From one big guy to another, we look at the biggest pitcher of the crew, Joe Blanton.
For a stretch of roughly two months, Blanton was the most reliable starter in the Phillies rotation. On July 5, he held the Mets to four hits over 7 1/3 innings, allowing no runs. From that point until the 5th of September, Blanton would put together 11 straight quality starts, while lowering his ERA nearly a run. For being “only” a number three or four starter, that’s was quite impressive to see for such a lengthy period.
Beyond that ridiculous streak, the season as a whole was certainly a success for Big Joe. He finished with a team-high 12 wins (tied with Happ and Moyer) and finished with a 4.05 ERA, a respectable figure for a mid-rotation type pitcher. His 163 strikeouts on the year were second to Cole Hamels, and were a career best for Blanton.
The middle months were clearly the apex of the 2009 season as Blanton struggled with inconsistencies in April and September. The opening month was disastrous for the Tennessean, as he allowed 19 earned runs in just over 20 innings. He then blazed through the summer before fading a bit in the final month.
September, and for one start in October, proved to be erratic for Blanton. He began the month with the last quality start of the 11-game personal streak, then allowed Washington to tag him for eight runs in 4 2/3 innings. Following that dud, Big Joe did not give up a run in back-to-back games, then was spanked for 10 earned during his last two starts of the season.
In the playoffs, Blanton was utilized precariously, beginning as a starter, while working his way back into the rotation in the Dodgers series. The best word to describe him during the postseason has to be “adequate.” He did not wow anyone with his overall performance, but was his usual six inning, three-or-four earned run self. His mantra of keeping the Phillies in most games served him well in the playoffs, although his World Series start ended in defeat.
For the 2009 season, Blanton made slightly less than $5.5 million, and will surely be due for a raise this off-season. This is his final year of salary arbitration, meaning he can become a free agent in 2011 should the Phillies not lock him up long term.
For at least one more season, Blanton will be a major part of the Phillies rotation. The fans enjoy his consistency, his gamer nature, and his blue-collar presence on the mound. After a solid, but unspectacular ’09 campaign, you can expect all of the above to continue in 2010 here in Philadelphia.
2009 numbers: 31 starts, 195.1 IP 12-8, 4.05 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 163/59 K/BB
GRADE: 5.8/10 – Blanton has proven to be an adequate middle of the rotation starter. He won’t wow you, but he’ll do his best to keep the Phils in most games.
Pat Gallen can be reached via email at Pat@Philliesnation.com