clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Eyeball Scout: Burns Finally Getting Busted

New, comments
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Busted inside, that is. As I watched Billy Burns get jammed, crowded, and tied up with fastballs inside, on his way to a 3 for 24 skid, all I could think was, "What the heck took you so long, league?" I have been waiting for teams to figure out how unwise it is to allow Burns to extend his arms and slash at pitches and how helpless he is against good hard stuff in on the hands.

Burns got the last (latest) laugh when he fought off an inside fastball in the 10th inning last night and "muscled" it (which in Burns-speak means "lofted a dying quail to right-center so equidistant between two inept outfielders that it somehow managed to land untouched") for a key double. So he is now 4 for his last 25.

In the game of cat and mouse that is the constant adjustments between pitcher (meow) and batter (squeak), Burns has feasted on "get me over" first pitch fastballs, then seen fewer "meatballs" and finally begun being more selective and running more of his signature 10 pitch at bats. Now catchers are setting up "in, in, in" and it is incumbent upon Burns to figure out how to succeed on pitches that tie him up inside.

I'm not sure how he will do it. Ideally you turn on pitches and rip a few balls into the RF corner until teams become more nervous about coming inside. I don't see Burns having that kind of pop to truly "keep teams honest" nor does his inside-out approach come with enough muscle to line inside pitches hard the other way.

Right now Burns is golfing a lot of inside pitches foul, "muscling" a lot of inside pitches in the air, and rolling a lot of inside pitches weakly to the right side. This has yielded a couple of hits, but is not a recipe for long term success. This is the Waterloo I have been waiting for with the A's exciting rookie and I am interested to see how Burns tries to adjust back. So far so ... not great.

And other than laying off as many of those inside heaters as he can afford to, I'm not sure what advice to offer. Except to rediscover the ability to walk because that .300 batting average may be ephemeral but if Burns could bat even .280/.340 he could still be very good. Just get on base and then go, go, go. Burns has now attempted 22 SBs and the catcher has thrown him out once. (Oversliding has bitten him twice.) There is no question that Burns is a "game changer" on the base paths, as we saw in the 10th inning last night.

As the day begins, Burns is batting .304/.340/.400 and while I expect his batting average to continue to trend downwards I am not as certain that his OBP needs to drop. If he gets back to being highly selective, fouling off tough pitches, and drawing a few more walks Burns might be able to keep that OBP at around .340 and to me that's the key.

So keep an eye on that OBP if you want to project whether the league has caught up to Burns as a "two month wonder" or whether Burns might have some staying power in the big leagues as an every day player. Now that the league has figured out where to pitch him, we're probably about to find out.