As he walked off the mound to a standing ovation after another solid start Sunday afternoon against the San Francisco Giants, Pirates fans need to take a second and realize just how important Burnett has been to the Pirates success thus far in 2012.
Sure Andrew McCutchen is the first-half MVP for the Bucs, but the contributions that Burnett has made to this team are just as important.
Burnett should be heading to Kansas City for the All-Star Game, but that’s besides the point.
Some guys produce on the field. Some guys are mentors to younger players. Some guys are great clubhouse leaders.
Burnett has been all of the above.
The offseason trade that brought Burnett to “The Burgh,” turned out to be a steal, but you have to ask yourself where the Bucs would be right now if general manager Neal Huntington didn’t pull the trigger on that deal?
Breaking down Burnett’s contributions, let’s start with James McDonald and the effect that he has had on him. McDonald has the talent and it may have all come out this year, but having a mentor like Burnett around certainly doesn’t hurt. Burnett just hasn’t been good for himself on the bump, but he has had an impact up and down the pitching staff. The Pirates rotation needed an anchor at the top and Burnett has turned out to be that guy.
Next, look at the effect Burnett has had on the clubhouse. The difference between this seasons Pirates team and last years is how loose the clubhouse is.
They are having fun as a team and playing as a team. A few losses won’t send these guys over the cliff. That’s partly due to Burnett. He had the same effect on the 2009 New York Yankees. It has nothing to do with shaving cream pies, but the general fun attitude he brings to a clubhouse.
That type of stuff is contagious.
Who wouldn’t want to play with a guy like Burnett?
But all that means absolutely nothing if you don’t handle your business and Burnett certainly has, posting a 10-2 record and 3.68 ERA , having only one bad start on the season.
If Burnett wasn’t pitching well, the antics would wear thin quickly, similar to how they did in New York.
But he may have been just what a young Pirates team needed after a second-half collapse in 2011.
He’s a leader both on and off the field and that’s something the Bucs didn’t have a season ago. While there’s no doubting that the Bucs wouldn’t be where they are now, they also wouldn’t be where they are without Burnett.
His contributions have meant that much.