I couldn’t have been happier when I heard that Brad Penny will be our Opening Day starter. When you start thinking about pitchers who have opened the season, in most cases it is the guy who has had a great spring. In the case of Penny, not only did he have an outstanding spring, but he is also the number on pitcher on our staff at this time.
Penny has all the ability to be a Cy Young Award winner. He’s strong, he should be able to put a lot of innings in and he should win a lot of ball games.
He’s got outstanding stuff.
When you talk about the number one pitcher on the staff, as Manager you expect certain things. A lot of people in baseball say a quality start is going six innings and giving up three runs or less. I think a quality start is a complete game and a win. And I’ve told Penny that many, many times.
In today’s era, I would expect a staff ace to go about 7+ innings, for about 35 starts per year, totaling about 245 innings. Now in my day, in the days of Koufax and Drysdale, those guys threw about 350 innings each season. I’d love to see Walt Alston go out to the mound and tell Koufax, “Hey, that’s it. Your pitch count is up.”
The ace of your pitching staff has got to set the tone. He’s got to be the leader of the staff, and he’s got to win. He’s got to be able to show the other pitchers on your staff how to win. If you are in the middle of a losing streak, the ace is the guy you look to to stop it.
Penny has matured in many ways since joining the Dodgers. First of all, he has improved his temper. His temper used to get him in trouble with the umpires, and as a starting pitcher you never want to make them mad. You just can’t do that, even when you know you’re right and they are wrong.
Maturity is a very important part of Penny’s improvement. As a young pitcher he tried to just blow batters away with his fastball. But what Penny has learned to do is to win even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. That’s the sign of an ace too, and in Penny’s case he understands the opposing batters weaknesses and utilizes them to his advantage. He prepares better in between starts, and he pitches to the count.