Joe Blanton sucks! That was my initial knee-jerk reaction upon learning that the Dodgers had signed Blanton to a one-year, $4-million contract. There was a valid basis for my reaction, he had played for the Dodgers in 2012 and, well . . . . he sucked.
Believe it or not, Blanton has completely reinvented himself as an elite relief pitcher. Does that sound like hyperbole? Make your own conclusions.
Blanton started a handful of forgettable games for Kansas City and then pitched out of the bullpen before being traded to Pittsburgh at the end of July. After making some adjustments suggested by Pirates’ pitching coach Ray Searage, Blanton dominated the second-half of the season compiling a 1.57 ERA/2.11 FIP in 34.1 innings.
Blanton’s second-half performance last season would have made him the best reliever on the Dodgers; and that’s including Kenley Jansen. Blanton gave up virtually no HRs. In fact, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Trevor Rosenthal, and Mark Melancon all served up more HRs than Joe Blanton. That’s pretty rarefied air and Blanton took deep breaths and exhaled slowly.
2016 Role and Steamers Projections
Blanton is unlikely to be appointed the Dodgers’ closer over Kenley Jansen. Theoretically, I suppose he is capable of filling a rotation spot, but I can’t imagine the Dodgers would not use him as a middle reliever or in a set-up role considering the needs of the bullpen.
Steamers is projecting Blanton to pitch 40 innings with some regression from last season’s stellar second half. Even so, a reliever providing the Dodgers 3.00 ERA / 1.12 WHIP / 3.21 FIP and nearly 9 K/9 would be warmly embraced.
What Could Go Wrong?
Literally everything. Blanton could slip in the shower, knock himself out, and wake-up thinking it’s 2013 and he’s pitching for the Angels. He would then proceed to duplicate his 2-14, 6+ ERA performance from 2013 while pitching BP and serving up more HRs than any other pitcher in baseball. Seriously, it could happen.
What Could Go Right?
Blanton picks up right where he left off with the Pirates last season and the Dodgers have an elite arm pitching in the 8th inning. As a result, the Dodgers would finally be able to bridge the chasm that has existed for so long between Kenley Jansen and the starting pitcher.
So far, so good. Blanton is pitching well at Spring Training – 1.35 ERA over 4 appearances. Fingers crossed and knocking on wood.