With the exception of one glorious year in 1993, when he went 22-7 for the San Francisco Giants, Burkett was a middling starter, his career record hovering around the .500 mark. Having never met a pitch he didn’t like, he knew the mechanics of the curve, slider, splitter, fastball, and changeup, and used them all with varying degrees of effectiveness.
After that terrific season in San Francisco, Burkett’s ERA began to climb and finally peaked at 5.62 with the Texas Rangers in 1999. The Braves picked him up as a free agent in 2000 to fill in for the injured John Smoltz, and he managed a 10-6 record despite allowing the opposition to bat .303 against him.
Few gave Burkett much of a chance to beat out prospect Odalis Perez for the last spot in the Atlanta Braves rotation in 2001, but he was pressed into service when starters John Smoltz and Kevin Millwood went down with injuries. All the more stunning, then, was Burkett’s first-half dominance. Under the tutelage of ace Greg Maddux, Burkett turned his arsenal of junk pitches into devastating weapons, holding the league a .230 batting average and a tiny 2.49 ERA, second in the league to Maddux himself.
Burkett’s fine season earned him his second All-Star berth that July. Ironically, he replaced Maddux, who had begged out of the game to ostensibly spend time with his family, although it was rumored that Maddux bowed out of the game to allow his teammate to take the mound.