Penny Released

For the second time this month, the Red Sox have overreacted to a recent poor stretch of results and granted free agency to a quality major league pitcher. First, they cut John Smoltz loose, and now they’ve let Brad Penny out of his contract after they removed him from their starting rotation and he expressed a desire to start for another team down the stretch. The list of suitors lining up for Penny will be long, just as it should be – the guy can still pitch.

Even with his recent struggles, he’s running a 4.48 FIP on the season, thanks to recording twice as many strikeouts as walks and maintaining a neutral home run rate. That makes him around a league average starting pitcher for the season. Yes, he throws his fastball too much, but that’s always been true – he’s averaged 70% or more fastballs every year since 2004, and he’s proven he can be at least moderately successful pounding the zone with heaters.

The chink in his results – a .336 batting average on balls in play, which isn’t particularly predictive of anything. ZIPS projects a 4.44 FIP from Penny going forward, and that’s assuming he stays in the American League. Someone’s going to get a quality pitcher for nothing – who are the contenders for his services?

Detroit makes a lot of sense, as the back of their rotation is a bit of a mess. They just sent Aramando Galarraga to Triple-A for a brief stint, Jarrod Washburn is turning into a pumpkin, and they are simultaneously trying to limit Rick Porcello‘s innings, leading to things like Nate Robertson and Zach Miner splitting a start this weekend. With a 67 percent chance to win the division, they’re the clear favorites in the AL Central, and Penny would have a good shot at cracking their playoff rotation.

If he wanted to go back to the National League, Colorado has a clear need for a starting pitcher after just losing Aaron Cook with an arm problem. The Rockies are leading the Wild Card race in the NL and should be an aggressive suitor, but as a free agent to be, Penny might not want to ply his trade in Coors Field for the last month of the season.

That would leave Florida as the best fit in the NL. Penny obviously has history there, and he would be a clear upgrade over Sean West in the Marlins rotation. At 4 1/2 games behind the Rockies in the Wild Card standings, they’re a long shot to play in October, but it would be a chance at some meaningful baseball in September in an environment that he knows fairly well.

I’d bet on Detroit, but regardless of where he ends up, he’s likely to be an asset. Boston has to hope that this doesn’t come back and bite them in the playoffs.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Daniel
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Daniel
6 years 11 months ago

I wouldn’t be surprised (this might just be wishful thinking) if the Angels go after him. The back of their rotation has been extremely messy. Even though they just got Saunders back, it’s unlikely he’ll pitch better than league average ball, Weaver, Lackey, and Santana have all been inconsistent, and they’ve been running a random AAA call-up in the fifth starter position since the beginning of the season.

Penny would solidify the rotation for the stretch run and would have a shot at making the playoff roster as either a starter (if Saunders or Santana can’t find their mojo) or at least as a long reliever ahead of guys like Matt Palmer or Trevor Bell.

Tom B
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Tom B
6 years 11 months ago

penny should never have left the NL.

what does boston do to pick up his innings? is tazawa now locked in to their rotation? that’s a sad state of affairs considering all the hype and praise they got for all their starting depth.

Matt B.
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Matt B.
6 years 11 months ago

Locked and loaded with Clay the rest of the way.

Judy
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Judy
6 years 11 months ago

Dice-K’s expected to start Sept. 8 after a rehab for Portland tomorrow and another for Pawtucket on the 3rd, that means 3 more Tazawa starts and an extra day off for Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, and Wakefield, with Bowden as long relief if necessary.

They got too much credit for having all that pitching depth, now they get criticized for making the choice to actually use it.

Steve
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Steve
6 years 11 months ago

BAD LUCK!!

Rob in CT
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Rob in CT
6 years 11 months ago

He was a 5th starter, performing as such. Boston was down their #3 and #4 guys (DiceK and Wakefield). They just got Wakefield back, leaving Buccholtz, Tazawa & Penny for 2 spots, with DiceK supposedly coming back soon. I can’t really fault them for kicking Penny to the curb.

Matt B.
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Matt B.
6 years 11 months ago

Assuming they asked and he wouldn’t goto the bullpen, what choice did they really have?

Steve
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Steve
6 years 11 months ago

well, if you believe Peter Gammons, they could have traded him for Justin Smoak in June!!

Matt B.
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Matt B.
6 years 11 months ago

Wow, was that actually reported? Texas wouldn’t include him for Roy (apparantly) let alone Penny… Yikes…

mattymatty
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6 years 11 months ago

That can’t be true. Gammons has got to be wrong about that (Smoak for Penny).

Steve
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Steve
6 years 11 months ago

yeah, i was being facetious. Gammons said the Sox would only trade Penny if they could get someone like Smoak, LaPorta, or Wallace in return…and after 2 months of awful pitching, he’s released for nothing.

just poking a little fun at Gammons….

