A flop in Boston, Brad Penny thriving back in NL

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After pitching for the Giants in the second half last season Brad Penny shut out his former teammates for seven innings last night, improving to 3-0 with a 0.94 ERA on the year.
Penny looks to be the latest in a long line of veteran starters who turned things around and had more success than ever before under Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, with Joel Pineiro and Kyle Lohse providing the most recent examples.
Of course, Penny’s resurgence actually dates back to last year, before hooking up with Duncan in St. Louis. He pitched his way out of the Dodgers’ plans by going 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA in 2008 and then flopped in Boston with a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts, at which point the Red Sox released him.
Penny signed on with the Giants and went 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA in four starts down the stretch, which was enough for the Cardinals to give him $7.5 million in guaranteed money this offseason. Suddenly that looks like a bargain, because Penny is now 7-1 with a 1.92 ERA in his last 10 starts, walking just 12 batters in 70.1 innings. Penny had plenty of success for the Marlins and Dodgers before falling apart in 2008, so obviously returning to the NL has helped.
Beyond that, Duncan has him throwing more strikes and inducing more ground balls than ever before, which is a huge change for a pitcher who basically just tried to blow hitters away with his mid-90s fastball for the first 10 years of his career. So far this season Penny has thrown his fastball just 51 percent of the time, which is big drop compared to his career rate of over 70 percent.
He obviously won’t be this good all season, but Duncan has worked similar magic with similar pitchers before and while a sub-1.00 ERA is flukishly amazing much of Penny’s improvement can be traced to what seems to be a legitimate change in approach.

The Cubs will soon announce a five-year contract extension for Theo Epstein

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 27: Theo Epstein (R), President of Operations for the Chicago Cubs, talks with head football coach Jim Harbaugh of the University of Michigan before the game between the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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Carrie Muskat of MLB.com just tweeted that the Cubs will soon announce a five-year contract extension for president Theo Epstein. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that it’s worth in excess of $50 million.

He’s earned it. When he took over the Cubs in October, 2011 the Cubs were a last place team with an aging roster and a front office that was several years behind the state of the art in every conceivable way. Last year the Cubs made the playoffs and this year they are baseball’s best team by a large margin and the franchise looks poised to continue its success for some time.

So, yeah, I’d say locking Theo up is a good idea.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday’s action

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 21:  Starting pitcher Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox throws to a Baltimore Orioles batter in the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 21, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Red Sox will once again attempt to clinch the AL East after failing to do so on Tuesday night. They can seal the division with a win against the Yankees or a Blue Jays loss to the Orioles on Wednesday evening.

Clay Buchholz will take the hill for the BoSox against Yankees right-hander Bryan Mitchell in a 7:05 PM EDT start at Yankee Stadium. Buchholz hasn’t exactly been Mr. Reliable this season, holding a 5.00 ERA with an 87/53 K/BB ratio in 133 1/3 innings. However, he has been in three of four starts since returning to the rotation earlier this month. Over those four starts, he owns a 3.97 ERA and a 15/8 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, at the Rogers Centre, the Jays will send out Francisco Liriano against the Orioles’ Chris Tillman in a 7:07 PM EDT start. Liriano has been much improved since coming to the Jays from the Pirates, so the Orioles will have their hands full.

As for Wild Card action, the Royals can be eliminated if they lose to the Twins or if the Orioles beat the Jays. The Yankees can be eliminated by losing to the Red Sox and the Orioles defeating the Jays. In the National League, the Marlins can be eliminated by losing to the Mets or the Giants beating the Rockies.

The rest of Wednesday’s action…

Arizona Diamondbacks (Shelby Miller) @ Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez), 7:05 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Clay Buchholz) @ New York Yankees (Bryan Mitchell), 7:05 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Jameson Taillon), 7:05 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Francisco Liriano), 7:07 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Zach McAllister) @ Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer), 7:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Seth Lugo) @ Miami Marlins (Jose Urena), 7:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Adam Morgan) @ Atlanta Braves (Mike Foltynewicz), 7:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Ervin Santana) @ Kansas City Royals (Jason Vargas), 7:15 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels), 8:05 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Blake Snell) @ Chicago White Sox (Miguel Gonzalez), 8:10 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (Anthony DeSclafani) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Leake), 8:15 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Sonny Gray) @ Los Angeles Angels (Alex Meyer), 10:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Jose De Leon) @ San Diego Padres (Luis Perdomo), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Tyler Chatwood) @ San Francisco Giants (Jeff Samardzija), 10:15 PM EDT