2012 Dodgers in Review #29: SP Joe Blanton

4.99 ERA 3.74 FIP 7.96 K/9 2.50 BB/9 0.9 WAR C+

2012 in brief: Surprise August addition got off to brutal start before providing adequate run of pitching for battered rotation.

2013 status: Free agent, unlikely to return to crowded Dodger starting group.

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When the Dodgers somewhat unexpectedly acquired Joe Blanton in an early-August waiver deal, he seemed more like a consolation prize than anyone who was really going to make a difference. They’d been unable to agree with the Cubs on Ryan Dempster, and they’d struck out on attempting to wrangle Cliff Lee out of Philadelphia, so they settled on a guy who could at least fill out a rotation spot.

As we viewed it at the time:

On Blanton first, in my hurried trade post put up between meetings at work today, I briefly said that I liked the deal, and the more I think about it the more I approve. It’s hard to say that Ryan Dempster is going to provide that much more value over the rest of the season – and maybe not even any, considering how rough his last few starts and Texas debut have been – and even if he does, the price for Blanton is monumentally less than the Allen Webster package Chicago wanted. Blanton’s not someone I want starting Game 2 of a playoff series, but he’s absolutely better than Stephen Fife, and any worries about the rotation being overstuffed get set aside when you hear that Ted Lilly had another setback in his return from shoulder pain. (And the $25.5m he’s getting this year and next, well, that just looks better and better.)

Chad Moriyama has more:

Up until 2010, Blanton had a 5.8 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, but over the last 174.2 innings from 2011 on, he’s posted a 7.7 K/9 and a 1.4 BB/9. As a result, while his ERA is 4.59 this year, his FIP sits at a solid 3.98, while his xFIP and SIERA are both 3.39. The move from Citizens Bank Park to Dodger Stadium could not only make him a significant improvement as a #5, but make him the third best option on a staff with a lot of solid but not great pitchers.

Surprised by the peripherals? So is … uh … everybody, but the more significant point is that he’s a solid upgrade that will help the Dodgers and might actually end up making more of a marginal wins difference than Victorino.

I don’t expect the player to be named to be of any worrisome value, and in fact it might be a way to fix the 40-man issues we discussed this morning if they unload Ivan De JesusChris WithrowJosh Wall, or Matt Angle.

The player to be named ended up being Ryan O’Sullivan, who is barely even a prospect, so the deal now seems a clear win. Or at least it would be, if not for the fact that Blanton got off to a lousy start as a Dodger, allowing 37 baserunners and 18 earned runs in 21 innings. That kind of poisoned him with Dodger fans, with a select few insisting that Stephen Fife‘s shiny-yet-unsustainable ERA made him an obviously better choice. But Blanton managed to turn it around after that, pitching into the sixth inning in each of his remaining six starts with a great 33/7 K/BB, helping the Dodgers win five of those six games. (And the one game they lost was the one where he had to step in for an injured Clayton Kershaw on Sunday Night Baseball against the Giants, where the loss was far more on the Dodger offense being shut out by Barry Zito & friends than on anything Blanton did.)

All in all, Blanton’s tenure in Los Angeles was generally forgettable, though he provided needed depth and they gave up little to get him. Can’t really argue with that.

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Next up! Chad Billingsley disappoints, overwhelms, and breaks hearts, all in the same season!

Dodgers Lose Yeah Whatever Over It

I like this photo of tonight’s game, from jackace, because I can’t tell what Dodger it is. Good. They don’t deserve names.

I don’t want to recap tonight’s game. I really, really don’t. So I’ll say this: yes, Joe Blanton is crappy, and no, it doesn’t make the tiniest bit of difference if the offense can’t touch Barry F’ing Zito, who threw 6.1 scoreless innings while allowing just four hits. Would it really have mattered if it was Clayton Kershaw who lost 1-0 instead of Blanton losing 4-0? Of course not.