Michae_Q
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Michae_Q
6 years 11 months ago

Over-reacted? Neither Penny or Smoltz were pitching well for the Sox. Is your suggestion to just keep trotting them out game after game in hopes that because of some advanced stats they might turn it around? Even if it is just “bad luck”, what if their bad luck holds and they lose more games wandhat if the games they lose cost the Sox a playoff spot?

The Sox have a couple of younger pitchers with higher long term upside that Penny and Smoltz I don’t think there is any reason to stick with veteran struggling players in the hopes that they might turn it around and be adequate. Not when you have guys who can probably step in and be at least adequate right now.

Nick
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Nick
6 years 11 months ago

Does Dave really think the Red Sox, the organization that hired Voros Mcracken, is unaware of Brad Penny’s defense-independent performance? He also conveniently fails to mention Penny’s tRA, 5.21, which is one of the worst in baseball.

This is like 20th post this season where Dave or someone else points out a team releasing/demoting a pitcher who’s surface stats are terrible, but who has a decent FIP. We get it. You might as well just use the same cookie cutter post and paste in whatever pitcher’s name fits that week. FIP is great, it’s one of the best ways we have a measuring a pitcher’s true performance, but it doesn’t tell nearly the whole story and it’s not the be-all end-all when it comes to actual teams making actual player personnel decisions, especially stat-savvy ones like the Red Sox, Mariners, etc.

Nick
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Nick
6 years 11 months ago

That said, although this was a no-brainer move for the Red Sox, totally agree that Penny would be a good pickup for another team, especially in the NL.

Sky
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6 years 11 months ago

Why especially in the NL?

Steve
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Steve
6 years 11 months ago

how was it a “no-brainer”? Penny sucked last year, and he sucked for the Sox.

who cares that he sucked cheaply? the Sox are rich.

Steve
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Steve
6 years 11 months ago

i’m sorry, i think i misunderstood your point.

you meant releasing him was a no-brainer….which it was.

Nick
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Nick
6 years 11 months ago

“Why especially in the NL?”

Yeah I’m gonna take that bait. Sorry I insulted your buddy.

Nick
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Nick
6 years 10 months ago

A 5.21 tRA is not one of the worst in baseball. tRA is on an RA scale, meaning his tERA is about 4.80. Which isn’t terrible.

James C-B
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James C-B
6 years 11 months ago

GB% down 9%, FB% up 9% = predictive. PLUS his HR/FB% is only 9.4.

The Sox have Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, Wakefield, Dice-K (returning), Tazawa, Byrd, and Bowden if you need him, all ahead of Penny on the depth chart, and all of whom would be better options than Penny. he has a 7 ERA over the last 2 months. He has gotten past the 6th inning ONCE since May. Brad Penny doesn’t belong within 200 miles of their playoff rotation. Dave, what you don’t seem to understand is that Penny is on a 1-year deal. He would have about 4 or 5 starts left as a Red Sox (like I said, he wouldn’t make the playoff roster, especially not as a starter), and if the organization who has someone who has proven or projects to play better during those 4 or 5 starts, then they cut bait. It really is as simple as that.

Greg
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Greg
6 years 11 months ago

Totally agree with this assessment. I’ve seen Penny’s starts all year and the last month or two he has suffered from a complete lack of an out pitch, mainly because he can’t get his breaking ball over for strikes (or anywhere near the plate). His FB, while it has recently been peaking in velocity and hitting 97-98 at times, is straight as an arrow. I’ve never seen a man have so many pitches fouled off, which goes a long way to explaining his extreme pitch inefficiency.

He was extremely taxing on our bullpen, while also allowing a Chris Young-level of base stealing. In the early summer months, he was much more effective in his approach, but lately he’s just been trying to throw his FB by people.

Boston already received their money’s worth from Penny. If he continued pitching through September, his contract incentives would’ve kicked in, giving him $0.5 MM each for reaching 160, 170, 180, and 190 IP. Therefore, it’s not as if they are throwing away free production from him. I’d rather take our chances with Paul Byrd/Dice-K than keep paying Penny to pitch the way he has been.

rizzo
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6 years 11 months ago

I was going to bring up the contract escalators as well. It seems to me if you’re going to criticize the move you have to either be suggesting that:

1) Penny is one of Boston’s top 5 SP options, which Dave doesn’t really imply. or

2) There is a real trade market for Penny. It doesn’t seem very likely to me that anyone values Penny so highly to take a so-so rental at a relatively high cost and give up even a decent prospect to Boston.

Where would he fit with Boston – as a long man that doesn’t make the post-season roster? I don’t know doesn’t seem like a huge loss…

mattymatty
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6 years 11 months ago

My understanding is they can’t trade Penny because they already put him on waivers, he was claimed, and then they pulled him back. I could be wrong about that, so if there is a clarification to be made, accept my apologies.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 11 months ago

Not sure how it went down, Matty, but either way, what would we get, another Lugo deal out of Penny? If Buchholz gets his walks under control, he gets ground balls and won’t continue to see 15% of his FB’s clear the fence like he has been. So he may be equal to marginally worse than Penny for the rest of 2009 and continues to try and develop? Sounds fine to me.

