Can Blanton bounce back in 2012?
Four of five rotation spots are set for the Phillies heading into 2012 — it’s hard to envision Vance Worley being asked to do anything but pick up from where he left off.
It is unlikely, but if Blanton shows up to Spring Training out of shape or still feeling pain in his elbow, he could quickly become an unusable and untradeable asset.
Ricky Bottalico touched on this subject Tuesday on Comcast SportsNet’s “Phillies Hot Stove.”
“[Blanton’s] gotta come in there, prove that he’s healthy, make sure he’s coming into Spring Training at 100 percent,” Bottalico said. “If he does not do that, I think there could be problems for the Phillies. You’re basically in a situation where you may have to eat $8 million.”
Trade talks surrounded Blanton from the day after the Phillies signed Cliff Lee last winter until Blanton went on the shelf for the first time with a sore elbow. At one point, Blanton’s three-year, $24 million contract looked appealing to teams in need of a middle-of-the-rotation starter. But now, he’ll have to come back and make a handful of quality starts to generate any real trade value. Without doing so, no team will be willing to take on a significant portion of Blanton’s salary or part with an attractive enough minor leaguer to make a trade worthwhile.
“If he does come back healthy, either you give him a job as a fourth starter, or you throw him out to the wolves and see what you can get for him,” Bottalico said.
Of course, it’s a bit of a catch-22, because while you can’t trade Blanton without him proving his value, if he does come back and pitch well, the Phils might not have a reason to deal him. The upcoming season is Blanton’s last under contract with the Phillies.
Bottalico thinks Blanton can bounce back, but it should be noted that Blanton wasn’t all that effective even when healthy in 2010. In that season, Blanton had a 4.82 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 176 innings. His control was very good, but his strike-throwing came at the expense of allowing 10.6 hits per nine innings, one full hit over his career mark. He was a bit unlucky, stranding two percent fewer baserunners than usual and seeing his balls in play drop for hits 32 percent of the time rather than 29 percent. But it wasn’t as if his high ERA could have been blamed solely on misfortune.
Blanton has been with the Phils since midway through the 2008 season, but he is still one of the toughest players to predict moving forward. His National League resume includes one impressive season in which he struck out five percent more batters than ever before (2009), one slightly less than mediocre year (2010) and one season riddled with injuries (2011).
What stood out during that 2009 season was Blanton’s changeup. Whether it was the result of a full season under changeup-maven Rich Dubee or just a fluke, Blanton that year saved 1.98 runs on every 100 changeups. Since the start of 2010, the pitch has cost Blanton 8.1 runs.
The Phils won’t need a ton from Blanton next season… 175 innings with a 4.40 ERA would suffice based on the context of Charlie Manuel’s team. Whether Blanton reaches those goals is dependent on the health of his elbow and the strength of a secondary pitch – if not the changeup than his slider.
- Joe Blanton is active for now, but may need elbow surgery (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Phillies activate Joe Blanton from DL for bullpen role (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Philadelphia Phillies to Sign Dontrelle Willis: Are They Going for a New Look? (bleacherreport.com)