Attention is placed primarily on what the Cardinals are going to do about Matt Holliday, but they also have Joel Pineiro‘s production to replace. Pineiro went from being your run-of-the-mill 5th starter to a fearsome worm-burning machine this past season, pricing himself out of the Cardinals’ range. The Cardinals already have multi-year commitments to Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in place and were not looking to give out another long commitment to another pitcher.
Enter Brad Penny. Coming off a shoulder injury in 2008, Penny threw 173 innings last season. As expected, his fastball didn’t quite have it’s normal giddy-up in the early going, but his velocity steadily increased as the season went on.
Penny took his lumps while in Boston, allowing a 5.61 ERA over 24 starts, but his batting average of balls in play was .336, 30 points higher than his career average. In contrast to his bloated ERA, his FIP was 4.49 – not sterling, but respectable. Boston dumped him and Penny exchanged bad luck for good with the league change; he threw 42 innings of a 2.59 ERA for the Giants. His FIP with San Francisco was 4.35, more in line with what you’d expect. All told Penny was 25 runs better than a replacement pitcher. Penny’s seen better days, but in the right circumstances, the potential may be there for a rebound.
Enter the St. Louis Cardinals. Penny might not have been able to pick better circumstances. The National League is ideal for Penny, and Dave Duncan is the cure for what ails a broken-down pitcher. Penny has shown that he’s not exactly broken, but Duncan has worked his magic with less talent, like the aforementioned Pineiro. Duncan is not a magic swami that can fix any one with an arm, but many a pitcher has enjoyed career best performance under Duncan’s tutelage.
CHONE projects that Penny will be good for 2.3 wins above replacement over about 160 innings. The Cardinals will pay him $7M, appearance incentives could push the deal for $9M, so that’s about the right price. Penny could be next in line to get some “Duncan magic” and vault himself into a nice payday in 2011.
Of course, there is some risk in play here for the Cardinals. Neither Lohse or Carpenter are locks to throw more than 130 innings. Lohse suffered with forearm tightness last year, which could be a bad omen, and there’s alway a bit of fear factor when dealing with Carpenter. There’s some boom-or-bust factor with the Cardinals’ rotation.