Greg
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Greg
6 years 11 months ago

Also, it seems like (as Buster Olney points out) that Penny assured the Red Sox that we would sign with an NL team (not to mention a good idea for Penny’s free agency hopes). Otherwise, they would’ve waited 5 days to release him so that no team could sign him before Sept 1 and have him eligible for the postseason.

CJ
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CJ
6 years 11 months ago

They should’ve done the opposite. If I was a Red Sox hitter I’d look forward to facing Penny, especially in the Post Season.

Andy S
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Andy S
6 years 11 months ago

Why pitch a lousy Brad Penny when you can give a rookie decent experience in the majors with comparable results?

Doesn’t make sense NOT to release Penny.

Jordan Hoch
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Jordan Hoch
6 years 11 months ago

I bet he ends up with the Dodgers. I know they just acquired Vicente Padilla, but, well, now they have Vicente Padilla in their rotation.

Steve
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Steve
6 years 11 months ago

didn’t he leave the Dodgers on bad terms just this winter?

rizzo
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6 years 11 months ago

FWIW – yes he and Larry Bowa sniped at each other repeatedly. Not sure if Bowa is still with LA or if that would prevent him from re-signing there

Nick
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Nick
6 years 11 months ago

Jesus, Dave, I’m a Yankees fan and even your whining is too much in this. Penny asked for his release; the Red Sox didn’t “overreact.”

mattymatty
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6 years 11 months ago

Penny asked for his release because he knew his time in the Red Sox rotation was over. I agree the Red Sox didn’t over-react, but I wouldn’t call Dave’s post whining.

Judy
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Judy
6 years 11 months ago

I mean, why did a team with Beckett, Lester, Dice-K, Wakefield, Buchholz, Masterson, Bowden, and Tazawa under control, sign Smoltz and Penny to one year, incentive-laden, deals in the first place? A. So they’d be covered in case of injuries. B. So they could trade some pitching if need be. C. So they could pick and choose who to use, who to hold in reserve, and who to cut loose whenever they chose. A. Worked for the most part. B. Masterson and prospects for Victor Martinez. C. The part you’ve decided is an overreaction to the performance of the guys they’ve chosen to cut loose when it might just as easily be because they don’t think they’re any better than what they’re choosing to use the rest of the way. And, incidentally, the cost of Billy Wagner and his potential draft pick compensation is very close to what the cost of paying the rest of Penny’s and Smoltz’s incentives would have been.

Steve
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Steve
6 years 11 months ago

how did it “work for the most part”?

Smoltz and Penny threw 170 mostly awful innings for the Red Sox. those innings cost the Sox real baseball games, and now the Sox are in a tight battle for the Wildcard.

Judy
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Judy
6 years 11 months ago

The part where they’re still LEADING a tight battle for the wild card and are on pace to win 94-95 games despite getting nothing from their #3 starter and losing their #4 starter for a significant amount of time?

Steve
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Steve
6 years 11 months ago

um, ok.

and if they actually had a capable pitcher instead of Smoltz/Penny, they’d probably lead the division.

the Sox are leading the WC race IN SPITE of Smoltz/Penny, not BECAUSE of Smoltz/Penny.

that’s kindof what it means for something to “work out”.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 11 months ago

incentive laden contracts for guys who were recently good are EXACTLY the type of deals big market teams should make. If it works, your team is way better. If it doesn’t work, all you end up losing is money (something I assure the Red Sox won’t have to worry about recouping). Smoltz was a disaster, Penny was okay for awhile but right now his roster spot is better served for someone else. Simple as that.

steve
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steve
6 years 11 months ago

“If it works, your team is way better. If it doesn’t work, all you end up losing is money (something I assure the Red Sox won’t have to worry about recouping)”

this is 100% wrong.

you also lose BASEBALL GAMES.

why does every SABR person seem to miss this point these days? that the goal of baseball is not to end the season with the highest win/$$ spent ratio, it’s to end the season with the highest number of wins.

Smoltz and Penny cost the Sox a lot of games.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 11 months ago

They pitched poorly. It was still perfectly fine logic to acquire them. Quit making a strawman out of what I said.

big baby
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6 years 10 months ago

love what lower case steve said.

El Guapo
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El Guapo
6 years 11 months ago

Penny’s league-average-ish performance moving forward works very well in a vacuum. Not so much in a pennant race when you have Wakefield returning, Buchholz improving, and Matsuzaka on the mend and, according to many scouts, looking stellar in rehab starts (although the same was said about Smoltz).

Come on, Dave. The only thing we gave up was a 5-inning pitcher with “NL ONLY” written all over him.

mattymatty
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6 years 11 months ago

I was with you until you mentioned Buchholz improving. I’m not sure where that comes from. He doesn’t strike people out anymore seemingly and is pretty much dependent on his defense to bail him out from his copious walks. I’m sanguine on him generally, but if he’s getting the ball in game three of any playoff series… well, I can’t say I’ll be optimistic.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 11 months ago

Banking on Dice-K to be effective.

