John Burkett

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John David Burkett

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Biographical Information[edit]

John Burkett was a two-time All-Star who won over 150 games in the major leagues.

1983-1985: Early Pro Career[edit]

He was signed as a 6th round pick in the 1983 amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants and scout Bob Folkins. As of 2010, John was the only player to ever make the big leagues having been drafted out of Beaver High School in Beaver, Pennsylvania. He was one of four future major league pitchers taken in the sixth round that year, but the other three combined for only 9 wins - Scott Nielsen had 9 and both Scott May and John Leister had 0.

Burkett's early professional career did not show any indications of future MLB stardom. With the 1983 Great Falls Giants, he was 2-6 with a 6.26 ERA. He tied for 4th in the Pioneer League in losses and allowed 73 hits and 30 walks in 50 1/3 innings. Moving up to the Clinton Giants in 1984, he showed progress at 7-6, 4.33 while improving his control drastically (38 BB in 126 2/3 IP). With the '85 Fresno Giants, he was better yet at 7-4, 2.87. He was their second most effective starter after Brian Ohnoutka.

1986-1989: Success in the higher minors[edit]

The Pennsylvanian split 1986 between Fresno (0-3, 5.47) and the Shreveport Giants (10-6, 2.66, 99 H in 128 2/3 IP). He was second in the Texas League in ERA behind only George Ferran but was left off the TL All-Star team; picked instead as pitchers were Ferran, Shawn Hillegas, Dan Scarpetta, Jeff Innis and Charlie Corbell. Despite his fine 1986, he was returned to Shreveport a year later. He remained sharp for the club, going 14-8 with a 3.34 ERA. He was 6th in the TL in ERA, between Dean Freeland and Brad Wheeler bit was only third on his own club in that department. He led the TL with 177 2/3 innings and his 14 wins tied Marty Reed for the league lead. He again was left off the Texas League All-Star squad - the hurlers chosen were Dennis Cook, Chuck McGrath, David West and Steve Peters. He did get a September call-up to the majors, though. In his MLB debut, he relieved Atlee Hammaker with a 10-0 lead in the 6th inning of a game. He retired Stan Jefferson but then served up a gopher ball to Carmelo Martinez before recovering to get Rob Nelson on a strikeout and Mark Parent on a grounder. In the 7th, he allowed a leadoff double to Randy Ready. Joey Cora and Luis Salazar both flew out but Shawn Abner homered. Pinch-hitter Shane Mack went down on strikes. Jon Perlman replaced Burkett in the 8th. In four more innings for the 1987 Giants, he allowed only one more run and it was unearned.

The right-hander split 1988 between Shreveport (5-1, 2.13 in his third year in AA) and the Phoenix Firebirds (5-11, 5.21). Back with Phoenix in 1989, he improved to 10-11, 5.05. He tied Ramon Martinez and Dave Otto for 10th in the 1989 Pacific Coast League in wins, tied Tom Drees and Charlie Kerfeld for 7th in losses and was 4th in hits allowed (197).

1990-1994: A Giant in the majors[edit]

Burkett spent a little of 1990 with Phoenix (2-1, 2.74) but was up in the majors for most of the year, returning after a two-year absence. He would only return to the minors for four games over the remainder of his career. On May 30, he got his first big league hit, a run-scoring single off Shawn Boskie to plate Rick Leach. In 1990, he led all rookies with 14 wins (by midseason 1990, he was 9-2). He only lost 7 and he had a 3.79 ERA for a 96 ERA+. He tied for 7th in the 1990 NL in wins, even with John Smoltz, Jose Rijo, David Cone and Ed Whitson, an impressive grouping. He was also among the league leaders in winning percentage, tied for 5th with Mike Harkey. He and Harkey were the only pitchers to get votes for the 1990 National League Rookie of the Year Award; Burkett placed 4th behind David Justice, Delino DeShields and Hal Morris.

In 1991, he fell to 12-11, 4.18 with a 86 ERA+. He tied for 7th in the 1991 NL in homers allowed (19), was 7th in hits allowed (223, between Terry Mulholland and Charlie Leibrandt), was 5th with 96 earned runs allowed and led with 10 hit batsmen. His ERA+ was 86 again with the 1992 Giants while his record improved to 13-9, 3.84. He was San Francisco's second-most effective starter after ace Bill Swift.

