Last night in Game 3 of the 2010 World Series, Pat Burrell wore a golden sombrero as he struck out in all four of his at bats. He is now 0-9 in the series with two walks and eight strikeouts and while he may be struggling, he is at least in the World Series while the Rays are at home watching on television. The only silver lining for bitter Rays fans is the Rays are no longer paying Burrell because contracts only apply to the regular season and the post-season pay comes from bonuses.
Burrell’s time in a Rays uniform was regrettable for both he and the front office who misjudged how Burrell would handle life as a Designated Hitter in a league where he had never played before. It is one of those things that has been tough to explain because Burrell’s offensive numbers while in the National League are dramatically better than his numbers when he is facing American League pitching.
Burrell’s excuse while he was with the Rays was that he said he had to be on the field to stay in the flow of a game in order to feel in an offensive groove. Unfortunately, the sample size just is not large enough to back up that statement as he has just 574 at bats in his career as a DH with a putrid .209/.306/.348 slash line while hitting .260/.368/.491 in 4691 at bats while playing in the field.
There is also the old adage that the National League is the league of fastballers while the American League has the junkballers. In 2009, Burrell saw just 56% fastballs from pitchers which was the lowest percentage he had seen at any point of his career as pitchers quickly discovered his bat speed wasn’t what it once was. However, Burrell saw slightly more fastballs in his time with the Rays in 2010 than he did with the Giants for the rest of the season according to the data at fangraphs.com.
While it is just from within the 2009-2010 seasons, the table below shows the results of Burrell’s at bats with the Rays compared to his at bats with the Giants courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com.
Burrell was a huge part of the Giants’ surge to the post-season as 12 of his home runs came in the final two months of the season and he drove in 35 of his 51 runs as a Giant in that time frame. By his own admission, he hates to DH and the stats show he is a much better hitter while facing National League pitching. Burrell becomes a free agent after this season and given his struggles with the Rays and in this World Series, some poor National League pitching staff is going to have to peek over their right shoulder and see Burrell standing out in left field in 2011.