If he is, the playoff rotation appears to be just fine.

sj
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sj
6 years 11 months ago

Replace All (Smoltz) with (Penny) in both the post and the comments.

BJ
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BJ
6 years 11 months ago

My guess is that since the Red Sox actually watched Penny pitch all year that there’s a good chance the Sox are rooting for the Tigers to pick up Penny, too, on the slim chance they’d get to face him in the postseason.

What, exactly, has been good about B-ad Penny over the last two seasons? Is it the 30 home runs in 226 innings? Is it his consistent ability to not get through six innings? Heck, over the last 5 years, the guy has had an ERA about a half a run to a run higher than his FIP.

With Wakefield returning, Buchholz solidifying his role in the top four spots in the rotation and Dice-K coming back, too, it’s not like Penny was going to play in the postseason for the Red Sox anyway. He might not have even made the postseason roster for them.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 11 months ago

They wanted Penny in the bullpen, he refused, they released him.

Point of this article? Obviously Cameron’s hope he goes the the NL or AL Central, beats up on crappy offenses, and looks smart again. Can’t say I saw the same aesthetic issues with Penny as I did with Smoltz and wish we were able to keep him, but obviously with Dice-K soon to return, the Red Sox would rather have Buck-zawa as a #5 starter. All the Red Sox lose in the end is about 3 innings worth of food and beer revenue. Usually I can keep objective, but this high horsing is annoying.

mattymatty
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6 years 11 months ago

Actually, the Sox came out and said they didn’t want Penny in the bullpen and Penny didn’t want to go to the bullpen. I’m pretty sure the whole thing was a mutual decision.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 11 months ago

My mistake.
Anyway, his BABIP since July 18th is .347. A little high, but even if he regressed to .306 (his career average), he’d still be getting hit. That’s optimistic, too, since his GB rate is a career low right now.

Nick
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6 years 10 months ago

FB pitchers have a lower than average BABIP. And if his BABIP was at his career rate, he’d would be allowing fewer runs. That’s what FIP is for.

Chris M.
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Chris M.
6 years 11 months ago

Why bother adding tRA to the stats page if you’re never actually going to reference it in your articles?

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 11 months ago

His tRA is actually not too bad. But in the middle of the playoff hunt, when you have one big name starter about to return, and another big name reliever joining, someone has to go. May as well be the guy with a few weeks left on the roster and who’s been hit off of like he’s facing Carlos Pena every time since mid-July.

Nick
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Nick
6 years 11 months ago

“Smoltz and Penny threw 170 mostly awful innings for the Red Sox. those innings cost the Sox real baseball games, and now the Sox are in a tight battle for the Wildcard.”

Please. Brad Penny was worth about the same as AJ Burnett to this point, according to this very site. The Red Sox are in a tight battle now (we’ll see how tight it is on September 30) because their defense has been shitty and their offense has underperformed slightly.

Chris M.
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Chris M.
6 years 11 months ago

They’re only so close in WAR because it’s so heavily reliant on FIP.

Burnett’s tRA: 4.97
Penny’s tRA: 5.21

Nick
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6 years 10 months ago

That isn’t a huge difference.

Alex
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Alex
6 years 11 months ago

winning is all that matters and he gets tons of run support bit is still garbage.

BIP
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BIP
6 years 11 months ago

Gee, I wonder if these pitchers’ poor results might have anything to do with the Red Sox ranking in the bottom 10 in UZR… maybe they should release some fielders instead?

Andrew
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Andrew
6 years 11 months ago

Dave, I have trouble believing you are seriously this dense. As Buster Olney points out, it would cost the Red Sox $1.5 million to let Penny make 8 more starts due to bonuses and incentives. Also, as someone else pointed out, the Sox FO employs the INVENTOR of FIP as a pitching adviser so they are surely aware of the stat and Penny’s FIP.

This was a roster size/financial decision which the even the most cursory look at Penny’s stats and contract will tell you. If you think Penny’s true talent is about a 4.00 ERA pitcher, then the Sox have like 3 options to replace him now (Bowden, Tazawa, and Wakefield).

Marcel
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Marcel
6 years 10 months ago

Tango works for the Sox? Since when?
While I agree that maybe Dave kind is ignoring the Sox being that knows ERA is a bad stat, I also agree with him that it was a bad idea to release him. Tazawa is obviously not ready yet and Bowden is not a major-league caliber pitcher in the AL East.

Nick
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Nick
6 years 10 months ago

“While I agree that maybe Dave kind is ignoring the Sox being that knows ERA is a bad stat, ”

Marcel speak English? Since when?

Nick
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6 years 10 months ago

Well they have just released John Smoltz and Brad Penny, who both had terrible ERA’s. However, their were many signs, including Pitch f/x data and their peripheral stats, that implied that they were still good pitchers.

