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 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.

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  1. DP

    December 19, 2011 08:49 AM

    I think Blanton’s biggest problem was the contract. But for the contract, I don’t think the fans/public perception would be so harsh. Between Worley, KK, and Blanton, I’m cautiously optimistic about the back-end of the rotation, considering someone always go down. Last year it was Oswalt and Blanton and we still fared well. Worley and Blanton allows us to move around KK as needed.

  2. Richard

    December 19, 2011 09:30 AM

    Blanton’s contract was an excellent move by Amaro at the time it was offered. That Blanton, previously durable, became injured, AND the Phillies subsequently re-acquired Cliff Lee, AND Worley pitched much better (results- and peripherals-wise) than expected, makes Blanton seem like a waste of money, at best an over-paid 4th or 5th starter (where he was once #2, then #3). But that’s not how we should judge the deal.

    I’m a Blanton fan. I expect big things from him this year (assuming the elbow holds up).

  3. BobSmith75

    December 19, 2011 11:55 AM

    When did Blanton’s elbow magically get healthy this offseason? He didn’t undergo either TJ surgery or that slightly less invasive nerve procedure this offseason that was mentioned in Sept when he went to the bullpen. Blanton’s injury almost always requires a surgical intervention at some point & doesn’t completely heal with rest/rehab.

    He’s a crapshoot next year. Sure the Phils put him on a training regimen to build up his arm this offseason but you have no idea if he holds up an entire season or what kind of results he will give the Phils.

    He could rebound to ’09 or spend most of the year on the shelf.

  4. windbag

    December 19, 2011 12:32 PM

    I expect Polanco and Blanton to have big comeback/contract years. But then it’s December and it’s all hopes and wishes now. I like the team going into 2012 though (especially if Cespedes is still being considered).

  5. Phillie697

    December 19, 2011 02:10 PM

    Blanton’s SIERA and xFIP the last three years: 2009, 4.00/4.01; 2010, 3.96/3.87; 2011, 3.21/3.15. This is what we have to turn to for our fifth starter? YES PLEASE!!! People make him sound like he’s chopped liver. If he is healthy and can pitch 200+ innings this year, he has the ability to earn that $24M we handed to him THIS year alone.

  6. PhillyFrankInReno

    December 19, 2011 06:53 PM

    Blanton and Kendrick are best as trade material. Thr Phils have the propensity (sorry-habit) of holding on to players that don’t make the grade. Ever notice? Playing for the Phils…and when they finally give up on them…NOBODY takes them? They drop out of sight.

    There are enough teams needing arms…hey Ruben…”stock up the farm”.

  7. BillSmith75

    December 20, 2011 12:03 PM

    I know Blanton was cleared to pitch but he was moved to the bullpen because of their concern about him starting.

    I am sure the Phils’ medical staff/trainer met with Blanton after the season was finished, checked his elbow status, and set up a training regimen.

    Just have no idea if his elbow will hold up once he starting throw a few amount of innings again as a starter, how much pain/discomfort he can tolerate, and what kind of results he can give them.

    Blanton to me is in the same category Contreras is at this point. Both guys are slightly capable of being real positive contributors to this club next year but face a high degree of uncertainty due to the medical status.

    Contreras is a guy I would be surprised if he doesn’t spend a majority of the season on the DL. He’s old, brittle, and has had injury issues the past several years. Even in 2010, he went through a dead arm period in June but was able to avoid a DL stint.

  8. RC in Pullman

    December 20, 2011 12:58 PM

    Bill you say that, “I know Blanton was cleared to pitch but he was moved to the bullpen because of their concern about him starting.”

    I believe Blanton was destined to moved to the pen when he came off the DL because Oswalt was already back in the rotation and Worley had proved to be surprisingly effective.

  9. LaScott

    December 20, 2011 03:17 PM

    I have always like Joe Blanton. But, I am concerned about his durability. When healthy, he can be a good 4th or 5th starter on this team. (Whether Vanimal will be as good as last year remains open to question. Time will tell.)

  10. Todd

    December 27, 2011 01:40 AM

    What about Oswalt? Completely out of the question? He said he’d sign a one year deal at a discounted rate to play better and get a long-term teal next offseason. We could sign him cheap for one year as our number five, dump Blanton (which might involve eating some of his salary), use Kendrick as a swing-man.

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