He won eight of his first nine decisions for the San Francisco Giants in 1993; he ended the year with a NL-leading 22 wins (tied with Tom Glavine). It was his only season of registering 15 or more wins. Even if he did not win big in later years, he would remain a workhorse, pitching regularly as a starter until 2003. He lost 7 games in '93 and had a 3.65 ERA and 107 ERA+. He walked only 40 in 231 2/3 IP. Not only that, but he also played error-free ball and tied for 9th in the league with 12 sacrifice hits. He was among the NL leaders (in addition to wins) in WHIP (1.14, 5th between Mulholland and Pete Harnisch), third in lowest walk rate (after Bob Tewksbury and Rene Arocha), 8th in innings and tied for second in hit batsmen (11, even with Pedro Martinez). He was the losing pitcher in the 1993 All-Star Game. Relieving Andy Benes in the 5th inning with a 2-2 tie, he immediately ran into trouble. Ivan Rodriguez greeted him with a double and advanced on a grounder by Roberto Alomar. Pinch-hitter Albert Belle singled for a 3-2 score, advanced on an error and scored on a hit by Ken Griffey Jr. Burkett recovered to fan Joe Carter but walked Cecil Fielder then gave up a double to Kirby Puckett for a 5-2 score. Steve Avery relieved Burkett. The NL lost, 9-3. John was 4th in voting for the 1993 National League Cy Young Award, behind Greg Maddux, teammate Swift and Glavine, all of whom had lower ERAs. He also got one vote for the 1993 National League Most Valuable Player Award. It was his only time getting votes for either award.

Burkett's ERA+ reached a new peak (110) in 1994 though his record fell to 6-8. He tied for second in the strike-shortened 1994 NL campaign with 25 starts (one behind Rijo) and was 4th in hits allowed (176, between Rijo and Greg Swindell).

1995-1999: Marlins and Rangers[edit]

In the off-season, Burkett was dealt to the Texas Rangers for Desi Wilson and Rich Aurilia. When the 1995 strike ended, though, the Rangers decided to keep Kenny Rogers and let the Pennsylvanian hurler go. He was quickly signed by the Florida Marlins and put together a 14-14, 4.30 season (98 ERA+). He finished among the 1995 NL leaders in wins (tied for 5th with Pat Rapp, Pedro Martinez and Jaime Navarro), complete games (4, tied for 5th), hits allowed (208, 4th) and losses (tied for second with Tom Candiotti and Jeff Fassero, two behind leader Paul Wagner). He also had a perfect fielding percentage for the third year in a row.

After a 6-10, 4.32 start for the 1996 Marlins, Burkett was traded to Texas for a second time, this time in exchange for Ryan Dempster and a player to be named later (Rick Helling). Texas kept him around, unlike in 1995, and he was 5-2 with a 4.06 ERA in 10 late-season starts for the 1996 Rangers. Burkett won the first postseason game played by the Rangers, Game 1 of the 1996 ALDS over the Yankees. He went the distance to beat Cone, 6-2. He remained the only pitcher to win a postseason game for the Rangers until 2010.

The 32-year-old veteran was 9-12 with a 4.56 ERA for the 1997 Rangers, walking 30 in 189 1/3 innings but giving up 240 hits. He easily had the lowest walk rate in the 1997 AL, beating out control legend Tewksbury. He also was 5th in hits allowed (between Tim Belcher and David Wells) and tied for 10th in losses. His ERA+ was 105 for a second straight year. In 1998, he faded to a career-worst 85 ERA+ and a pitching line of 9-13, 5.68. He was 8th in the 1998 AL in hits allowed (230, between Jamie Moyer and Jimmy Haynes) and 1st in earned runs allowed (123).

On June 29, 1999, Burkett teamed with Jeff Zimmerman and John Wetteland on a one-hitter against the Angels, allowing only a Matt Walbeck double. For the season, his woes continued at 9-8, 5.62 with 184 hits allowed in 147 1/3 IP; in a high-scoring season, his ERA+ was 91.