You can reference contract issues, scouting and other things that the Red Sox could use to defend these moves; however, the fact is that you can never have enough pitching depth, and the Sox just released two major league quality pitchers, when they didn’t have reliable options.

Andrew
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Andrew
6 years 10 months ago

No, they employed Voros McCracken, who invented FIP as a special pitching adviser. They’re aware of the stat.

No, it wasn’t at all bad idea to release him. They saved $1.5 million of what was left on Penny’s contract. Their current rotation is: 1) Beckett 2) Lester 3) Bucholz 4) Wakefield 5) Tazawa

I’m not convinced that Tazawa is a bust yet, and DiceK is coming back soon.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
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6 years 10 months ago

Andrew, McCracken invented DIPS, and from what I understand, Tango was the one who devised FIP based on the findings of DIPS.

And it is my understanding that the Red Sox let go McCracken after about a year.

Nick
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6 years 10 months ago

1.5 Million is insignificant to the Red Sox. They have the second highest payroll in the game.

Also, just because they employ saber minded people doesn’t mean they listen to them. The Cardinals employed MGL for 2-3 years, and he’s said that he didn’t feel they listened to him very much.

Nick
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6 years 10 months ago

Let me ask you guys something. Why do the Red Sox get a free pass? If any other team had released a player who was performing at roughly a league average rate, and projected to be league average in the future, you would call them stupid.

Just because the Red Sox employ Voros and Bill James, doesn’t mean they are going to listen to them or rely heavily on their input. Most teams in baseball have departments of sabermetric research, yet we see the same infuriating moves all of the time.

Andrew
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Andrew
6 years 10 months ago

The Red Sox listened to sabremetric reserach, which is how they managed to win two world series 3 years a part. Bill James really pushed for Theo to acquire Big Papi along with a bunch of other stuff. He certainly had a lot of power. And check this article out, written by Dave: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/organizational-rankings-1

If the Red Sox are so poorly managed that they are deserving of one whiny post a week about how they let a pitcher guy who struggled all as season, I’m not sure why I’m not seeing more attacks on other organizations.

Of course money is a factor and the Sox’s payroll is 4th highest. Not that that matters, if they had a billion dollar payrolll, they should still be trying so save so they can acquire talent in the future.

The Yankees ($200mill) got cash and Eric Hinske from the Pirates (3rd lowest payroll) in a trade. A baseball organization should use whatever economic or financial advantages it has.

Finally, Penny has not been performing at an “average rate” for a SP. He’s basically deadweight on the team, a conclusion that both he (remember, he wanted to be released after he was told he would be put in the pen) and the Red Sox came to. Which is why he was released. Tazawa has performed fine until Dice-K gets back. And he definitely gives the Sox a better show than Penny.

As a Yankees fan, I would love it if they had kept him and sent him out every 5th day. But oh well.

Nick
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6 years 10 months ago

Andrew, your logic is outstanding. Saving 1.5 million for the rest of the season is NOT going to help them towards the future, at least not in a way that compares to the value Penny would provide. Do you really think the Red Sox are not going to sign a top draft pick or scout international talent because their payroll is 160 million, instead of a 158.5 million? For the Marlins or the Rays, 1.5 million is significant. For the Red Sox, it is not.

And it isn’t one “whiny post”; the Sox have made two questionable decisions in the past 2 weeks.

Also Penny HAS been performing at a league average rate if you look at FIP, and a little below average if you look at tRA. The only reason his ERA is inflated is because the Red Sox defense has been one of the worst in the league, and he’s been stranding fewer runners than expected. Penny is also only 31 and throws in the mid 90’s, so you can’t really say that “FIP doesn’t work for him”.

Nick
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Nick
6 years 10 months ago

“Most teams in baseball have departments of sabermetric research, yet we see the same infuriating moves all of the time.”

Dude, I can calculate FIP too, why don’t they make me a GM?

You’re either being extremely obtuse or you really don’t know what you’re talking about. To conclude from Smoltz/Penny that the Red Sox aren’t sabermetrically inclined, or that they only appear so superficially, is asinine. Do you honestly think they released Brad Penny because of his ERA over his last 10 games? Do you think ERA factors in to any of their decisions, ever, even one iota? Because I don’t, and it’s not just based on them hiring some SABR luminaries.

Nick
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6 years 10 months ago

I’m not sure how you get this:

“To conclude from Smoltz/Penny that the Red Sox aren’t sabermetrically inclined, or that they only appear so superficially, is asinine.”

Out of what you quoted. All I said that was that just because teams, like the Red Sox, hire saberists, doesn’t mean that they necessarily listen to them or factor their opinions highly.

It’s obtuse of you to say that you *know* the Red Sox organization is Saber friendly simply because they hire Voros and Bill James.

Anyways, that’s not even what it’s about. I *don’t* think that releasing Smoltz and Penny because their ERA was higher than their FIP is a bad move. I think that releasing them because they performance was bad, period, is stupid. Both Penny and Smoltz are established veterans who have had a lot of success in the majors.

