The 2009 San Francisco Giants team was a fun one for a number of reasons, but none more than their surprise playoff push down the stretch.
Following the Barry Bonds era in 2008, the San Francisco Giants anticipated going through a lengthy rebuilding process. However, the 2008 and 2009 seasons quickly set the stage for their ensuing championship run.
In 2009, the Giants roster consisted of several young, talented players including Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, and Sergio Romo. Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner were also in the organization in 2009, but they would only make a brief appearance in the big leagues that season.
Little did we know at the time, this core group of players would play a significant role in each of the three World Series runs. Wilson would be the lone exception as he was non-tendered at the end of the 2012 season.
At the 2009 All-Star break, the Giants boasted a surprising 49-39 record. They were ten games over .500 and looked like a playoff contender in need of outside help.
General manager Brian Sabean then pulled a few strings to put the team in a better position for the playoff run.
He made two key moves prior to the July 31 trade deadline. The first was acquiring first baseman Ryan Garko from the Cleveland Indians for Scott Barnes on July 27, 2009. Then, he would add second baseman Freddy Sanchez from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 29, 2009 for pitching prospect Tim Alderson.
Similar to Bumgarner, Alderson was a top pitching prospect in the Giants farm system. Trading him away was a bitter pill to swallow., but they added a quality second baseman and former batting champion in Sanchez.
These moves would keep the Giants in the playoff hunt. Despite this, Sabean had one more savvy move up his sleeve. On August 31, 2009, the Giants had a 72-59 record and were still in the playoff hunt with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies.
Needing one more player for the postseason push, the Giants signed former foe Brad Penny at the August 31 waiver deadline. Penny had been released by the Boston Red Sox on August 27, 2009 due to a change in roles he did not agree with.
Though Penny’s time with the Giants would be short, it would be a memorable month.
Penny was the shot in the arm the Giants needed down the stretch. In six starts spanning 41.2 innings of work, he recorded a 4-1 record with a 2.59 ERA. With a 4.35 FIP, Penny’s ERA was likely due for some regression.
However, as a last-minute acquisition, he was only ever going to swim in small sample waters. So, the FIP gods did not have their way with Penny’s ERA.
Despite the right-hander’s best efforts, it was not enough to get the Giants over the hump. Still, they surprised many by finishing with a 88-74 record, which was good enough for third place in the NL West behind the Rockies and Dodgers.
Penny’s tenure with the San Francisco Giants was short and a surprising strike of lightning. He turned back the clock to keep the Giants playoff hopes alive.
The veteran would go on to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals during the offseason. This story has a happy ending as Penny signed with the Giants in 2012 and would win a World Series ring while pitching out of the bullpen.
All things considered, Penny had a nice career, and his brief stop in San Francisco is one of those interesting stories that stand out in the organization’s history. With the Giants in the playoff hunt, Penny was the pitcher who almost put them over the top.