2000-2003: Tampa Bay, Braves and Red Sox[edit]

Burkett signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays but was released before the season, the second time that had happened to him. Returning to the NL, he signed with the Atlanta Braves, where there was less pressure on the back end of a rotation with Maddux, Glavine and Kevin Millwood. He turned in a 10-6, 4.89 summer for the 2000 Braves. He appeared in one game in the 2000 NLDS, in which Atlanta was swept by the Cardinals.

In 2001, Burkett had his best ERA+ at 147. He struck out 187 in 219 1/3 IP and had a 3.04 ERA but had just a 12-12 record to show for all his success. In the 2001 All-Star Game, he pitched one inning in the NL's 4-1 loss to the AL. Relieving Chan-ho Park in the 4th, he retired Magglio Ordonez, Bret Boone and Mike Cameron in order, striking out Cameron. Mike Hampton succeeded him on the hill. He was third in the 2001 NL in ERA, behind only the Arizona duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling and ahead of teammate Maddux. He was also among the league leaders in fielding percentage (his 4th perfect season), WHIP (1.17, 8th between Park and Kevin Appier), innings pitched (10th), strikeouts (6th, between Javier Vazquez and Matt Morris) and numerous sabermetric measures. He did not get any votes for the 2001 National League Cy Young Award despite a better ERA than Morris, Jon Lieber and Roy Oswalt, who did get votes. In the 2001 NLDS, he beat the Astros and Shane Reynolds in game 3 to complete a sweep. In the 2001 NLCS, he was roughed up in a game 3 loss to Schilling as Atlanta fell to the Diamondbacks.

A free agent again, Burkett signed with the Boston Red Sox. In 2002, the old-timer was 13-8 with a 4.53 ERA (101 ERA+), forming a solid hurler in the middle of the BoSox rotation well behind Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe but ahead of Frank Castillo. He was 10th in the 2002 AL in K rate. He wound up his career with the 2003 Red Sox, falling to 12-9, 5.15 for a 91 ERA+. He tied Bartolo Colon and Ramon Ortiz for 8th in the 2003 AL with 104 earned runs allowed. He then gave up 9 runs in 9 postseason innings, getting no decisions as Boston made it to the 2003 ALCS before falling.


He threw a sinker, a curveball and a split-fingered fastball.

Career Statistics[edit]

Burkett was 166-136 in the major leagues with a 4.31 ERA (99 ERA+) in 445 games (423 starts). He had six career shutouts. In 2,648 1/3 IP, he allowed 2,866 hits (257 home runs) and 700 walks while fanning 1,766. He hit .093/.136/.104, with no hit further than a double in 540 at-bats. He fielded .982. Through 2011, he was among MLB's all-time top 200 in wins (tied for 194th, one ahead of Sandy Koufax), innings pitched (198th, between Burt Hooton and Tom Hughes), strikeouts (93rd, between Ron Guidry and Dempster, the man he was once traded for), starts (98th, between Fernando Valenzuela and Bob Forsch), homers allowed (tied for 90th with Bob Gibson), hits allowed (147th, between Howard Ehmke and Mike Moore), K/BB ratio (89th), earned runs allowed (tied for 92nd with Charlie Root at 1,268) and hit batsmen (tied for 108th with 90).

In the minors, Burkett had gone 63-59 with a 3.98 ERA in 169 games (169 starts). In 987 innings, he allowed 1,019 hits and 352 walks while fanning 636.

Bowling Career[edit]

He was considered "baseball's best bowler," and had bowled four 300s as of 1993-1994. He became a PBA member in 1992 and competed in several PBA events in the 1990s and 2000s, cashing in at least two of them (at least $2,840 in prize money). He rejoined the association following his baseball career in 2005.

Quotes about Burkett[edit]

"He has good control and he doesn't beat himself," - Roger Craig

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL ALL-Star (1993 & 2001)
  • NL Wins Leader (1993)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (1993)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (1993)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 5 (1990, 1991, 1993, 1996 & 2001)

Related Sites[edit]