a career high 1.2 home runs per nine innings while striking out seven batters per nine innings, which was a career worst.

All of those stats point to terrible things, but this stat is by far the worst: in 2010, AJ Burnett’s WAR (Wins Against Replacement) was -0.1. For those of you who do not follow new-age baseball stats, WAR is used to judge a player by how many wins or losses he creates for a team. With a WAR of +8, think A-Rod in 2007. With a 5+ WAR, think a great All-Star season. With 1-5, think an above average season. Anything 0 or lower means you are an average player that can be replaced with by a minor leaguer for $450,000. The biggest issue with AJ Burnett creating negative wins for the Yankees is that he is being paid $16.5 million to do so. This is by far the worst WAR disparity in baseball.

Considering AJ’s regression and salary, it will be literally impossible for the Yankees to do anything besides eat the roughly $46 million dollars they owe him over the next three years. One of the best investments the Yankees will make this offseason will be a pitching coach to adequately work with AJ to bring him back to form. Despite his many faults, he still does have electric stuff.

I don’t know what the plan is for the Yankees and AJ Burnett. But what would I do? Minimize as much as possible that the Yankees need Allan James to have a great year. How is that possible? Get CC healthy and ready to dominate in 2010. Go out and pay Cliff Lee the money he has certainly deserved. Continue the development of Phil Hughes, where the sky is currently the limit. If the Yankees plan on doing anything next year, they cannot reasonably think it will happen with AJ as the second starter. However, he is someone you can feel comfortable with as a $16.5 million dollar #4 starter. Let’s not forget that if he can overcome the voices in his head, he can dominate both lefties and righties.