Bet You Didn’t See the Dodgers Signing Joe Blanton, Did You

Welp, didn’t see this coming:

You may remember Joe Blanton from such times as “having a 4.99 ERA in 10 games for the 2012 Dodgers,” and “actually having retired in 2014,” and “getting DFA’d by the Royals before being sent to the Pirates for cash” last summer. Or more accurately, you don’t remember most of that. So you’re going to hate this, and you probably already hate this. HE’S NOT ZACK GREINKE, or something.

But…

… and it’s true! I mean, look at that.

In November, FanGraphs looked into what happened, and, HI SLIDERS:

The key for Blanton was a changing his pitch mix. I don’t think I have to do a whole lot of analysis of the following graph:

Brooksbaseball-Chart (1)

Blanton throws a ton of sliders these days. Ten percentage points more than his slideriest year and 25 percentage points more than 2013. It’s his new favorite pitch. He probably has posters of slider grips on his bedroom wall.

…and it somehow allowed him to crush righties. He had a .239 wOBA against, vs. righties. Jake Arrieta had a .244. Dellin Betances, .258. Sonny Gray, .265.

Now, the obvious caveat: Hi, small samples. Hi, a career of mediocrity before a few weeks of insanity. We’ve seen that before, and a lot of times it doesn’t last. But at least with Blanton, there’s some clear changes that were made — different pitches, different arm slot, higher velocity — that give you some hope it’ll work. This isn’t Jim Johnson, a move that made no sense the day it happened.

I suppose the way I look at it is this: It’s a low-risk thing that seems like it could work. Would you like it better if he hadn’t been a forgettable Dodger starter in the past? Probably. Is it going to be really easy to laugh at this because, you know, it’s Joe Blanton? Yeah. Does that matter? Probably not. So long as the team doesn’t feel like $4M is enough to guarantee him a roster spot all season long if it’s not working out — and I doubt that’s true — seems like a risk worth taking.

Won’t stop the jokes, though. Then again, that’s not really how you build a baseball team, is it?

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.