I have to admit, I am one of the first people who will admit that I’m shocked that the Dodgers bullpen is still holding up as one of the strongest in the major leagues. Years of bullpen disappointment are still fresh in my mind, which mostly consisted of former manager Don Mattingly placing relievers in at strange times, and days where Clayton Kershaw went the distance because he needed to. I still remember a game where Pedro Baez threw a fastball down the middle to Mike Trout, who promptly hit a home run. Why Baez, why?
This stuff can get in your head. But for this year, if the bullpen can keep it up, they might win me (and Dodgers fans like myself) over again. And the first guy that could win me over is probably the last guy I would expect to do so. And that is, yes, Joe Blanton.
This guy. Joe freaking Blanton.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 26, 2016
Gatorade coolers aside, Blanton has quietly put himself as one of the most reliable relievers in the Dodgers pen. I don’t get it, but he’s doing it.
Joe Blanton isn’t a new guy off the block by any stretch of the imagination. He’s 35 years old, and has been in the Major Leagues since 2004. He was actually on the Dodgers (amongst other teams) in his career, and in ten starts, had a 4.99 ERA with the Dodgers. Blanton has never had stellar numbers while being a starter, never having an ERA below 4. Blanton’s “rock bottom” in his career came in 2013 with the Angels, where he had a terrible 2-14 record with an equally terrible 6.04 ERA. After the Angels, he signed with the A’s and actually retired from the game altogether in April 2014. Good riddance right? Just wait a minute.
Blanton came back and signed a minor league contract with the Royals last year, and quietly had better numbers than he’s ever had before, up to this day. Why? He switched from a starter to a reliever, and that has made all the difference. Maybe it’s the fact that bullpen guys have less stress on them as supposed to starters. Anyways, since Blanton changed to be a relief pitcher, his ERA went down to a 3.89 for half of a season with the Royals, 1.57 for the other half of the season with the Pirates, and now a 2.84 ERA with the Dodgers.
There is a lot more to relief pitcher’s stats that must be noticed than their ERA. When Blanton is on the mound this season for the Dodgers, hitters average .163, and when hitters get the ball in play off Blanton, they only have a .199 average. He is also averaging 0.78 home runs per nine innings, a career high for him. But the most outstanding stat Blanton has is his WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched). A WHIP measures how many base runners a pitcher lets up per inning. Blanton has a 0.88 WHIP, which means that he allows less than one base runner per inning pitched. A pitcher’s WHIP is a very important stat, and just to compare, Blanton’s WHIP is very similar to Kershaw’s and Kenley Jansen’s, as their WHIPs are 0.73 and 0.66, respectively.
Like I said, I don’t know how Blanton is having a renaissance coming out of the pen, but he’s doing it. And out of all players to lead the charge in the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen, it’s Joe Blanton. Statistically, he and Adam Libertore are the one-two punch the Dodgers have before Jansen takes over in the ninth. Crazy to believe.
Currently, Blanton is on the bereavement list, and isn’t expected back until Friday.
Today, the #Dodgers recalled RHP Josh Ravin from Triple-A Oklahoma City and placed RHP Joe Blanton on the Bereavement List.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) August 8, 2016
#Dodgers have placed RHP Joe Blanton on bereavement list. Josh Ravin added to roster. Blanton expected back Friday
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) August 8, 2016
Hopefully all is well with Blanton when he returns, and when he does return, Blanton will hopefully change more doubters into believers. I know he’s changing mine.