18. A.J. Burnett (12.2)
A.J. Burnett was a 6-foot-5, 205 lb. right-handed pitcher from North Little Rock, AR when chosen in the eighth round of the 1995 MLB Amateur Entry Draft by the New York Mets. Born on January 3rd, 1977, he joined the Marlins prior to 1998 Spring Training when the Mets traded him with Robert Stratton and Jesus Sanchez for Ralph Milliard and Al Leiter.
Burnett made his major league debut in 1999 for the Marlins, where he went 4-2 and posted a 3.48 ERA with 33 K’s in 41 1/3 innings. He also walked 5.4 batters per nine innings, but wouldn’t again approach that number in a full season. Y2K would see Burnett go 3-7 with a 4.79 ERA over 13 starts, with 57 whiffs in 82 2/3 innings, with an identical 1.500 WHIP from his first season.
In 2001, Burnett went 11-12 over 27 starts, along with his first shutout. He struck out another 128 in 173 1/3 innings, lowering his WHIP to 1.315 while dropping his walk-rate to 4.3. He led the Marlins with 7.5 H/9 allowed.
In 2002, Burnett led the National League with five shutouts and only 6.7 hits allowed per nine innings. He went 12-9 with a 3.30 ERA and 203 whiffs in 204 1/3 innings, along with a then-career-best 1.189 WHIP.
Burnett made four starts to begin Florida’s 2003 campaign, going 0-2 before landing on the injured list for the balance of the season for Tommy John Surgery. Apparently, the Marlins didn’t suffer much, going the distance for their second World Series Championship.
Burnett returned in 2004 to go 7-6 with a 3.68 ERA and 113 K’s in 120 innings while posting the lowest WHIP of his career, at 1.167. He also walked less than three batters per nine innings for the first time, at 2.9.
2005 would be Burnett’s last season with the Marlins, and the first in which he didn’t miss any starts. He made 32 in total, going 12-12 with a 3.44 ERA, 198 strikeouts in 209 innings, and a. 1.258 WHIP. His 3.11 FIP was the best mark of his career until he registered a 2.80 in 2013 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Granted free agency following the season, Burnett joined the Toronto Blue Jays.
Burnett played three seasons for Toronto, then three for the New York Yankees and two for the Pirates. After a season spent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2014, he returned to Pittsburgh for his final season. At the age of 38, he made the all-star team for the first time before retiring.