Hypothetical: What If Joe Blanton Isn’t Ready? – Phillies Nation

Hypothetical: What If Joe Blanton Isn’t Ready?

The Phillies have three aces at the top of the rotation, and a guy who is coming off a great first year in the bigs in Vance Worley as the 4th, or maybe 5th, starter. Joe Blanton is expected to be the final player in the rotation, but what if isn’t ready?

Blanton is coming off an elbow injury that kept him out of almost all of 2011. His health is a huge question mark at this point, which means his pitching skill and his spot in the rotation are as well – and it’s the reason for this post.

In his shortened 2011 season, Blanton posted the highest ERA of his career, the 2nd highest WHIP of his career, and the most hits-per-nine innings of his career. Conversely, he posted the highest strikeout-per-nine and strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career. What this tells me is that his pitches were around the plate, but were not good enough to get guys out consistently. Maybe he had a flat fastball or his curves weren’t breaking the way they used to. Regardless, if his elbow is the cause of these numbers, and this downward trend continues, he will not last very long in the rotation.

However, if his elbow is fine, and he reduces the number of hits he gives up, he would undoubtedly be the selection for 5th starter. Its just a matter of seeing where he’s at in Spring Training.

But let’s pretend for a minute that Blanton shows up at Spring Training with an 85 MPH fastball and a curveball that just spins with no break.  Or maybe with no control at all. Who’s the next choice? Surely, after his success in 2011, Kyle Kendrick might be it, and it would be a good one. Last year, he made spot starts and assumed the role of long man out of the bullpen. He posted career bests in many areas, including ERA, WHIP, hits per nine innings, and strikeout to walk ratio. What’s more surprising it that his better numbers came as a starter. He had a lower ERA, a lower WHIP, a higher K/9 and a higher K/BB ratio when he was the starter.

In fact, his 2011 numbers rival some of Blanton’s career bests. Now, as I said above, if its a healthy Blanton vs Kendrick, Blanton will win that battle. But if Big Joe isn’t healthy, Kendrick isn’t a bad choice at all.

Of course, behind Kendrick, the Phillies have guys like Joel Pineiro and Pat Misch who can come in and start games, but I don’t think they will be seriously considered for the 5th spot in the rotation.

A guy who could really challenge Kendrick, should Blanton not be ready, is Austin Hyatt. (Sidenote: Don’t Google just his name. You’ll get a bunch of websites that want you to book a hotel in Texas). Hyatt is a 25-year-old righty who has spent three seasons in the minors. In those three seasons, he’s posted a 3.2o ERA, to go along with an 11.0 K/9 and a 4.12 K/BB. He was an All Star in the Eastern League in 2011, going 12-6 with a 3.85 ERA for the Reading Phillies. In an interview with our own Jay Floyd earlier this month, he said that he has an invite to Spring Training.

Again, Blanton is the clear choice, but isn’t so clear because of his recent injury. If he isn’t ready, it could be a battle between Hyatt and Kendrick, with Pineiro thrown in. Hyatt will probably land in AAA, but anything can happen in Spring Training, which is just about a month away.

Who are you pulling for in the race for the 5th starter spot?

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  1. Chuck A.

    January 25, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Who am I pulling for? …. I really don’t care. ANY of these guys is fine if they are healthy and can adequately hold down the spot. It’s the 5th starter so we can’t expect Cy Young-caliber stuff anyway.

    • Dave L

      January 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      I agree, It doesn’t matter if it’s Blanton or Kendrick or the new guy. Even when Blanton is healthy, he will give up plenty of runs as would Kendrick or the new guy. Hopefully, we can score some runs this year and it won’t matter that much. In my opinion they all stink and you can throw Worley in that mix as well. I think we’ll get the second half Worley all year this year. I’m not impressed even a little once you get past the first three in the rotation. Our bullpen will be plenty busy this year.

  2. EricL

    January 25, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Honestly I think Pinero might have more to offer than Kendrick, plus you would continue to get to use Kendrick out of the pen in long-man situations.

