We last saw Brad Penny pitch with the Giants in a relief role at the end of the 2012 season. He was bothered for a few weeks in August into September by a shoulder impingement, which prompted him to take the 2013 season off. However, he has been throwing and according to Troy Renck, he has been throwing well. Renck suggests the right-hander might make for a good risk-free signing.
Penny, however, is 35 years old, coming off of a year-long break, and hasn’t shown even a competent ability to miss bats since 2011. In 181.2 innings in 2011, Penny struck out just nine percent of batters faced, which was the worst rate among all qualified starters — markedly worse than Carl Pavano’s 10.7 percent strikeout rate in second-place. In 28 innings in 2012, he struck out 7.5 percent of batters. He lost about 2 MPH on all of his pitches since 2010 as well, which likely explains the inability to miss bats.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.