Dodgers Pick Up Joe Blanton

From Todd Zolecki:

twitter.com/ToddZolecki/status/231487678196105217

This transaction isn’t surprising as Joe Blanton was one of many players across baseball placed on waivers after the July 31 trade deadline. The Phillies will be able to get back a small amount of money or a warm body before Blanton hits free agency after the season.

In terms of defense-indepedent stats, Blanton was having the best season of his career, leading the National League in K/BB ratio (6.4) and walk rate (3.2%) with a 3.37 SIERA, the ninth-best mark. However, he was besieged by an inability to keep the ball in the yard as his 22 home runs allowed is tied for the league lead with Mike Minor. On a per-fly ball basis, his 15.9% rate trails only Matt Garza‘s 16.3%.

Blanton had made a habit out of under-performing his DIPS stats, especially recently.

Contrary to popular belief, the move from Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank park to Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles will not help reduce Blanton’s home run tendencies. For one, Blanton has showed either no split or a home-favored split as a Phillie:

  • 2012: 4.59 home ERA / 4.59 road ERA
  • 2011: only 41 innings due to injury
  • 2010: 4.26 home ERA / 5.47 road ERA
  • 2009: 3.77 home ERA / 4.38 road ERA
  • 2008: 4.31 home ERA / 5.37 road ERA

Secondly, Dodger Stadium isn’t significantly more pitcher-friendly than CBP. According to StatCorner.com, CBP has a home run park factor of 110 to left-handers and 101 to right-handers while Dodger Stadium is at 108 and 97, respectively. 100 is the average.

The Dodgers get a pitcher who is a bit worse than his peripherals indicate and one who slots in perfectly at the back end of the starting rotation, eating up a lot of innings. The Phillies get to free up a small amount of money or receive a warm body as they continue to sell off the extraneous pieces of their roster. As we move closer to wrapping up the “golden era” of Phillies baseball, we salute Blanton for his service over the last five years with the Phillies, and for providing us one of the most unlikely home runs in baseball history.

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39 comments

  1. hk

    August 03, 2012 04:14 PM

    Any word on who is filling the roster spot and/or who will be the 5th starter? Here’s hoping they give Cloyd a shot – not that I’m expecting much from him – instead of running Kendrick out for 11 or 12 starts.

  2. Dan K.

    August 03, 2012 04:16 PM

    “Secondly, Dodger Stadium isn’t significantly more hitter-friendly than CBP.”

    Pitcher-friendly. So you can fix it when you get a chance.

  3. hk

    August 03, 2012 04:22 PM

    Bill,

    MLBTR is reporting that Lee was claimed on waivers. If this is true, do you know how long the Phils have to work out a deal with the claiming team?

  4. hk

    August 03, 2012 04:33 PM

    Bill,

    Thanks. That wasn’t what I was asking, but #6 from the article that you linked answered my question.

  5. Scooby Dude

    August 03, 2012 05:18 PM

    I am baffled that they pulled him back. Not a Phillies fan- just cruised over after the Lee waiver move. But if he was a FA today, there is a 0% chance that Amaro would give him a 4/$102.5M contract (I assume the option vests). It’s too much for his value. You backloaded the deal, got the cheap year, and SOMEONE TOOK HIM ON WAIVERS!

    Manna from Heaven! And now Amaro is going to turn it down because he’d like Manna from Heaven with a slice of cake on the side?

    Hell, get the almost-34-year-old Lee’s $25M/yr off the books now, and turn around and give it to the 28-year-old Greinke this offseason. That would be a better use of funds.

    Can you guys explain the thinking here?

  6. Frank Reynolds

    August 03, 2012 05:40 PM

    @Scooby Dude
    I think Bill can answer your question better. However, I think the bottom line is RAJ does not want anything the dodgers can give us. He will not let him walk away for nothing and what the dodgers have is not good enough.

  7. Kyle

    August 03, 2012 05:41 PM

    Greinke is a headcase. Any non-small-market team who plans on contending in the near future would be misguided to give him $100+ million.

  8. Frank Reynolds

    August 03, 2012 05:45 PM

    There is also no gaurentee that they could get Greinke.

  9. mratfink

    August 03, 2012 05:55 PM

    i hope that Kendrick is only taking one start in the rotation because Cloyd pitched last night. He might not have great stuff but i’d rather see what Cloyd could do over 2 months time than run Kendrick out for 12 starts

  10. Pat

    August 03, 2012 06:00 PM

    I don’t understand pulling Lee back either. The back end of that contract is scary and even the 2016 buyout is massive ($12.5mil).