Furthermore, it’s clear that both of them still have above average stuff, which is important, and could easily turn it around. The Red Sox may still have other options, but to flat out release these guys is not a smart move; especially as their other options, Tazawa, Buckholz, Dice-K, all come with a lot of uncertainty.

Nick
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Nick
6 years 10 months ago

And as to this:

“Let me ask you guys something. Why do the Red Sox get a free pass? If any other team had released a player who was performing at roughly a league average rate, and projected to be league average in the future, you would call them stupid.”

See, this is where you’re being obtuse. All teams are not created equal. The Royals have a consistent track record of either not understanding or simply ignoring advanced metrics when it comes to evaluating players. The Red Sox are widely known to be on the forefront of statistical research (like the current one, trying to quantify defensive value). Do they make wrong moves? Absolutely, but to act like they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a player with bad surface performance but decent underlying performance is just silly, imo.

Nick
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6 years 10 months ago

Well, maybe I’m being arrogant, but I fail to see much logic in releasing Penny, regardless of the Red Sox track record. He HAD been performing well, and projected to perform well in the future. He also still had very good stuff, and looked to be fully healthy. I don’t see it as a slam dunk that any of their replacements will do better than Penny, and they have a much greater chance of doing worse.

James C-B
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James C-B
6 years 10 months ago

“Well, maybe I’m being arrogant, but I fail to see much logic in releasing Penny…”

How? I legitimately do not understand how you can’t fathom this. There are only 5 starters in a major league rotation. Beckett, Lester, Wakefield, Dice/Tazawa, and Buchholz. As I said in an earlier post, Penny only has, let’s say, 5 starts left. In addition to his base salary, he would essentially be making $300k per start based on incentives. And please don’t say that “the Red Sox spend a lot of money, so spending more money doesn’t matter.” They operate on a budget, and whenever you have a chance to save money and increase flexibility, you do it.

The part that you seem to be missing is that Penny is trending downwards. I would actually use the word “spiraling.” Please, just look at his numbers over the past 2 months and tell me he belongs on a contending team in the AL East. And don’t say “SSS,” because his good numbers in April and May are a small sample too.

The fact is, Penny was not going to make the postseason roster, and he was providing below league average results, despite what his advanced metrics were. The Red Sox have 5 or 6 starters better than Penny, they save $1.5M, and he refused a bullpen assignment. Honestly, I don’t see the argument for NOT releasing Penny.

Nick
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Nick
6 years 10 months ago

“All I said that was that just because teams, like the Red Sox, hire saberists, doesn’t mean that they necessarily listen to them or factor their opinions highly.”

So, unless you believe the Red Sox are one of these teams, what is the point of saying this?

“It’s obtuse of you to say that you *know* the Red Sox organization is Saber friendly simply because they hire Voros and Bill James.”

That is, in fact, the exact opposite of what I said.

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Guest
AD
6 years 10 months ago

Bottom line is they are moving foward into the heart of a playoff race with 2 spots being filled by huge question marks Lester, Beckett, and Wakefield are a fine top 3 but to rely on tazawa, dice-k, buchholz, and byrd for 40% of their remaining games may be costly. I know Buchholz may have more long term upside, but for this year when you need every win, it still seems Penny is a better option in the rotation.

Judy
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Judy
6 years 10 months ago

Seems more to me like a total crap shoot, with Penny or without him.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 10 months ago

And of course if we’re going to SSS it up by looking at his 4 1/2 month FIP and say “HE’S FINE RED SOX SUCK”, we can also look at the past 8 games where he’s been shelled.

Byrd will probably be fine for a month, he’s been pretty decent for AAA Pawtucket in 2 starts (in which he is 0-1 because the PawSox are an effin miserable cesspool of org. filler, then again a lot of AAA teams are like that). The Red Sox didn’t “overreact” to ERA. They made a business decision that Byrd/Buchholz/(maybe) Tazawa is better than Penny as a 5th starter in September. He’s still a decent pitcher, though, and will probably wash up somewhere that pitching help is needed.

Andrew
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Andrew
6 years 10 months ago

“Andrew, your logic is outstanding. Saving 1.5 million for the rest of the season is NOT going to help them towards the future, at least not in a way that compares to the value Penny would provide.”

Not really. The difference between signing Mark Teixera and not signing him was $3million a year. Not signing two Brad Pennys is the difference between starting Teixara and Casey Kotchman at first. If Microsoft burned $1.5million for no reason, would their shareholders say “hey whatever it’s Microsoft they have billions”. No, because that is not how a business works.

“He HAD been performing well, and projected to perform well in the future.”

This is where you’re being obtuse. MLB isn’t Triple-A and performing well isn’t having good peripherals, it’s winning games. As good as FIP is, I don’t think it says that Penny will pitch nothing but perfect games this way out. ZiPS has him posting a 5.18 ERA over the rest of the season which is pretty miserable and the kind of performance you can get out of Tazawa/Bowden and not worth $300k a start. A 5.18 is not being projected to perform well the rest of the season.

