How many times have you had to rely on Joe Blanton? You don’t have to be ashamed, just admit it, we’ve all been there. It’s the last day of your fantasy matchup, and you’re looking for the one spot-starter who could give you a slim advantage. No matter what stat you try and sort by, Blanton always seems to top the list. Desperate, you take the chance and hope it doesn’t come back to bite you. In his career, Blanton has been the perfect AAAA player in fantasy leagues. Good enough to either be the last man on your roster, or the top choice on the waiver wire. Does joining the Angels change his value?
Actually, it might. Blanton’s strikeout to walk rates have been really strong the past couple seasons. Over the past two years, Blanton ability to control the strike zone has put him among the game’s best.
Blanton’s appearance on that list is great and all, but even the most casual fan knows that Blanton is far from a superstar. The biggest reason for that, which is also reflected in the above chart, is that he really struggles with home runs. Blanton’s 1.32 HR/9 over the same period ranks tied for the 10 worst in baseball. The names at the top of that list as far from superstar-caliber.
Blanton should see his home run numbers improve now that he’s joined a better park. Since he left Oakland, Blanton has pitched in parks that are very homer-friendly.
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Pitching in Angel Stadium will definitely suppress Blanton’s biggest flaw. While Blanton wasn’t a special fantasy pitcher in Oakland, he did manage to have two seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA while pitching in their cavernous park. The other promising factor is that Blanton’s peripherals have improved quite a bit since he pitching in Oakland. His highest strikeout rate with the A’s was just 14.7 percent. Last season, it was up to 20.6 percent, which was a career-high. He’s also managed to pound the strike zone more consistently the past two seasons. His 4.2 percent walk rate last season matched his 2007 numbers in Oakland, which was his best season in the majors. That year, Blanton pitched 230 innings, with a 3.95 ERA and a 3.50 FIP. Could a return to those numbers be in order?
Even with some things trending in the right direction, we shouldn’t expect Blanton to suddenly emerge as a stud pitcher. But with some improvement, he could actually stick on a team’s roster for the entire season. And if he is on the waiver wire, you will probably be much more confident in his ability to perform well when you need a spot start. It’s not Petco or Marlins stadium, but Angel Stadium is a good place for Blanton to succeed. The difference in fantasy might not be major, but Blanton may actually have consistent value for the first time ever.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.