Jul 22, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starter Joe Blanton (55) delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Is Joe Blanton Really This Bad?


If there is one seemingly universal consensus amongst Angels fans this year it’s that Joe Blanton is a terrible pitcher. Just check the most recent series of interview that Halo Hangout editor Michael Hllywa did with various Angels bloggers over the all-star break. Each one had something to say about Joe Blanton and none of it was good.

Is Joe Blanton really that bad? Or is there a disconnect between how Blanton is perceived as a pitcher by Angels faithful and how bad (or good) of a pitcher he really is? The one thing that seems to be missing from most critiques of Blanton is any explanation of why Blanton is not a good pitcher. And looking a bit more closely at his stats reveal that the hard evidence proving Joe Blanton to be a “bad” pitcher isn’t necessarily there.

Let’s assess some of the evidence.

Evidence #1: His win loss record is 2-12

Any one who has watched enough baseball games closely realizes quickly the problems with using a pitchers record to assess how good they are. A pitcher can pitch a gem of a game but get no run support. As for Blanton, five of his losses have come in games that he gave up 3 earned runs or less. He’s also had 2 no decisions where he gave up 2 runs or less.

Also, consider this: Blanton gets less run support than any other Angels starter with the Angels offense averaging 3.85 runs per start when he starts.

Evidence #2: His ERA is well over 5

ERA is a better gauge that win-loss records of assessing how well a pitcher has done in a season or over the course of their career. And certainly, Joe Blanton’s ERA is not pretty this year. However, when looking at Blanton’s xFIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), it suggest that his high ERA doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. As Fangraphs explains, FIP “measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.”( xFIP is a modified version that replaces a pitcher’s home run total with an estimate of how many home runs they should have allowed.) Blanton’s ERA may sit above 5 but his xFIP is 3.86. This suggest that Blanton’s high ERA is likely to come down in the future.

http://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/fip/

Evidence #3: He give up too many hits and HRs

Indeed, Joe Blanton has given up 23 home runs already this year and 148 hits in just 112 innings. That’s ugly, real ugly. Blanton is a pitcher who pounds the strike-zone and gets a majority of his outs by utilizing his fielders. When Blanton is toeing the slab, you can expect balls to be put into play.

But once again, is the high number of hits that Blanton has given up this year accurately showcase why Joe Blanton is a bad pitcher? Not if we consider his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) which measures how many batted balls go for hits. The league average usually hovers around .300. In 2013, hitters have a .352 BABIP against Blanton which is well above league. The high number of hits Blanton has allowed is partially due to the type of pitcher he is but it also suggest that batters have been bit luckier than average against him. Blanton is currently sporting the highest hit per nine inning ratio of his career. Expect a regression.

Blanton also has the best strikeout to walk ratio on the Angels staff and 12th best in the AL. So while the ball is put in play a lot when Blanton is pitching, he doesn’t allow many free passes. Batters have to work to get on base.

Closing Statement

None of this is the suggest Joe Blanton is a good pitcher. Nor is an attempt to justify his signing, contract or his place in the Angels rotation. When someone says that Joe Blanton is a bad pitcher, they are probably right. But the evidence they bring to the table to support their claim is likely not so cut and dry. Concluding that while Joe Blanton might not be a very good pitcher, it’s not exactly clear why he’s so bad.

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Tags: Joe Blanton Los Angeles Angels Stats

  • toperspective

    This is a perfect example of getting lost in the statistics and not viewing reality. If you actually watch the games you’ll see that Joe doesn’t fool anyone. His pitches have no movement and he is very hittable as shown by his sky high BABIP. Who do you believe, the stats or your eyes?

  • Jrad

    The stats that are being ignored are the stats after he lets the game get way out of hand and typically early within the first 3 innings. He can be pitch perfect from those innings on but once the team was in the h ole the game was lost. Look at any of his starts and you’ll see the game was over after 3 innings. Really doesnt matter how effective he was was for next 4 or 5. Another stat being ignored is his long history of high ERA’s and homerun allowances. He didnt just come to the Angels and begin sucking, he came in sucking a whole lot of wind. Add insult to injury, knowing thats his history, we extended him before letting him pitch a single ball game. You can look at all the hidden stats, but the stats that are very obvious are the stats between innings 1 and 3. By this point he has the team so deep they never have recovered which is evident in his losses. Im a ball player with the Angels and I know he’s coming up to pitch? I know the game is pretty much gone before I can even get started.

  • Busychic

    Is the guy who wrote this a friend of Blanton’s? When he says “The one thing that seems to be missing from most critiques of Blanton is any explanation of why Blanton is not a good pitcher.” but then goes on to list some of the explanations of WHY he is a bad pitcher, but tries to discount them, is absolutely ridiculous. For example, how can you try to totally ignore how many homeruns Blanton has allowed, which is 24 after Monday night’s game? Or try to replace ERA, which the author even ADMITS is a better measurement of how a pitcher is, with some made-up stat as xFIP ”( xFIP is a modified version that replaces a pitcher’s home run total with an estimate of how many home runs they should have allowed.)”? MAYBE if Blanton’s only inadequecy was in only ONE of the stats he named (ONLY his W/L being 2-13, or ONLY his ERA being 5.66, or ONLY that he’s allowed 24 homeruns, or ONLY allowing 79 hit, 73 earned… etc) THEN you could say that a person isn’t really critiquing WHY Blanton is a bad pitcher. However, when you take them ALL into account as a WHOLE- his record is 2-13, with a 5.66 ERA, 79 hits allowed, 73 earned, 24 Homeruns, it then becomes asinine to say that people aren’t critiquing WHY Blanton is a bad pitcher. How about saying he has the WORST record in baseball, has allowed the most homeruns in baseball, and is tied for having the worst ERA in baseball? How about his 2012 season- 10-13 record with a 4.71 ERA, 106 runs allowed on 207 hits, with 29 homeruns between the Phillies and the Dodgers? How about his 2011 season with 5.01 ERA, 23 runs allowed off of 52 hits, with 5 homeruns? How about his 2008 season with 9-12 record, 4.69 ERA, 110 runs allowed over 211 hits, with 22 homeruns allowed? How about his CAREER- 85-88 record, 4.47 ERA, 819 run with 1696 hits and 194 homeruns? Is that a good enough critique to say he’s bad? I mean, people using universally accepted stats to critique a player doesn’t mean they’re actually not critiquing him. These stats are universally accepted for a reason. It’s just foolish to say that people can’t critique why Joe Blanton is a bad pitcher when they are using his stats as proof that he is, so my only conclusion is that the writer of this is a friend of his, and is angrily trying to defend his friend in any way he can.

  • Jrad

    Joe Blanton has been taken out of the rotation. So yes, he is actually THAT bad.

  • Baseballhead

    Joe’s bending over for the Rangers in relief as I type this. The more Blanton pitches, the worst this article is going to look.