I have to be honest, this game was so unwatchable that even though I had it on throughout, I’d largely zoned out by the 7th inning, when I looked up and was shocked to see that the Dodgers had somehow brought the tying run to the plate by loading the bases for Shane Victorino – after twice-DFA’d Bobby Abreu had, shockingly, looked terrible in striking out. (Okay, that, and I was focusing on going completely overboard by writing 1160 words about A.J. Ellis tomorrow. He reached three times tonight. A.J. Ellis is awesome.)

If there was a chance for this game, it was then. If there was a chance for Victorino to redeem what’s left of his reputation among Dodger fans, it was then. But no: Victorino flied out weakly to left, which is basically all you’d expect from him, and you’d have missed absolutely nothing had you turned the game off right then and there, which I know many did. (Other than the debut of Steven “Paco” Rodriguez, which was pretty fun, even if it did only last for three pitches.)

I’m not entirely sure why the scheduling gods built in days off before and after this series, but thankfully, mercifully, they did. I’m just not sure I can take another game right now.

Dodgers Survive Colorado Scare, But May Be Without Kenley Jansen

If the Dodgers wanted to reverse their recent slide and avoid a sweep this afternoon, they needed at least one of the following two things to happen, and preferably both:

1) For Joe Blanton to stop pitching like the Triple-A mess he’d been in his first four Dodger starts, and
2) For someone, anyone, on offense to start producing, especially with Matt Kemp out

I’m guessing that “nearly blow a 10-1 eighth inning lead” wasn’t on the list, but what fun would it be if it weren’t interesting?

Blanton, nothing short of a disaster in his first month as a Dodger, was finally effective in getting into the eighth inning having avoided any major damage. With everything that’s happened to the rotation recently, Blanton’s performance can’t be understated, and there was just no way he was going to continue being as poor as he’s been. Blanton left with two on in the eighth up 10-1, and that’s where things got ugly.

Shawn Tolleson, just recalled back to the club today when Scott Elbert went on the disabled list, faced four batters and allowed four to reach, adding two runs to Blanton’s ledger. Randy Choate entered to hit Tyler Colvin to force in another run, and Ronald Belisario followed to allow two more (all of which were charged to Tolleson). With Kenley Jansen unavailable – and more on that in a second – Belisario was forced to pitch the ninth as well, which he fortunately was able to get through without allowing the Rockies to complete what would have been a soul-crushing comeback.

While the pitching staff made things interesting, the offense provided fireworks of their own. Shane Victorino, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Juan Rivera, & A.J. Ellis all had two hits against Colorado starter Drew Pomeranz and friends, with Hanley Ramirez hitting his eighth Dodger homer and A.J. Ellis hitting his first grand slam. You just can’t say enough about Ellis at this point, can you? His 11th homer of the year is more than half as many as the 19 he had in parts of nine minor league seasons. His OBP is .386. He is, as they say, the greatest man in the world.

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Unfortunately, today’s win came with some very bad news about Jansen, whose unexplained absence in the ninth left many wailing at Don Mattingly. Well, here’s why we didn’t see him:

This is now the third time, I believe, that Jansen has had heart issues which have cost him time, and it’s beginning to become a serious concern. Oh, sure, it’s a big problem that a team in the playoff hunt may have just lost their dominating closer, but beyond baseball, Jansen’s health is the priority here. Assuming Jansen checks out and doesn’t have more pressing worries about this, the Dodgers have worries of their own. Brandon League, closer? Terrifying to think about, but it’s what Mattingly hinted at after the game because of League’s “experience”. No. Thanks.

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Finally this afternoon, the Dodgers announced who they’d be sending to the Arizona Fall League, which is annually one of the best places to see the collected top talent in the minor leagues. Pitchers Red Patterson, Eric Eadington, & Steven Rodriguez, catcher Gorman Erickson, infielder Rafael Ynoa, and outfielders Yasiel Puig & Joc Pederson will be joining the Salt River Rafters, which is comprised of players from Houston, Colorado, Detroit, and the Dodgers. Before anyone asks, no, Zach Lee & Chris Reed did not need their seasons extended with even more innings. Only players who have not appeared in the majors are eligible, so if there was any thought of Alex Castellanos or someone like him, that’s why he’s not here.

