He was “fixed” by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, the so-called pitcher whisperer that also revived the careers of Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ and his performance carried over with the Dodgers this year.
I know, I know. Most Angels fans loathe Joe Blanton because of his terrible performance with the team during the 2013 season, but he has been nothing short of brilliant the last two seasons.
Note: ERA- and FIP- are park-adjusted and league-adjusted factors where 100 is average and lower is better. For example, one can conclude that Blanton’s 2016 FIP was 18% better than average to the league’s.
Regardless of metrics used for analysis, Blanton has flat out dominated hitters over the past two years.
Since 2015 All-Star break, when he moved to pen full-time, Blanton has a 2.14 ERA, a 0.992 WHIP and a .563 OPS allowed.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 27, 2016
And sure, Blanton struggled in a big way against the Cubs in the playoffs, but he was a key in helping them get there in the first place, holding opposing hitters under the Mendoza line (.194/.263/.310).
If you’re curious about Blanton’s resurgence, here is an excerpt from Neil Weinberg’s Fangraphs article titled “Another Year with Joe Blanton, Great Reliever”.
Blanton wasn’t good from 2010 to 2013, barely pitched in the minors in 2014, added no velocity, and then somehow became an awesome reliever in 2015 at age 34. He achieved this by lowering his arm slot, throwing a ton more sliders, and becoming death on right-handed batters. It was a remarkable comeback for a pitcher who was on his way out of baseball, but it was only 76 innings.
When the offseason came, Blanton was a free agent. His age worked against him, but he was coming off a season in which he’d a recorded an ERA, FIP, and xFIP all nearly 30% better than league average.
To put it mildly, whoops. Blanton isn’t necessarily better in 2016 than he was in 2015, but he is 65.2 innings into the season and looks very much like the guy we saw in 2015. Let’s review.
Whether you’re into ERA or FIP, he’s been great.
Weinberg goes on to show Blanton’s improved season through graphs detailing K% rate, arm slot, pitch selection, among other statistics.
One thing is clear: Blanton is a solid reliever. Sure, he’s going to undergo the natural aging process but he’s having great success throwing just 90-91 after having velocity from 89-91 miles per hour as a starter.
I never thought I’d be saying this, but Blanton provides quality innings at a relatively cheap price. He wants to pitch for a West Coast team, and the Angels need relief help. The Angels have money to spend and an incremental upgrade, especially in the bullpen, would make the entire club deeper. Given Blanton’s age and location preference, the Angels should be able to nab him if they desire to.
What do you think? Is it a mistake to pursue a former Angel that didn’t have success?