June 2, 2007. The Oakland A’s welcomed the Minnesota Twins to the bay area. On the hill that day was Joe Blanton. In that game, Blanton tossed 108 pitches, 76 for strikes, en route to a dominant, complete game shutout. Over nine innings in the A’s 1-0 victory, Blanton struck out six and did not walk a batter.
That was the last time Joe Blanton pitched a shutout.
Dominant performances don’t necessarily have to culminate with a shutout. Plenty of those occur without the pitcher actually finishing the game. But, for Joe Blanton, exceptional starts have been few and far between since that June evening in Oakland.
From that point forward, Blanton has finished just one game (it was during the 2007 year). What’s more troubling is that Blanton has only finished eight innings four other times since the time he befuddled the Twins.
He’s now a six inning-guy, which is fine for a fifth starter. But, they don’t pay him fifth starter money. The Phillies are looking for return on investment and at some point Blanton has to deliver. Everyone and their mother understands that Blanton isn’t a shutdown pitcher with overwhelming stuff. Even so, once in a while a squirrel will find a nut.
Tuesday night against Washington, Blanton went six innings after going just 4 1/3 innings last Wednesday against the New York Mets. Not a fantastic start to the year for the guy that was to be included by the Four Aces in everything they did. So far, he’s not living up to the expectations that come with following the top-4 or his $8 million contract.
(When I say expectations following Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels, that’s not to say he has to have a sub-three ERA and be in the running for the Cy Young. To me, that means at least showing up. A quality start here or there, etc.)
Yes, yes, yes, it’s early. Blanton usually does his damage later in the season; the same held true at the end of last year after an ugly two months following his injury. His first half ERA was 6.41. His second half ERA in 2010: 3.48. Big Joe will find a way to improve, although that might not come for a while.
However, a dominating performance once in a while wouldn’t hurt.