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Penny For My Thoughts

I explore the similarities between the Yankee and Red Sox rotations in my new piece analyzing Boston’s deal with Brad Penny for SI.com. Check it out.

Tags:  Brad Penny  Starting Rotation

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1 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 30, 2008 4:50 pm

Well done Cliff. Penny is a good signing for the Sox. No guarantees, but worth a shot for $5m. I'm actually hoping Andy comes back. When AJ goes down, we are looking a bit thin.

2 The Hawk   ~  Dec 30, 2008 5:22 pm

I dig the idea of a comparison but I don't see some of these matching up. I mean, Lester isn't really comparable to Sabathia except to say he's the "ace" which he only was because Beckett was a mess physically last year. Matching a guy with one full season with a guy with 7 or 8 is a bit of a stretch. Seems to me Sabathia and Beckett are more similar. (And Beckett is not at all overrated, not in the postseason - "when it counts' - and certainly not compared to Burnett, for pete's sake!)

You can say what you say about Wang vs Matsuzaka, or you could say one is an unheralded player, while the other is a very hyped guy that cost his team 100 mil.

3 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 30, 2008 6:54 pm

I think Lester not only was Boston's ace last year, but will remain the ace this year. Over his last 27 starts last year, Lester was 15-4 with a 2.82 ERA and he was better than Beckett in the postseason as well. Beckett is not only overrated in general, he was overrated by you right there in your comment. He's had two good postseasons and one bad and the two good just happened to come after his two best regular seasons. That's not clutch pitching, that's good timing. Meanwhile, I did say that Sabathia is better than Lester and Beckett better than Burnett, but there are similarities there, which I think will persist into the 2009 season.

4 The Hawk   ~  Dec 30, 2008 7:43 pm

Beckett hasn't had two good postseasons. He's been GREAT in two, and injured in one. I guess you could count it against him, but I don't. Everyone knew he wasn't at full power. Anyway even factoring in a 7.20 ERA in two games in 08, he's got a postseason ERA of 2.90 - vs a regular season ERA of 3.78. I didn't say he was clutch, but now that it's been brought up, I'll definitely say he takes it to the next level in the playoffs.

And it's not a matter of whether Sabathia is better than Lester. It's that the sample size is so different; that's why I don't think it's an apt comparison. Lester was the ace by default and did very well. . Sabathia has been dominant for a while now - it's as safe a bet as any he'll continue in that capacity. I'm not ready to project Lester as the ace next year, and I'd be surprised if anyone in the Red Sox organization would say anyone other than Beckett is the ace. Maybe it's just a semantical argument, but I don't think the numbers are there to support it, either. Not yet.

5 Just Fair   ~  Dec 30, 2008 9:00 pm

Hey, Cliff. I recently received an SI subscrition as a gift. Read my first one in a coon's age just this week. Any chance of seeing you in that any time soon?
Just wonderin'.

6 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm

I disagree with the notion that the Yankees are chasing the Red Sox. The reality is the two teams are vying with each other on pretty much equal footing.

As for your rotation comparisons, I have some points of contention as well:

Why exactly do you give Beckett such an edge over Burnett? I posted a comparison during the AJ signing debate, but the two pitchers numbers over the past 5 years are pretty close to identical (both in terms of performance and durability).

I also think you understate the Yankees advantages with Sabathia and Joba versus Lester and Buchholz. Sabathia has developed a track record and has much better peripherals than Lester, while Joba has had much more major league success than Buchholz. Those two comparisons represent a significant advantage for the Yankees.

Finally, I don't think Penny is a significant factor. There is still question about whether he will start the season healthy, not to mention recover from his injury. Also, if you look at his BABIP and peripherals in his very strong 2007 season, that performance stands out as an aberration. Penny is basically a league average pitcher when healthy, and that is highly in doubt. Unlike Burnett, who has maintained his stuff, Penny’s drop off has been significant. Any attempt to compare the two fails on that basis.

Conversely, I think the Red Sox probably have a slight advantage with Dice-K over Wang because the latter is also coming off of an injury, while the former misses more bats and gives up fewer hits. If Dice-K can control his walks, he could be an ace, which gives him more upside than Wang.

On the whole, if the Yankees sign Pettitte, or even if they go with Hughes, I think the addition of Sabathia and Burnett along with the return of Wang and the implementation of Joba in the rotation gives the Yankees the strongest rotation in the American League.

7 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 30, 2008 10:36 pm

[4] Beckett's two awesome post seasons can't erase the fact that he has had one ace-like season over the past 5 years. I do, however, agree that Lester is far from an ace who is set in stone. If you look at his peripherals, Lester could be a candidate for regression. Ultimately, if Dice-K, can control his walks (which is far from a given, especially considering he got worse in 2008), he may wind up being Boston's ace.

8 Rich   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:03 pm

I'm not ready to designate Lester as a perennial ace off of one season, and I still think that Hughes will have a better career going forward.

9 Joseph   ~  Dec 30, 2008 11:12 pm

I was actually rather pleased to hear of the Red Sox signing Penny, as I thought they might go after D. Lowe, Ben Sheets or perhaps try to talk Jake Peavy into coming to the A.L. East to strengthen their rotation. Boston's 4-5-6 of Wakefield, Penny, and Bucholz doesn't exactly strike fear in my heart, but of course, you never know.

10 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 31, 2008 1:28 am

Just Fair, I don't think there's much risk of that, but never say never.

William we agree on Penny. Not sure why you list that as a point of contention. And I'm not sure I give Beckett "such an edge" rather than just a regular old edge. That edge is based in large part on the fact that Beckett had a Cy Young-quality year in 2007, while Burnett has never been that good over a full season, the fact that Beckett is three years younger than Burnett, and the fact that Beckett is far stingier with his walks than A.J.

I'm clearly higher on Lester than most of you, and I'm fine with that. I'm also entertained by the fact that the Hawk thinks I'm underrating Beckett and William thinks I'm overrating him. That could mean that my porridge is just right, or that I'm guaranteed to piss off a minimum of 50 percent of the people every time I make any sort of value judgment, and if I do it right I might piss off all of them.

11 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 31, 2008 2:47 am

[10] ...if I do it right I might piss off all of them.

If you have any questions, I can be reached by email >;)

12 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 31, 2008 8:25 am

[10] I mentioned Penny as a point of contention because you had mentioned he could make the difference between the two rotations. I don't think he is good enough to do that.

I also don't think you are overrating Beckett. In fact, I think you have him pegged perfectly. I just don't think you are giving Burnett enough credit in the comparison.

13 The Hawk   ~  Dec 31, 2008 9:30 am

[10] HA! Yes - I'm saying you're underrating Beckett - when you say he's overrated*! This is fun. Another way you could say it is you are overrating his overrating and I am underrating your underrating of him. Or am I overrating it? All right!!!

*(esp) on a par with Burnett

14 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 31, 2008 12:19 pm

William, I said, "Penny has the potential to tip that balance in Boston's favor." (emphasis added) I think that's certainly true. He could rebound to his All-Star form, but I then spend the rest of the article explaining why I think he won't.

As for Burnett, it's old news that I have a lower opinion of him than many of you. As with Lester, I'm fine with that.

15 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 31, 2008 4:41 pm

[14] Fair enough...I guess my point was Penny's All Star seasons were more the result of luck, so he doesn't really have the "potential" you suggest. Sure, he could get lucky again, but then so could Aaron Small. It's definitely a minor quibble, especially in the context of your further analysis.

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