A guy who pitches 35 no-hitters but walks the bases loaded every single inning and doesn’t strike a single batter all season has “performed” a lot better than a pitcher who strikes everyone out the first 4 innings, then gives up 3 hits and and a bases clearing double before getting pulled, despite his worse FIP.

“The only reason his ERA is inflated is because the Red Sox defense has been one of the worst in the league, and he’s been stranding fewer runners than expected.”

Isn’t the Red Sox terrible defense another reason to not hold onto him? They are basically going to put the same guys on the field the rest of the season so putting a pitcher out there every 5 days who depends on them doesn’t seem that smart.

“It’s obtuse of you to say that you *know* the Red Sox organization is Saber friendly simply because they hire Voros and Bill James.”

This isn’t what we’re saying at all. We know they are based on their track record. They are an extremely stat dependent organization. This is something talked about extensively in Moneyball, by the media, and the Red Sox organization for the last 6 years. Dave thought so too until they stopped two weeks ago…

You’re making a weird argument that assumes that if you rely on SABR techniques then you cannot release Penny or Smoltz. The reality is you can, and even if you have faulty sabremetric reasons for releasing them there are other reasons to do so. It’s possible to release them while still remaining a SABR-friendly team. This is also assuming that all SABR people think that the Sox should have held onto Penny and Smoltz, which I don’t think they do.

walkoffblast
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walkoffblast
6 years 10 months ago

I was disappointed to see dave wrote this article. There is a place for the type of analysis in it, but its downright irresponsible to tell half the story and not talk about contracts and such.

For the people in this thread, some of you might want to re-read what the analysis of the released pitchers was. Its like people see the word unlucky and assume that means the pitcher is just about to channel his best season numbers for the next month magically. I see many people saying penny is about to be good or quality or whatever when the numbers say he is essentially average. In fact if the numbers say he is average and its clear he has been pitching worse recently then by the law of averages recently he has been a below average pitcher. Which can be a decent reason to release a non-essential player about to make over a million.

For those citing the red sox defense as a reason for a pitchers lack of success you should probably realize that argument is irrelevant to if the team should release a pitcher or not. If that argument was a good one, which I am not particularly agreeing with, then since the defense is not going to change neither is the unluckiness, thus the pitcher will not be likely to realize his numerical potential. Since that sounds kind of dumb I will assume the original argument was as dubious as I suspected but at least maybe some will realize the flw in their logic.

One last thing, on the topic of the red sox front office and sabremetrics its worth noting what has been successful for them is using a combination of scouting and sabremetrics. Not blindly following one or the other.

Joe R
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Not to mention with the acquisition of Alex Gonzalez, the Red Sox are essentially admitting to their defensive woes. Ironically Green’s been proficient defensively in 2009, but the only guys I can consider good defenders year in year out at their respective positions right now are Pedroia and Drew. Sure enough, they’re 1-2 in UZR. Unfortunately, Bay, Lowell, and Juan Pierre V2.0 have been brutal in the field.

Andrew
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Andrew
6 years 10 months ago

I still can’t over how ridiculous a lot of the arguments for keeping Penny are and can’t tell if we’re being trolled or not:

1) Boston has bad fielding: How is this an argument for starting a pitcher who puts the ball in play a lot?

2) Boston has a payroll of $150million so they don’t need the money they save by releasing him: Tiger Woods makes a little less than this. So he wouldn’t care if he lost $1.5million?

3) Penny has performed well: I still don’t see how he has but I understand there are different definitions of performance.

4) Penny is a better option than Bowden/Tazawa. I don’t see how this is true if you aren’t going by factors that this site hates like “veteran presence”

ham
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ham
6 years 10 months ago

Boston just started Paul Byrd… WTF?

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 10 months ago

6 shutout innings wooo…

3 BB, 1 K so that’s not happening again but woooooooooo

ham
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ham
6 years 10 months ago

So you’re okay with the fact that they released two older pitchers who were struggling, but had upside, in favor of a 39 year old pitcher who struggles to top 85 and hasn’t pitched since 2008? Okay then.

Andrew
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Andrew
6 years 10 months ago

This outing was better than any by Smoltz or Penny and a lot cheaper.

ham
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ham
6 years 10 months ago

Bullshit. He struck out 1 hitter and walked 3, and allowed half of his balls in play to be fly balls. In his first start with St. Louis, Smoltz struck out 9 and walked nobody.

