Why Penny's a hot commodity


It's a tough business, this baseball. From the Boston Herald:

    Veteran right-hander Brad Penny requested and received his release tonight in a move that clears a roster spot for reliever Billy Wagner and gives Penny time to join a new team before postseason rosters are set.
    "I asked for my release and I got it," Penny said.

    Speaking after last night's 3-2 victory over the White Sox, Penny thanked the Red Sox for taking a chance on him.

    "I enjoyed playing with all of the guys," he said. "I played for a great manager on a great team. I had a great time. I enjoyed it. I wish things had worked out better, but that happens."

    "I had some bad breaks and made some bad pitches," he said. "But I'm healthy, and that's what I'm happy about. This isn't last year, when I was hurt. If that had been the case, I'd be upset. "All in all I had a great time here. My shoulder is healthy and I'm glad I came here. It was a blessing."

I don't suppose Red Sox fans really care, but Penny did catch some bad breaks. At this moment, Penny's career ERA is 4.18. This season, his strikeout and walk rates are dead even with his career numbers, which is particularly impressive considering that he'd always pitched in the National League before this season.
As the linked piece notes, the Red Sox took a low-cost ($5 million) flyer on Penny, and in every respect but one the flyer paid off handsomely. Unfortunately, that one respect is the bottom-line result: 7 wins, 8 losses, and a 5.61 ERA. Penny's been particularly bad since the All-Star break, going 1-5 with a 7.82 ERA.

Even then, though, his underlying performance hasn't been disastrous. He's still throwing hard, and he says he's healthy. As for making "some bad pitches," sure: he has. They all do. But Penny's given up 17 home runs in 132 innings, hardly anything worth obsessing over.

Brad Penny entered this season having allowed a .303 batting average on batted balls in play. This year, despite throwing plenty of strong and well-aimed pitches, he's given up a .327 batting average on those same balls.

It seems the Red Sox can't use him because they can't afford to be patient and they have the luxury of addressing their impatience. But if the Red Sox can't, I can think of about a dozen contending teams that can. And the rumors are already flying.