So far, a number of Dodgers have struggled: Penny, Lowe, Loney, Kent and Jones. Jones has been the obvious winner of the slumpstakes, but he’s on the DL, so we’ll save that for when he comes back.
My big problem this year with watching the Dodgers has been watching Penny. I love the guy. I think he’s cool, he’s one of the better players to wear the uniform and he’s half-lumberjack. He pitched awesomely last year, 3.03 ERA (151 ERA+) and a 1.30 WHIP. He had a bit of a second-half slump, but it wasn’t awful, I think his ERA was still sub-4 in the second half. He’s also started 33 games the last two seasons, so health concerns are, hopefully, part of the past.
This year, he’s 5.66 ERA (77 ERA+), 1.55 WHIP.
My father likes to attribute his slump to Penny’s “fire” in his belly and questions how “deep” that fire goes. But since we’re not selling fire places, I think it has more to do with control problems.
In the four games I’ve seen Penny play (small sample size, I know, but he’s only pitched 70 innings this year), he’s pitched very well, except for momentary collapses during one or two innings. Yesterday, he pitched a decent first and second inning and a not-so-bad third before exploding in the fourth. The game that tipped me off to this was the game against the Cardinals last week (game 25) where he pitched a no-hitter, except for five consecutive batters in the third inning. Literally, it looked like this.
- 1st inning: 1-2-3
- 2nd inning 1-HBP-double play
- 3rd inning: 1-2-walk-walk-single (RBI)-double (RBI)-double (2 RBI)-3
- 4th inning: 1-2-3
- 5th inning: 1-2-3
- 6th inning: 1-2-3
- 7th inning 1-2-3
Those consecutive walks were on four pitches.
I looked up previous games I went to featuring Penny and they look pretty similar. Game 17, against the Mets, featured a 1-2-3 first inning followed by four runs in the second, one run in the third, no runs in the fourth and two outs in the fifth before he completely messed the bed (4 2/3rds IP, 10 ER).
It’s funny because his BBs aren’t up (27 in 70 IP, vs. 73 in 208 IP last year), nor are his Total Batters Faced (865 vs. 307). His hits are up; at this projected rate, if he threw 210 IPs like last year, he’d finish with about 40-50 more hits this season than last.
Yet his ERs are up dramatically: 44 earned runs in 70 IP so far, vs. 73 in all of last year. That’s something like 130 or so for a full season? That means he’ll have a greater total earned runs allowed differential between this season and last than he has of total base hits allowed. FREAKY!
I’m not a stat genius, but I imagine his numbers will normalize from this point forward and he will go forth and slay those who oppose the Dodgers, though perhaps it’s possible that he maintains this extremely abnormal imbalance and it becomes one of the most bizarre seasons of all time.