The Forgotten Man in the Rotation

Roy Halladay, check.

Cliff Lee, check.

Cole Hamels, check.

Vance Worley, check.

Uh… Kyle Kendrick?

That’s been the run-down of the Phillies’ rotation, or at least the general consensus from conversations I’ve had. It seems like the city of Philadelphia has collectively forgotten about Joe Blanton‘s existence. Of course, it’s hard to find fault when the right-hander made only eight starts last year, missing nearly four months between May and September due to an elbow injury.

Blanton finished the year with a 5.01 ERA, but had decent peripherals in a small sample of innings (41 and one-third): he averaged 7.6 strikeouts and 2.0 walks per nine innings and induced grounders at a 55 percent clip. The ground ball rate was well above his career norm, but the strikeout and walk rates were essentially in line with what we would have expected.

The 5.01 ERA is ugly when paired with his 2010 ERA of 4.82. For those who still use the stat as a basis for forecasting, it’s hard to get excited about Blanton especially when you have Kendrick waiting behind him. However, as we’ve learned in the past, we can get a rather good estimate of a pitcher by looking at factors directly in his control. The following is a list of pitchers who, between 2010-11, amassed at least 200 innings with a K/9 and BB/9 within 0.5 of Blanton’s rates (7.0 and 2.2).

Rk Player ERA SO/9 BB/9 IP ERA+ HR
1 Joe Blanton 4.85 7.01 2.16 217.0 83 32
2 Ricky Nolasco 4.60 7.30 1.91 363.2 87 44
3 Gavin Floyd 4.23 7.13 2.43 381.0 100 36
4 Brett Myers 3.79 6.96 2.52 439.2 103 51
5 Shaun Marcum 3.59 7.34 2.27 396.0 113 46
6 Chris Carpenter 3.33 7.05 2.25 472.1 113 37
7 Hiroki Kuroda 3.23 7.23 2.19 398.1 117 39
8 Daniel Hudson 3.18 7.18 2.18 317.1 127 25
9 Roy Oswalt 3.13 7.34 2.26 350.2 127 29
10 Alexi Ogando 3.08 7.05 2.52 210.2 145 18
11 Matt Cain 3.01 7.20 2.51 445.0 124 31
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/19/2011.

That’s a pretty good list of pitchers. Along with this post expressing pessimism with regard to Kendrick, Phillies fans should be more confident about Blanton going into 2012. He is entering the final year of a three-year, $24 million contract. If you are among those that believe that players try harder to succeed in a contract year, then there’s another plus — he will want to prove he can both stay healthy and be productive, hoping to land another multi-year contract in free agency.

In a rotation with three Cy Young-caliber pitchers and an up-and-comer in Worley, it makes sense that Blanton would be looked over. However, he is one of the few wild cards on the Phillies’ pitching staff, adding even more intrigue to an already interesting upcoming season.