  11. Pat

    August 03, 2012 06:07 PM

    Also, cheers to Blanton for his time here. Completely forgot he replaced Adam Eaton in the rotation. He might’ve been the extra push that got us into the playoffs in ’08.

  12. Scooby Dude

    August 03, 2012 06:36 PM

    @ Frank:

    You missed my point. Cliff’s contract has negative value. Put differently, the $/WAR on what’s left of it should be higher than FA prices, so you’d be better off just having it go away and re-spending it on something better/younger in FA. Don’t get hung up on Greinke- it’s just a name. Pick one you like better (Granderson? Hamilton? Etc).

    By all rights, RAJ should have to GIVE UP a prospect to get someone to eat the whole contract (and a decent prospect, at that). Someone jujst offered to take it all FOR FREE, and RAJ said no because he isn’t getting a good enough prospect back? NUTS!

    The only conclusion I can reach is that he wants to save face- that it would look bad to “lose” his big FA signing for nothing. That or he’s just dumb, which I doubt. If it were my team’s GM that just did that, I would consider that a firable offense.

    Also, I’m a sabr-savy guy. I’m not considering such things as W-L record when I make these statements.

  13. Frank Reynolds

    August 03, 2012 06:41 PM

    Point is RAJ does not care about Sabermetrics. I understand what you are saying. My statements were not my personal opinion. I was trying to explain the way RAJ thinks, works, and makes decisions.

  14. Nik

    August 03, 2012 07:11 PM

    Don’t think Lee was pulled yet. Eskin just tweeted something out of his ass. No reason for the Phillies to sit back and listen. Maybe Dodgers get stupid and give up the farm before tuesday. That said, I think keeping Lee is the right decision unless we get a really sweet package.

  15. Scooby Dude

    August 03, 2012 07:20 PM

    Thanks Frank! The statement “RAJ does not care about sabermetrics” does indeed explain everything. I’m a Ranger fan, and it’s a very sabr-oriented Front Office. You guys are operating in a world a little unfamiliar to me. Thus, your FO does things I do not understand.

    I think you missed a golden chance, though. One you’ll regret 2 years from now. If you end up in payroll Hell in coming years, today will be why.

  16. hk

    August 04, 2012 05:50 AM

    Scooby,

    In stating that there’s no way that Amaro would give Lee $102.5M/4, you overlooked the $7M+ that Lee is due for the rest of this year. Since the last two months of the season are a formality for the Phils, you could make the argument that keeping him means paying him ~$110M/4. Taking the point further and looking at it from LA’s perspective while they are 1/2 game behind in the division and further behind the 2nd Wild Card, they would also be paying Lee ~$110M, but the extra wins that Lee could be worth this year might be the difference between making or missing the playoffs, so they could make the argument that they would be getting closer to 5 seasons from Lee for the same $110M. Therefore, it seems to me that both teams have incentive to find some common ground to complete a deal.

  17. Richard

    August 04, 2012 10:42 AM

    Keeping Lee is necessary for the Phillies chances next season. It’s not that difficult. It’s not a saber/non-saber divide at all.

    Any payroll hell the Phillies will be in will primarily be a function of Ryan Howard’s contract.

  18. Scooby Dude

    August 04, 2012 05:41 PM

    “Keeping Lee is necessary for the Phillies chances next season. It’s not that difficult. It’s not a saber/non-saber divide at all.”

    Nonsense. He’s owed $7m the rest of this season (to do nothing but make your draft position worse) and $25m next season. If RAJ can’t get more productivity out of $32m in the FA market than he could out of a 34/35 year old maybe-still-maybe-former Ace… well, then he wouldn’t be a very good GM. For that kind of scratch you could probably replace Lee with, say Dan Haren, add Michael Bourne, plus a pair of quality Setup guys (and man do you need those), and still have Hamels/Halliday/Haren fronting the NL’s best rotation!

  19. BobSmith72

    August 04, 2012 11:12 PM

    Blanton has always notably pitched better at home for whatever quirky reason.

    As for this statement, “Contrary to popular belief, the move from Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank park to Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles will not help reduce Blanton’s home run tendencies.”

    Blanton’s career HR/9 at CBP in 52 G (50 GS) is 1.39 HR/9 in 318 IP.

    Hard to see that number not improving a bit and possibly a lot more. Blanton also gets to pitch in Petco Park and AT&T Park.

  20. Richard

    August 05, 2012 10:35 AM

    It’s not nonsense, “Scooby”. If he were going to do that, then he shouldn’t have signed Lee in the first place. Maybe that’s your argument, but if so, it’s not very interesting. Lee is not a former Ace, he’s still one of the best pitchers in baseball.