    Of course, it’s likely that the Phils would make their decision not on the actual talent level of the player but on the basis of who has the larger paycheck, in which case it would almost undoubtedly be Kendrick.

  3. bacardipr05

    January 25, 2012 at 11:52 am

    It would go to Kendrick, then the Phils will pick up another of their famous reclamation projects. In the slim chance that Dubee can turn him around to the Stud that he used to be. Its their pattern its what they have been doing for the past few years. Yes i know all teams pick up has beens or use to be, or almost was players. I hope Blanton bounces back and at least earns some of his money.

    • Chuck A.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      “Famous reclamation projects” ?? There have been lots of these that have actually worked out. Jayson Werth comes to mind (I know….he’s a position player…but still…) and I’m fairly certain he played a big role in the Phillies’ success while he was here.

  4. Manny

    January 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I think Kendrick is the best fallback plan if Blanton isn’t ready. Pineiro could also be a fine alternative but shouldn’t get the spot if Kendrick is doing a good job. Hyatt, highly doubt it… but would be a pleasant surprise if he tears it up in ST!

    • Pat Gallen

      January 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Really want to see one of those youngsters make a huge push. Hyatt, May, Colvin, etc…Make them think twice about it. You’ve gotta hope 2 of those guys really makes a jump soon.

      • Manny

        January 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm

        I agree… I’m all for the baby aces! But they’ll probably enter the conversation no sooner than 2013…

    • Chris

      January 25, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      May and Colvin will not be ready to contribute this year in the bigs. Heck Colvin just had a not so great year in Clearwater and will be repeating this year. Hyatt is a possibility but I feel like Kendrick does a good enough job that it’s a moot point.

  5. betasigmadeltashag

    January 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    First I think part of Big Joes numbers being what they were is that he has been a notorious bad spring pitcher and more of a second half pitcher.
    Now if he is not healthy enough to pitch come this spring, I would not mind seeing KK as the the number five starter. As Long as Worley does not go through a big slump, I would not mind a rotation of Doc, Cole, Cliff. Worley, and KK

  6. Tom

    January 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    I like the idea of Kendrick staying in the bullpen and being a spot starter if needed. He is more versatile than the others and has already performed that role adequately! I really like the pick up of Pineiro and would prefer to see him have the shot if he performs well in Spring Training! He didn’t pitch well last year for the Angels, but a return to the NL should help him! Plus, he has become a sinker ball, ground ball pitcher which is good for CBP.

  7. Lefty

    January 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I too like the idea of going young and hopefully getting a nice first season like Worley, and Happ gave the team. But after listening to Charlie yesterday, I have a sneaking suspicion he and Dubee might give D. Willis a shot at it if needed. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, check it out for yourselves and let me know.


  8. Mazinman

    January 25, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I am not counting much on Blanton mostly because I believe that if he can reestablish himself as healthy in Spring Training the Phillies will look to trade him. I don’t really have a preference on who could replace him as long as they do a good job.

  9. Bob in Bucks

    January 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Kendrick is the obvious first choice but he had an unusually lucky BABIP last year and we can’t count on that returning. He is a 4.2-4.5 ERA guy which is fine for #5 but don’t expect below 4 ERA again this year. Beyond that we are stocked with a bunch of “possibles.”

  10. Ray

    January 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    I’m pulling to bring back Oswalt hes still our best choice but they won’t

    • Philly Geoff

      January 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Is there any chance they bring back Oswalt? How much of their budget do they have left now that Cordero is out?

    • Chris

      January 25, 2012 at 4:09 pm

      Well Roy wants a bit too much for their payroll.

  11. Dave P

    January 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Good read.

    Though I have to poke fun at the line “Blanton is the clear choice, but isn’t so clear because of his recent injury.” 🙂

  12. lahs2019

    January 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    The D-Train will probably be iin the mix as well. Especially if the Phils pursue another lefty bullpen arm, Willis will be in the mix as a swing starter at the least. If he has a strong spring, who knows, he might compete for the rotation.

    • EricL

      January 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      This would be a mistake unless the team he is facing has no right handed batters.

      Or, in other words, it would be a mistake.

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