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Stats corner: Bats often quiet in Burnett's starts

| Saturday, June 8, 2013, 11:42 p.m.

Recent rough patch aside, A.J. Burnett has been both dominant and durable in 2013. Burnett is second in the National League in strikeouts per nine innings (9.97), carries a career-best 3.12 ERA and leads a banged-up Pirates' pitching staff with 89 13 innings pitched. The one thing Burnett seemingly can't do is get some crooked numbers from his teammates' bats.

When Burnett is on the bump, the already offensively-challenged Pirates score runs like it's still the dead ball era. Burnett has received the third-worst run support among qualified starting pitchers, with the Pirates crossing home plate an average of 2.6 times during his starts.

Not much help

Lowest run support among MLB starting pitchers

Pitcher Team R.S. Avg.

Ervin Santana Royals 2.25

Ricky Nolasco Marlins 2.31

A.J. Burnett Pirates 2.43

Kyle Lohse Brewers 2.64

Dan Haren Nationals 2.75

Source: ESPN.com

Compared to Burnett, James McDonald (5.17 runs of support per start), Francisco Liriano (4.33), Wandy Rodriguez (3.75) and Jeff Locke (3.42) have been spoiled. That lack of run support has tarnished Burnett's win-loss record, which stands at 4-6, and gives potent ammunition to fans and analysts who consider a pitcher's record a poor barometer of performance. Case in point: Burnett went 16-10 last year, with a higher ERA (3.51). The reason? He received an average of four runs of support in his starts.

With Burnett dealing and Pirates hitters flailing, Burnett ranks near the top of a more dubious leaderboard. He places fifth among starters in “Tough Losses,” defined by Baseball-Reference as a start in which a pitcher makes a quality start but still gets tagged with an L.

Tough company

Most tough losses among starters

Pitcher Team Tough Losses

Joe Blanton Angels 5

Cole Hamels Phillies 5

James Shields Royals 5

C.J. Wilson Angels 4

A.J. Burnett Pirates 3

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

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