I don’t like Brad Penny. I dislike his attitude, I dislike his game, and he was a Dodger so I really dislike him. However, I’m willing to suspend all of that now that he has signed a deal to join the Giants for the stretch run (the Red Sox signed him to a 1-year, $5 million deal meaning that the Giants were able to sign him for the prorated major league minimum of $400,000 meaning they will owe him less than $100,000 for the rest of the season). Yes, I know I’m fickle too, so you don’t need to worry about bringing that up.
The Giants were supposed to have poor hitting and great pitching in 2009, and boy have they ever done their best to live up to that preseason prediction.
The pitching staff is second in the NL in ERA (3.55) and WHIP (1.28) while leading the Senior Circuit in strikeouts (1,038).
The offense is eighth in batting average (.260), 15th in home runs (94), 14th in RBI (498), 13th in runs (530) and 15th in OBP (.311).
Obviously those numbers scream out ‘add a power-bat,’ or three, but with none available the Giants did the prudent thing and decided to add Penny to the starting rotation mix. Will he be an improvement over what they have? He better be.
When Randy Johnson went down with a shoulder injury, the team was left scrambling for another arm to add to the rotation. First they tried Ryan Sadowski, and after some initial success the tide changed quickly, and as a result he was demoted with a 4.45 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and 1.00 K/BB mark over six starts. The club then gave Joe Martinez a shot. He too looked good at the start but he has been bombed for 13 earned runs in his last two starts so he was demoted with a 7.52 ERA and 1.94 WHIP over his seven appearances. Therefore, it’s not like Brad Penny has to be any better than he has been for most of this season to be an improvement given his 5.61 ERA and 1.53 WHIP over 24 starts with the Red Sox. Alas, he has been bombed in his last seven starts with a 7.82 ERA and 1.66 WHIP over 38 innings, so it looks like he will fit right in with what the Giants have been getting from their fifth rotation spot.
Is there any reason that the Giants should be happy about the move besides the fact that they added a veteran arm in addition to keeping him away from signing with another squad?
(1) Penny has thrown his average fastball at 94 mph this season, the fastest he has thrown his fastball over the past eight seasons.
(2) His walk rate of 2.87 per nine innings is slightly below his career 2.92 mark and his best mark in three years.
(3) He has struck out 6.08 batters per nine innings. That’s nothing to be proud of, but when you are coming off back-to-back seasons of 5.84 and 4.85 punchouts outs per nine, at least it’s a minor improvement.
(4) Despite allowing a 19 percent line drive rate, his best mark since 2004, Penny is currently sporting a career worst .336 BABIP. Seems like some correction is likely in the cards here, a position that is further buttressed by the fact that his .301 BAA is some .034 points above his career mark. When this occurs his performance should normalize, at least somewhat.
To sum up the Penny signing, this is a good move given who the Giants had been running out there in their fifth rotation spot. This is also a good move for the club given that Penny is an experienced arm who appears to be healthy, even if his performance hasn’t been remotely impressive of late. I don’t think this signing will return Penny to the realm of importance in standard mixed leagues, but then again Penny, who is a former Dodger, will certainly be motivated to stick it to his former squad, one that he didn’t exactly part with on positive terms at the end of last season. I still don’t like the guy, but for the next two months I’ll be cheering my head off for him – especially if he sticks it to the Dodgers which could erase all the negative thoughts I’ve ever had about the man.
By Ray Flowers