Yesterday afternoon, following the Yanks’ loss to the Rangers, Mike reported that the Yankees were interested in Brad Penny. While early reports indicated that Penny may have promised the Red Sox that he would not sign with an AL East competitor following his release, George A. King III disputed those stories. Penny is free to go where he wants.
While the Yankees could use Penny to fill a fifth starter spot currently split between Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre — or the fourth starter spot with Joba in limbo — the Yankees aren’t the only team interested in Penny. According to MLB.com, the Rockies, Marlins, Rays, White Sox and Rangers are all considering Penny as well. It must feel good to be wanted.
For their part, the Yankees offered up some qualified “He’s better than Sergio Mitre” praise for Penny. “He’s got good stuff,” Johnny Damon said to King. “His secondary stuff might need a little tweak but his fastball was electric, it cut and he hit his spots with it. Bring him here, why not? I love the way the guy competes.”
Yankee fans, on the other hand, have seen Penny twice this year, and most of us probably aren’t that impressed. On July 11, Penny threw probably his best start of the season and beat the Yanks. He tossed six shut-out innings and allowed six hits and a walk while striking out five. On August 21, in his last Boston start, Penny gave up eight runs on 10 hits and a walk in four innings of work. This effort capped a five-start run in which Penny went 1-4 with a 9.11 ERA. Opponents are hitting .333/.397/.595 off Penny during this stretch.
So why are the Yankees interested? Well, as I mentioned, Penny would be better than Mitre. This stretch notwithstanding, Penny’s numbers — 7-8, 5.61 ERA — aren’t as bad as they seem. Penny’s BABIP is an absurd .327 even though his line drive and HR rates are in line with league averages. Why the high BABIP? Well, the Red Sox’s defense is terrible. Their team UZR is -22.2, worse only than the Royals, Orioles, Twins and Indians in the AL. Combine that defense with a little bit of bad luck, and you get an underperforming pitcher.
Right now, Penny’s FIP stands 4.58 with an xFIP of 4.96. That’s tolerable, and Penny won’t give the Yankees innings — he hasn’t pitched out of the 6th yet this year — he’ll give them some back-end stability as the team looks to get their rotation in line for October. If the Yanks sign Penny to the league minimum, they won’t expect much, but they don’t need much. Six innings of 4.58 ERA baseball would be a-OK with me.