NLCS Game 4: Just Look at These Two

Who do you feel more confident in? The Jedi Warrior with the full power of the Force:

wolfstarwars

Or this fat kid who does hand puppets with his eyes closed?

blantonhandpuppet

Yeah, me too. But Randy? Stay away from Pedro Feliz, would you? (3 homers and an 1.140 OPS lifetime.)

The official blog has the lineup, and it’s noteworthy mostly because Casey Blake’s been bumped all the way down to 8th (something to do with his 1-21 career line against Blanton, I’d think), with Matt Kemp back up to 2nd.

Still Three Outs in an Inning, Mark

Brace yourselves: may contain actual baseball content.sweeney1.jpg

As many of us expected, ESPN.com is reporting that the Dodgers are close to re-signing 1B/OF/PH Mark Sweeney to a one-year deal. He’ll “pinch hit and log some at-bats as a reserve at first base and the outfield.” I realize this is a team that carried Big Sexy Saenz as an exclusive pinch-hitter the last few years (and he couldn’t even play the outfield) but is this not the height of redundancy? According to that quote, Sweeney will:

1. Pinch hit.
2. Be a reserve at first base.
3. Be a reserve in the outfield (corners only, certainly.)

Which is all well and good, but I know I’m hoping for Nomar to be the guy who fulfils roles #1 and 2, because that means Andy LaRoche has won the third base job. (More on the third base scenarios later in this post). As for outfield reserves, we’ve already got 4 starters for 3 spots, and that’s not even considering Delwyn Young and Jason Repko. Sure, Sweeney’s a lefty and Nomar’s not, but our bench likely includes at least one lefty (whichever of Ethier & Pierre isn’t playing that day) and one switch-hitter, Tony Abreu – two, if Young makes the squad.

Hey, this isn’t really a big enough deal to make a stink about it, obviously Torre wanted a veteran stick off the bench, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially for what will likely be a pretty low salary. Just doesn’t seem like Sweeney adds all that much that we didn’t already have. But make sure someone teaches him how many outs are in an inning, though, can we?

In other news, why can’t the Joe Blanton rumors just die already? Troy Renck of the Denver Post:

Oakland’s asking price for pitcher Joe Blanton is steep. From the Dodgers, the A’s want Andre Ethier, Andy LaRoche and a prospect. Cincinnati also is pushing hard for the right-hander. Don’t rule out the Dodgers making a play for Livan Hernandez, either. . . .

I don’t even know if I could comprehend the idea of Cheeseburger in Dodger blue, so we’re going to skip that and get back to Blanton. To which I say: why? I know, I know, there’s two sides to the Dodger starting rotation coin: the side that says we’ve got 6 guys for 5 spots, without even counting James McDonald, Clayton Kershaw, etc.; and the side that points out all the questions about age, health, and the unknown (i.e., Kuroda).

Personally, I’m on the side that says, the Dodgers have a lot more pitching depth than most teams, and if you want to throw a bit of money at a middling veteran starter for depth, well, fine, but there is absolutely no need to start throwing away highly-rated prospects to do so. Andy LaRoche is a consensus top-20 prospect in all of baseball; whereas Joe Blanton would probably be the Dodgers’ 4th starter. And what then? Nomar as the starting 3B? I can’t imagine Colletti lets that happen. So now we need a third baseman. Does that mean including the deal to get Chavez from the A’s too? If so, what else would have to be thrown in to the deal? Chavez is an All-Star; but he’s also had 3 surgeries this winter alone, has $37 million left on his deal, and, oh yeah – gets a full no-trade clause at the end of 2008. No thanks.

If not Chavez, the only other third baseman thought to be available is Joe Crede of the White Sox, who just missed a huge chunk of 2007 with back surgery. So.. thanks, but no thanks. Even the one benefit of a Crede deal with the Sox – the thought that Chicago is the most likely place to dump Juan Pierre – wouldn’t apply, because if Ethier was dealt to Oakland, then there’s no way that Pierre could be traded as well.

As always, don’t put too much stock into newspaper rumors with no sources behind them, but it seems pretty obvious to me: let’s pass on Joe Blanton.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg