Last night, Blanton had his second poor start of the young season. Today his poor performance has been the focus of the Phillies discussion on the sports radio shows. And most of the talk isn’t backing keeping Blanton in the rotation. There are some who think Kendrick should get his chance, some think that the young Vance Worley deserves his shot and other say we should skip the 5th spot in the rotation whenever we can. Then there were the few who realize it is APRIL and two poor starts isn’t enough to hit the eject button on Joe. The facts remain that Blanton is a slow starter and has been a solid pitcher during his time as a Phillies. But even if Blanton continues to struggle, they have the potential to win a lot of games.
Joe Blanton has had a rough start to the 2011 season. His 6 inning 5 run outing yesterday, actually lowered his season ERA to a plump 10.45. Before we all start going crazy and asking for immediate change, we have to stop and look at the track record of Joe. He came to the Phillies in a trade from Oakland at the deadline in 2008; he went on to be a key part of the Phillies pitching staff during the stretch run and throughout the post season. Throughout his career, Blanton has been a slow starter. His worst two months of the season are April and May (not counting 2 October Regular Season Starts). He has always been a second half pitcher, his ERA before the all-star break is 4.72, while after the break it is just 3.91.
During his time as a Phillie, he has been a very steady middle of the rotation pitcher. In 34 starts, he is 25-15 with a 4.49 ERA. That might not seem that great but if you break it down by start it looks better. On average he goes 6.09 innings and gives up 3.04 runs per start. Throughout his time with the team, he has proven to be a very consistent pitcher. He is not the guy who you can give the ball to and expect a shutout. But he will give you 6 or 7 innings while only giving up 3 or 4 runs. Any team would jump on those numbers from their 5th starter.
Now there still may be the haters who say that Blanton will not rebound from his poor start. I’m here to argue that the success of Joe Blanton will have little to do with the overall success of the team. Most teams expect very little out of the 5th starter and when you have the 4 horses this team has, you can get by with a lot less. Last season, the team won 50 of the 76 games started by Halladay, Hamels or Oswalt (not including the final 2 starts by Hamels and Oswalt where they limited to 1 and 2 innings in order to rest for the playoffs). That is an amazing 65.89% winning percentage in those games. Now you add Cliff Lee to h2o and the amount wins the 4 are capable of producing is staggering. If the Phillies stay on a 5 man rotation and assuming the 4 stay healthy. They would start between 32 and 33 games each for a total of around 130 games.
I think that a conservative number for the 4 would be around 60% winning percentage. That would project out to about 78 wins from the 4. If you project last season winning percent among the aces through 130 starts, it equals out to an amazing 85.5 combined wins! It’s hard to know if those numbers are realistic. Last season the team won exactly 2/3 of the games started by Doc. And they won a staggering 10 of the 11 starts by Oswalt. So far this season, the Phillies have won 7 of the 9 games started by the 4 aces. Assuming 95 games wins the division, they would only need anywhere from 9 to 17 wins to come from games where Blanton starts. When Blanton has started a game for the Phillies, they are 44-30 (59.5%). If Blanton starts 32 games and the team wins at the same percentage. They would end the season getting approximately 19 win from Blanton. The Phillies have already won one game that Blanton started and he couldn’t have pitched worse.
So is there any way that Blanton gets bumped out of the rotation any time soon. The answer that question is NO. He is owed too much money and has a much too proven track record to go Kendrick or Worley. Kendrick is the same pitcher who people wanted gone at several points during his short career. He isn’t a horrible starter, but he isn’t much of an upgrade over Blanton even at his best. Worley is an intriguing option. He look good in his limited innings last season with the team and has had a good start to the season in Lehigh, but Vance isn’t a can’t miss prospect. At his best, he projects to be middle to a back of the rotation pitcher, sound familiar? Another option would be to skip Blanton whenever possible and keep the 4 on their normal rest. It’s not a bad thought having the Phanatic Phour pitch almost all of the games, but when the team’s success or failure is hinging on a World Series Championship. It might be wise to keep them as fresh as possible. Every inning that Blanton pitches is an inning that isn’t needed to be pitched by the 4. And if we are in a playoff race in September, we could then start skipping Blanton. But why put more strain on the arms of very expensive and valuable pitchers if that isn’t needed. The fact is that Blanton will be given a major leash to turn things around. Even if he isn’t in their future plans, they would love for him to get on track so they can trade him for something more than a bucket of balls. Joe is going to be the team’s 5th starter for the significant future, so you can either continue to complain and whine about it or you can just accept it.
If or maybe when this team makes the playoffs, Blanton will most likely not start a game. Phans should be more worried or focused on the poor results Lee had in his last start. I am not saying that Lee isn’t a phenomenal pitcher because he is, but that the success of Lee and the other 3 Aces this season is much more important to the overall success of the team. Blanton has had a solid career so far and has been a good pitcher of the Phillies over the last few years. But it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t belong in the class of Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels. He is what he is, a middle to back of the rotation pitcher who can keep your team in the game. .