Throughout the offseason, The Nats Blog will look back at every player’s 2012 season to summarize and analyze his performance, and we’ll look ahead to his possible role in 2013. We’ll go from #1 Steve Lombardozzi all the way to #63 Henry Rodriguez with about two posts per week until Spring Training. Enjoy.
Whether dressing up as a toga-clad flight attendant, playing pranks on Manager Davey Johnson, or performing “50 Shades of Grey” with the rest of the bullpen, light-hearted lefty Sean Burnett kept the clubhouse entertained during the 2012 season. And from the pitcher’s mound when he dominated hitters with his 92-mph fastball, he kept Nats fans entertained, too.
Burnett was among the Nationals’ best pitchers out of the bullpen in 2012. He was stellar at the beginning of the year and great at the end of it. By the numbers, this was one of the best seasons of his six-year career, and during half of it he pitched with a bone spur in his left elbow.
Burnett finished out the year with a 2.38 ERA through 70 games and 56.2 innings, with 57 strikeouts and just four home runs allowed. He went the entire month of April without allowing an earned run, and pitched through May giving up just one, earning his two saves in key situations that month.
His most notable personal success of the year was only walking 12 batters all season, more than halving his average walks per game for previous seasons (26.2). His 12 free bases were the least walks on the Nationals among pitchers who had thrown more than 30 innings.
Burnett’s putting up his best numbers since 2010 when he first joined the Nationals was a key part in how the team stayed competitive when a crucial piece of the bullpen, Drew Storen, was missing. Burnett was mostly used as the eighth-inning set-up man for Tyler Clippard while Clippard served as the closer, and he continued in the set-up role when Storen returned.
Next Year: Because he declined his half of the mutual option with the Nationals, Burnett is now a first-time free agent. Both Burnett and Mike Rizzo have said they want him to be a member of the 2013 Nationals. But Burnett will be looking for a multi-year deal – his most comparable counterpart, Jeremy Affeldt, just completed a three-year, $18 million deal with the San Francisco Giants – so his status with the team will be based on how much time and money the front office is willing to commit to him. Based on the numbers he has put up through three seasons in Washington, it would make sense for the team with a growing need for left-handed arms to bring Burnett back, but it's not likely that the Nats will pay Affeldt-like money for Burnett.
Next up: #18 Chad Tracy