  21. LTG

    August 05, 2012 01:25 PM

    Bob,

    BB did not claim that Blanton’s HR/9 won’t improve. He claimed that if it improves it won’t be BECAUSE he switched home ballparks. What you say in no way addresses that claim.

    And if you’re interested, there’s a great article on fangraphs analyzing Blanton’s high HR tendency. It looks like it is not affected by the ballpark so much as the locations of his pitches. He throws lots of strikes and grooves some of them.

    2 Questions for Scooby:
    1) Will Haren be better than Lee for the next two years?
    2) Will he be that much less expensive?

  22. Scooby Dude

    August 05, 2012 01:54 PM

    @LGT:

    Before I answer, let me just say don’t get too hung up on the name Haren. I pulled it out of my butt, he’s not even a Fre Agent (team option at $15.5m that I believe will be declined in order to gamble on resigning Greinke, but I could be wrong). There are 50 interesting names on the FA list for next year.

    1) No. Unless you spent the money on Greinke, almost certainly no single player you signed with that money would match Lee. However, Haren is very, very good, and would probably be the NL’s best #3 SP.

    2) Yes. Lee is owed ~$57m through the end of 2014. I can’t imagine Haren would cost much more than ~$32m over that span (of course, you’d have to give him more than 2 years, but than Cliff has 4 years left on his deal). That’s $25m difference over 2 years. That’s enough to bring in a very good, just slightly sub-All Star player. The performance difference between a Lee and a Haren over 2013-2014 almost certainly won’t be larger than the value of a $12.5m/yr player.

    @ Richard:

    When you sign an older player to a long deal, you understand that the earliest years are likely the best, and the latest years the worst. When you then backload that contract (as the Phillies did with Lee) you create a situation where the front of the deal is a bargain, and the back is a severe overpay. You’ve used up the 2 best AND cheapest years of the contract. What’s left is a bad value.

  23. hk

    August 06, 2012 05:33 AM

    Bill and others,

    How does MLB treat an option year for luxury tax purposes when calculating a team’s cumulative salaries (actually AAV’s)?

  24. hk

    August 06, 2012 06:27 AM

    To Scooby:

    In re-thinking this issue, while the $7M that they would save this year if they allowed Lee to walk is real money to ownership, it really should not enter into the debate from a fan’s perspective because they (apparently) have already gotten under the luxury tax threshold for this year. Also, when looking at what they owe Lee from a fan’s perspective, the AAV of $24M is the more important number, not the $95M for 3 1/3 years or $110M for 4 1/3 years. In that regard, I’m not so sure that Lee won’t be worth the AAV.

    FWIW to further the conversation, according to my calculations based on the information available on Cot’s, the Phils are committed to ~$138.5M of AAV next year for Halladay, Hamels, Kendrick, Lee, Papelbon, Chooch (whose option I assume they’ll pick up), Howard, Utley, Rollins and Nix. Add on maybe $4.5M combined in arbitration for Bastardo and Schierholtz and ~$7M to Worley, Kratz, Galvis, Mayberry, Brown and 2 more bullpen guys and they are at $150M for 19 spots.

    To me, it is surely debatable as to whether they’ll be better off with an extra $24M to spend to fill the roster while also needing to replace Lee’s production.

  25. Phillie697

    August 06, 2012 10:30 AM

    Sigh… I don’t check the blog for 3 days and all I want to do now is whack people in the face with monkfish.

    Leave it to the masses to turn an old idea that RAJ spends money like he prints them and expand it to some ridiculous notion that even the Cliff Lee contract was a bad one. It wasn’t a bad contract. It wasn’t a good one either. It was just what he was worth, and we decided to spend the money to buy a Ferrari. Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t that many Ferrari’s to be had out there.

    The Phils are in payroll hell for a variety of reasons, but the Lee contract isn’t at the top of that list, not even close. If any expensive contract is bad, then why don’t you guys start taking Cole Hamels out to the woodshed right now? Might as well get a head start.

  26. Scooby Dude

    August 06, 2012 11:24 AM

    This is a really good conversation.

    First, I’m not saying the Lee contract was a bad one, and I agree that the $24m AAV is something he is likely to earn. But he is extremely unlikely to earn the AAV from today forward, and that, more than the total, is what should matter from an organizational perspective.

    Second, if it’s anywhere close to a push as to whether Lee or the money makes the team better in 2013, then it should be a no-brainer to take the money for 2013 and rid yourselves of $52.5m in obligations for the 2015-2016 seasons for a guy who by then will be past 35.

