fear not the penny of boston

Originally published in The Tigers Den Blog | 13 January 2011

Brad_Penny_2If there is one thing that most Tigers fans wonder when looking at Brad Penny’s stats, is what the heck does his AL experience mean?  It was an absolute disaster. Let me tell you right now, that experiment meant….nothing.

There, that’s it. Penny pitched in the American League East, in a horrible pitchers ballpark, facing batters he was not used too for all of six months. He had a 7-8 record as a member of the Sox, and sported an ERA of 5.61. Pretty funky stuff. Even more funky was the way he got to that 5.61 ERA.

He gave up 8 runs to Baltimore at home, 5 runs to Texas, 7 to Oakland, and 8 to New York. 28 of his 82 earned runs for Boston were given up to those four teams over the course of the year. Without those runs or innings, his ERA was 4.22, which is only .11 higher than his career ERA in the AL. Case in point, a short run in the American League is nothing to go off of, add in a bad pitchers ballpark and you have your outlier.

With that taken care of, I have a few thoughts on the Penny/Armando Galarraga situation which is an interesting one to say the least. Here, we have a former pitcher who once started the All-Star game for the NL, who is making a very reasonable veterans salary and then we have last year’s infamous owner of the non-perfect game who is currently due to earn a significant raise in arbitration. If you want, we can even toss in a third figure, a certain Phil Coke, who has been named the fourth starter since before Thanksgiving. However, even if he is a left hander (the only one on the Tigers roster at that), he is an unproven starter at the big league level, and if he fails miserably in Spring Training or early in the year there may be talk of moving him back in the pen. Although, I would like to add that no one knows what Coke’s realistic expectations are, the Tigers aren’t saying a word and I’m not comfortable saying anything beyond the fact that he is an unproven commodity as a starter.

It’s such a strange twist of fate for Galarraga, who if you toss out his imperfectly perfect perfect game went 3-9 with a 4.79 ERA in 135 innings. That’s not too good, and if I were Galarraga I wouldn’t expect anything different than the current reality. He underwhelmed everyone by nibbling all over the place in his final 21 starts of the season. Some say that he and Penny will compete for the 5th spot, but please, let’s not kid ourselves. With his salary, Penny is starting if he’s healthy and Galarraga is out of the rotation not a year after his infamous game.

The question that remains is this: what do the Tigers do when it comes to arbitration for Galarraga (And I would like to note that since Dave Dombrowski arrived in 2002 he has never been to an arbitration hearing, and likely never will), who is out of minor league options, is in his first year of eligibility, who  is due to receive a nice raise from the league minimum he earned last year.

Simple: Sign him for a year or two under $2m per and be done with it. He is a name people across the country know, he doesn’t let game situations get to him (that much is what June 2nd gave us), he just needs a kick in the ass. He also prevents the following from happening:

Brad Thomas. Alfredo Figaro. Dontrelle Willis. Eddie Bonine.

Those four pitchers all share a common denominator. All started at least one game for the Tigers last season. And none should have.

Galarraga provides depth, Galarraga provides support. Galarraga empowers the Tigers brass to  not be tempted to rush Andy Oliver, Jacob Turner, or even Casey Crosby before they are ready. Galarraga provides the ability to slot a proven pitcher into the rotation is someone gets hurt. And believe me, someone will get hurt.

So Tigers, if you’re smart, which you seem to be, just sign him and be done with it.

There’s no such thing as too much pitching.

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