Are you seriously arguing that Paul fucking Byrd is a better option than Smolz or Penny? If you are, than you are not worth my time.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 10 months ago

Get off your high horse.
1) I called it a fluke, obviously there’s warning signs when he only records 1 K. But Byrd’s BB/9 in his career is 2.12. He’s normally very good at keeping himself out of trouble.
2) FWIW, his FIP has been above his actual ERA every season from 2002 on.
3) Only 1 out of every 9 balls put in play were of the line drive variety. SSS but it wasn’t like balls were being roped right at JD Drew all day.
4) Brad Penny has a .920 OPS against in the 2nd half. The BABIP is probably a result of the Sox poor defense, especially on the left side, but that doesn’t excuse the 7 HR in 172 PA.
5) Byrd played in 2008 with the Sox and pitched some decent games.
6) I KNOW SMOLTZ STILL HAD STRIKEOUT STUFF. Smoltz was getting K’s and missing bats. He also seemed to cease being a misery the 2nd time through every time. The Red Sox have always employed a combination of old school scouting and new school analysis, it’s worked for them. Maybe we were off on Smoltz, maybe the Cards fixed something. But it’s a quick ticket out of town when you get used as BP for the Yankees. Sorry, that’s the way it is. Not to mention 2 games vs. NL lineups isn’t exactly convincing to many AL fans or GMs at this point.
7) Releasing Penny was mutual. Dice-K’s about to return, we had an option in Byrd that would save us incentive $, and this Japanese guy we paid $11 million to and like to have a rotation spot open for. I’d’ve loved to keep Penny around, but that was the decision of the organization.

Other than that, totally on base. Sox should hire you, obviously you know more than Theo Epstein.

Andrew
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Andrew
6 years 10 months ago

If the Red Sox get two decent starts out of Byrd (and they have already gotten one), then they saved hundreds of thousands of dollars and got the same results. Yea Smoltz has been really good in the NL, but striking out 9 Padres and their .309 wOBA isn’t much of an achievement. The Blue Jays are a good hitting team too, with a .332 wOBA.

Also, if they had kept both Penny and Smoltz, what happens when Dice-K gets back?

Finally, if you are facing the Sox in the playoffs, which lineup would you rather face:

Beckett, Lester, Penny, and Smoltz (he probably would’ve been used as a reliever but some people in this site have suggested he start) or Beckett, Lester, Bucholz, and Dice-K? I think this is a really easy question.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 10 months ago

While I’m not totally on board with the wOBA for the Jays, since a lot of it is Rolen and Rios aided, and Dice-K was roughed up last night in AA.

Overall, though, Penny would not have factored into the rotation for the postseason, Byrd probably won’t either. While a Three True Outcomes pitcher isn’t so awesome, I still think Dice-K will be at least a decent #3. Then we’d get the enigmatic Buchholz.

I still think the Sox would be a better team w/ Penny around, but the FO decided it wasn’t worth the incentive dollars to see if he’d regress to the mean. He’ll help someone, but with a tRA in the Ricky Romero area, it won’t exactly be as the ace. The Twins could make sense down the stretch, maybe the Dodgers as well.

ham
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ham
6 years 10 months ago

So you’re saying that Paul Byrd is a better option than Smoltz or Penny?

I really don’t know how you can say that with a straight face. Before this year, the projections on this site pegged for about a 4.90 FIP on average. He has since sat out the entire year, meaning those are probably optimistic.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 10 months ago

With the way Penny’s pitched lately, is it any better?
We cut out millions by avoiding his incentives.

walkoffblast
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walkoffblast
6 years 10 months ago

Well, lets say Penny is 4.50 guy and Byrd is a 5.00 guy for the rest of the season. Now Penny does not pitch deep into games so lets say Byrd makes three starts that you could have used Penny for. In 18 innings we are talking about one run difference of theoretical talent. How much is that worth to you?

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 10 months ago

That’s $500,000 on here. More than what would be saved on incentives. I’d like to still have Penny, and I also think we dropped the ball now on Smoltz (Cameron was right, but at the same time it’s not my job as the fan to pick up when a pitcher is tipping, it’s a hitter’s job). But whatever, the point is, the Red Sox didn’t “over react” to a bad stretch.

walkoffblast
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walkoffblast
6 years 10 months ago

I guess when he said Red Sox he meant all of MLB considering every other team in baseball made the same decision on those pitchers at the price the red sox had to decide if was worth it.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 10 months ago

And one thing not many have mentioned, is that Bowden’s been pretty good, too (22 years old, 4-6, 3.19 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 1.79 K/BB in Pawtucket). His total minor league K/BB is over 3. He’s definitely someone that can start a little bit in September. Can you expect 6 IP, 2 R games from him? Probably not, but when you’re carrying like 18 pitchers, you can deal with iffyish starts easier.

Since the Red Sox are looking better by the second for the WC, it’s probably a good thing to free up starts for Bowden and let him get real MLB work in.

elGuapo
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elGuapo
6 years 10 months ago

Not one mention of the Giants……..where he actually ended up and who were suitors the entire time?

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 10 months ago

Welcome to an article written on Thursday

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Sabean likes to operate under the radar.

El
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El
6 years 10 months ago

I think that releasing them because their performance was bad, period, is stupid.

Does that mean that continuing to start someone just because their performance was good, period, is also stupid?

He’ll be better for SF due to the park and league change.

But the Sox had no need or use for him.

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