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Brad Penny Investment Paying Off in San Francisco, Rotation Looking Money

Bleacher ReportSenior Writer ISeptember 3, 2009

If I were a Major League Baseball general manager, I'd be seeing how easily I could get Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Tallet, or Scott Richmond—especially if I plied my trade in the National League.

Shoot, I might even consider Jason Berken and his 6.07 earned run average.

The kid is only 25.

You have to figure the price wouldn't be much of anything for a starter posting an ERA north of 4.50 and an age north of 30—Berken being the obvious exception to the latter qualifier, but his ERA is significantly higher than the others'.

Additionally, both the Baltimore Orioles (owners of Guthrie's and Berken's contracts) and the Toronto Blue Jays (owners of the other two) have other options in mind.

The O's have a farm system full of young arms that will be ripe for the big leagues very soon. The Jays, on the other hand, have three chuckers on the shelf who have already shown great promise in The Show.

All of this screams out, "AVAILABLE ON THE CHEAP."

Given the recent performances of other pitchers who've been chewed up and spit out by the American League East, there's a decent chance those four guys could blossom into something special if planted in more fertile pitching ground. 

If I'm right—and it wouldn't cost much to see—why not take a gamble if you're the New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, or someone else having a bleak 2009?

Granted, John Smoltz went to arguably the best team in the Senior Circuit with arguably its best offense—the St. Louis Cardinals. Not to mention the dude is a former Cy Young winner, an automatic Hall of Famer, and has only beaten the dregs of the NL (to date).

But Smoltz is no longer the only exemplar.

Now, you must add Brad Penny and his mid-90s fastball to the picture. 

After watching him tear through the Philadelphia Phillies last night, it's getting harder to take the naysayers seriously—the ones who refuse to admit that something different is happening in the American League East. 

Not that it was ever that easy.

Forget all the "beast" talk. I'm not sure that does the job anymore.

Because the new San Francisco Giant didn't beat up on some cupcake. He didn't face a strong offense against whom he matched up well. He didn't catch a juggernaut that was off its stride.

The Phils put the "arguably" in front of the "best" tags previously attached to the Redbirds.

With Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez, the team boasts an arsenal of All-Stars as well as a resurgent Jimmy Rollins at the top of the order.

For those counting at home, that's two switch hitters in Victorino and Rollins plus three lefties in Utley, Howard, and Ibanez. So this is a rough task for any pitcher, and particularly so for a right-handed one like Penny.

To make the landscape even uglier for Penny's debut, Howard is tearing the cover off the ball. While both Ibanez and Victorino are slumping, Utley's as steadily incredible as they come, and Werth is riding a nice, month-long flourish.

Against this morass of unpleasantness, the former All-Star's only solace was irony and the ballpark. 

Citizens Bank Park in the City of Brotherly Love usually plays like a rocket-launching pad, but apparently the wind switches in September or something, because big flies that looked they would've been out of a lot of yards were getting knocked down.

In particular, an opposite field shot to left by Ibanez with two men on and nobody out seemed a sure bet to find the seats or at least the wall. Instead, it found Andres Torres' mitt for the first out of the inning. Penny would eventually work his way out of the snafu in the fifth and continue his string of posting goose eggs.

Really, you could argue that was the key moment because Los Gigantes had just taken a 1-0 lead in the top half of the inning, so it would've been supremely disheartening to give it right back and a huge boost to the Phillies. Conversely, escaping the jam seemed to have the opposite effects on both clubs.

J.A. Happ came back out to the bump and promptly gave up the ghost, allowing a two-run bomb to Juan Uribe and then a back-to-back shot by Aaron Rowand. 

Game, set, match.

Penny finished the bottom of the sixth in 12 pitches, the bottom of the seventh in the same number, and labored through a battle with Carlos Ruiz before sewing up the bottom of the eighth for his last inning on a stellar introductory night.

Regular readers will remember all the fuss I made about my old disdain for the ex-Los Angeles Dodger, about how the big fella never threw deep into games.

Oops.

Brad Penny proved me an idiot (not that it's particularly difficult) in his first start with his former nemesis—8 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 2 K, and a win against one of the best his new-old league has to offer.

It is only one game, but the newest Giant looks motivated and anxious to be one of the guys.

Throw in his first-performance impression, and I'm about to complete one of the fastest 180s in the history of bitch-flipping (that's u-turning lest anyone accuse me of misogyny).

The Gents' rotation now features Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Brad Penny. From here, that looks like five pretty damn good chances to win.

Even with a depressingly weak offense.

Jeremy Affeldt came in last night and looked as filthy as ever, Sergio Romo has recovered form in his last several appearances, and Brian Wilson never really sagged too much, so the bullpen seems to have righted itself. 

With Randy Johnson rounding into health and slotted for a relief role when he finally makes it all the way back, the 'pen should have another excellent southpaw option for late game crises.

As a die-hard San Francisco Giant fan with a long memory pockmarked by devastation, I'm trying not to get too excited.

But it's getting harder and harder...

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