  27. hk

    August 06, 2012 12:53 PM

    Phillie,

    You are right that, if the Phillies are in payroll hell, it is because of the Howard extension, RAJ waiting too long to extend Hamels, the Papelbon contract and the gutting of the farm system plus some other issues that I am surely overlooking. However, if you do believe that they are heading towards such a hellish position, it is at least worth asking the question whether they would have been better served – maybe more so in 2014 and beyond than in 2013 – by letting Cliff Lee go to LA.

  28. BobSmith75

    August 06, 2012 01:41 PM

    Stat Corner only uses a 3-three rolling average. No reason why any data analyst would only use a 3-year sample if they had a much larger overall data sample to analyze (e.g., HRs at Dodger Stadium).

    Here are the park factors for the two parks (CBP/Dodger):

    HR park factor

    CBP/Dodger Stadium)
    2012: 1.171/0.943 (0.228 or ~22%)
    2011: 0.950/0.919 (0.031 or ~3%)
    2010: 1.125/1.016 (0.109 or ~10%)
    2009: 1.005/0.876 (0.129 or ~13%)
    2008: 1.022/0.857 (0.165 or ~16%)
    2007: 1.418/1.052 (0.366 or ~26%)
    2006: 1.201/1.194 (0.007 or ~1%)
    2005: 1.297/1.085 (0.212 or ~16%)
    2004: 1.184/1.012 (0.172 or ~15%)

    It isn’t a crazy difference but if Blanton were to get resigned by the Dodgers this offseason (possibility if they fail to land Greinke) I would bet his HR/9 there over the next 2-3 season would be 10-15% lower at home.

  29. Phillie697

    August 07, 2012 09:18 AM

    @hk/Scooby,

    I think implicit in my argument is that it’s not a good idea to let Lee go, if we want to win in 2013. 1) contrary to popular belief, Lee is still a good pitcher; he’s having a Hamels 2009 season is all. 2) I still think he can perform up to and over his salary in terms of production; $24M is about 5 WARS, he hasn’t pitched below that since 2007, and quite frankly, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he gets there THIS year. 3) no pitcher out on the market this winter will be as good as Lee, save Greinke, and Greinke is right-handed.

    Now, if you think we are entering rebuilding mode and are looking at not winning for the next few years, then yes, Lee is a luxury we don’t need to have. I don’t think either me or the Phillies management have reached that point yet.

  30. hk

    August 07, 2012 09:51 AM

    Phillie,

    I agree that Lee is still a good pitcher and will probably earn his contract in 2013 and 2014 (if not 2015 and 2016). However, if the previously discussed payroll hell makes it so that having a $24M 3rd starter means they have to go cheap at another position (i.e. 3B), the question becomes will they be better off in 2013 and beyond with $24M Cliff Lee + ~$2M allocated to 2013′s version of Wigginton / Fontenot / Polanco / Frandsen at 3B or with the ~$26M split between an SP and a 3B?

  31. Tom

    August 07, 2012 11:41 AM

    Considering the state of the minor league system I think the Phils have to overpay like this to be WS contenders. I’d rather see the Phils pay part of his salary and get some decent prospects back than just ditch him for salary relief alone. In the long term it’s those prospects that will alleviate your payroll issues.

  32. Phillie697

    August 09, 2012 11:52 AM

    Sorry for the late response hk.

    Yes, I believe Lee + $2M 3B option is better than $26M split between a SP and a 3B, because 1) any decent 3B out there we’ll have to overpay. If we’re going to pay $15M for a 3-WAR 3B, I rather have Lee. I have to believe we can at least find a 1-WAR 3B for $2M.

  33. hk

    August 09, 2012 02:07 PM

    I agree with you from the perspective that I don’t trust RAJ to spend $26M wisely, so the Phils are probably better of with Lee for $24M and a $2M 3B.

  34. Scooby Dude

    August 09, 2012 03:04 PM

    Here’s Buster Olney talking about it:

    espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=8247669

    Jump to about 5:15 to hear it. He says a number of GMs he spoke to were very surprised, and used the analogy of buying a new car, driving it for two years, and then having someone come along and offer to take over all the remaining car payments. He further said that if RAJ doesn’t think he can replace Lee’s productivity with $27m, that’s an indictiment in his own confidence in his own abilities as a GM.

  35. Phillie697

    August 09, 2012 03:38 PM

    @hk, as evidence amply suggest, RAJ does okay when buying Ferraris, if only because the market effectively sets a max value for him. Give him leeway to sign lesser talent that the market couldn’t give two sh*ts about, he end up paying too much most of the time (Howard, Wigginton, Kendrick, Papelbon because he didn’t even let the market set the max value for him).

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