I don’t normally write posts in the middle of a game, but this one can’t wait. In the top of the fourth inning of this afternoon’s Tigers-Angels game, with Los Angeles (of Anaheim) leading 5-2, Tigers catcher Victor Martinez went to the mound to settle his pitcher, Brad Penny, down a bit. Penny had allowed a single, triple, and double to the first three batters of the frame.
Penny, apparently, wanted no part of a conversation with Martinez and the two became engaged in an animated shouting match just in front of the mound (You can see a GIF of the argument here). Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones made a trip to diffuse the situation before it got even more embarrassing.
Two batters later, Penny was removed from the game having allowed nine hits and seven earned runs to the Angels over just 3.1 innings. With the Tigers already in the market for one starter, the last thing they needed was to have Penny implode the way he did today. It makes you wonder if Dave Dombrowski became more open to the idea of trading away a prized prospect or two in the middle of that argument.
You’re going to hear a lot of calls for Penny’s release, but in all honesty, adding two starters would be much more costly than adding one, so I can’t see it happening. What could very easily happen is that the Tigers might have just realized how little they can rely on the big right hander. Adding a capable, reliable starter just became a much more pressing need than it had been before today.
Penny hasn’t been terrible for the Tigers this yer, he just hasn’t been great at any point either. His overall record coming into today was 7-7 and his ERA of 4.51 was in the slightly-above-average range you’d expect from a back-of-the-rotation guy. In short, Penny had given them what most teams would gladly take from a back-end guy; he just hadn’t given them anything more than that.
The Tigers can win the division with Penny at the back-end. I doubt they will be able to win if Penny is counted on to deliver a long run of quality outings the way Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are capable of doing. Penny just isn’t that guy anymore.
The biggest problem Penny has faced this year is that he is no longer capable of striking out a lot of hitters. Over his last 50 innings, Penny has fanned just 19 batters while walking 15. This isn’t a new problem, either; for the season in total Penny is striking out just 3.9 batters per nine innings, easily the worst rate of his career.