Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Penny versus Burnett

While the Red Sox continue their bargain basement shopping for damaged spare parts, the Herald poses an interesting question: would you rather have Brad Penny or A. J. Burnett? They cite some numbers that favor Penny (of course), but I was curious, so I took a look at each pitcher's historical numbers on FanGraphs.

As you can see, Burnett's numbers make him look like a lot more of an average-to-better pitcher than Penny, who seems to have done a lot of climbing towards mediocrity even before he hurt himself last season. To be honest, I'm impressed: these graphs make Burnett look a lot better - and make New York's investment a lot more reasonable - than I had been previously willing to admit. However, before I tucked off into a bout of green-with-envy misery over what seems like a distant second place splash to New York's $82.5 million acquisition, I happened to read David Golebiewski's analysis of both signings. Golebiewski's take on Burnett isn't too surprising - in short, if he stays healthy, he can dominate - but in his piece on Penny, he makes one crucial point that had me flipping an emotional bitch faster than you can say "2003 Marlins Reunion in Boston": statistical projections have a healthy Penny giving up 58 runs in 127 innings, far outshining the replacement-level starter who statistics project to give up 77.6 runs in the same time period. Couple that projection with a paltry $5 million deal and the Penny acquisition starts to make a lot of sense.

Therefore, since I'm all too happy to place my faith in the numbers, I'm at ease with the Penny pickup. New York can have its big-money contracts; the Yankees need them to have a shot in 2009. The Sox may be spending far less money, but they're still in a great position to compete.