Tag:Joe Blanton
Posted on: March 2, 2012 9:41 pm
 

Spring primer: Philadelphia Phillies



By Matt Snyder


The 2011 Phillies sported an MLB-best 102-60 regular-season record, but then lost a heartbreaking Game 5 in the NLDS, 1-0, to the eventual World Champion Cardinals. Rubbing salt in the wound was slugger Ryan Howard tearing his Achilles tendon on the final out of Game 5. He's expected to miss around two months. With him missing time, the Phillies aging stars a year older and a much tougher division in 2012, is the window of opportunity for another World Series title starting to close with this nucleus? It's certainly not closed, but it may be headed that way.

Major additions: RHP Jonathan Papelbon, OF/IF Laynce Nix, IF Ty Wigginton, 1B Jim Thome
Major departures: OF Faul Ibanez, RHP Ryan Madson, RHP Roy Oswalt, RHP Brad Lidge, OF Ben Francisco

Probable lineup
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Shane Victorino, CF
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Hunter Pence, RF
5. Jim Thome/Ty Wigginton/Laynce Nix, 1B
6. John Mayberry, LF
7. Placido Polanco, 3B
8. Carlos Ruiz, C

Ryan Howard will obviously man 1B and slide in the lineup at cleanup when he's ready to take the field, but it doesn't sound like that's happening until late May, if not later.

Probable rotation
1. Roy Halladay
2. Cliff Lee
3. Cole Hamels
4. Vance Worley
5. Joe Blanton

Kyle Kendrick waiting in the wings if someone goes down.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
Set-up: Antonio Bastardo

Important bench players

C Brian Schneider, OF Juan Pierre and whoever isn't starting at 1B (see lineup above)

Prospect to watch
Domonic Brown isn't a prospect anymore and much of the Phillies top prospects are in the lower-levels of the minors, so it's slim pickings here -- as to be expected with an elite, veteran club. I'll go with Phillipe Aumont, a relief pitcher headed for Triple-A. The 23-year-old had a 3.18 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings once he was promoted to Triple-A last season. Control was an issue, as he walked 14 guys, leading to a 1.54 WHIP, but he certainly has the strikeout capability to contribute to the bullpen later in the season if he gets things figured out. Considering the Phillies are counting on the likes of Jose Contreras, Chad Qualls and Dontrelle Willis in the bullpen, the chances an injury or underperformance open up a spot in the 'pen after a few months are pretty good.

Fantasy bust: Hunter Pence
"Before you hop aboard the hype train and ride it all the way to crazy town, you might want to remind yourself that theonly aspect of his game that changed for the better last year was his batting average. He didn't gain any power. He didn't walk more or strike out less. He didn't fundamentally change as a player. He simply got better results, putting together a .361 BABIP instead of his usual .305 or so. It wouldn't be the first time. He had a .377 BABIP as a rookie in 2007, when he hit .322. But the peripherals suggested it was too good to be true then, and they do now as well. Pence is an asset in Fantasy because of his job security and 20-homer power, but he's a .280 hitter who can't take a walk." - Scott White [Full Phillies fantasy team preview]

Fantasy sleeper: John Mayberry
"General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has made the comparison. Manager Charlie Manuel has made the comparison. It's Mayberry's identity now: the next Jayson Werth. For the Fantasy owners who have played long enough to remember when Werth rose from obscurity to put together a 20-20 season in 2008, that's cause for celebration. But is it a reasonable expectation? Hey, Mayberry is more of a certainty now than Werth was then, having hit 15 homers in 267 at-bats last year. Like Werth, he's a former first-round pick who, like Werth, didn't begin to meet his potential until his late 20s. And like Werth, he happens to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage." - Scott White [Full Phillies fantasy team preview]

Optimistic outlook
World Series champs. By now, anything less is a disappointment for a group with so much talent and postseason experience.

Pessimistic outlook
The offense badly struggles without Howard -- who falls behind in his rehab and misses three months -- with age declines limiting production from the likes of Utley, Rollins and Polanco. Worley comes back to Earth after his insane 2011 season and Blanton continues to struggle with injuries. Even with all that, the Phillies would still be good enough to be a playoff contender, even in the mighty NL East, due to the new two-wild-card playoff format. It's hard to envision enough things going wrong to have them finish below the Braves, Marlins and Nationals. Maybe two of the three -- in a worst-case scenario -- but not all three.

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Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:56 am
Edited on: December 20, 2011 2:18 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Oakland Athletics



By Matt Snyder

What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

"Moneyball" hit movie theaters everywhere late this past summer and Brad Pitt-as-Billy Beane told us the A's have to be creative to compete in an unfair baseball landscape. There are haves and have-nots, the protagonist would tell us. And we all know the Oakland Athletics are have-nots in the salary-capless land of Major League Baseball. So what if the A's could afford to keep all their own guys? Surely they'd be much better, right? Uh ...

Lineup

1. Jemile Weeks, 2B
2. Nick Swisher, CF
3. Andre Ethier, RF
4. Jason Giambi, 1B
5. Ryan Ludwick, LF
6. Kurt Suzuki, C
7. Ramon Hernandez, DH
8. Mark Teahen, 3B
9. Cliff Pennington, SS

Starting Rotation

1. Tim Hudson
2. Trevor Cahill
3. Dallas Braden
4. Tyson Ross
5. Joe Blanton

Yes, Braden was out for the season in real life, but we've got Rich Harden waiting in the wings. Oh, and yes, Harden is hurt all the time. So then we'd turn to Barry Zito.

Bullpen

Closer - Andrew Bailey
Set up - Huston Street, Santiago Casilla, Henry Rodriguez, Joel Peralta, Sam Demel
Long - Harden, Zito

Notable Bench Players

Miguel Olivo, John Baker, Gerald Laird -- yes, those three are all catchers, just like our DH -- Eric Chavez and Travis Buck.

What's Good?

Hey, at least we'd never run out of catchers with this group. There are four major-league caliber starters, even if some are lower-tier, and one quality backup in Laird. So the Athletics churn out catchers. Really, though, the strength of this team is unsurprisingly the pitching. The starting rotation is good, but not great. Hudson is steady and Cahill was very good in 2010. Blanton was good in 2009 but has battled injuries and ineffectiveness since then. Ross did show great promise before his injury last season, though. The bullpen is pretty good, too. Bailey is a solid closer and Street would be a fine eighth-inning man with Casilla and fireballer Rodriguez also setting the table.

What's Not?

Giambi and Ludwick in the middle of the order isn't near as potent nowadays as it would have been a handful of years ago. Plus, could Giambi even play everyday anymore? If not, our next option is playing a catcher, Chavez or Buck at first base. That's weak. In fact, at this point in time, there aren't many spots where the hitter is well above average for his slot. Swisher and Ethier are good, but they aren't elite second or third hitters. Weeks could prove an elite leadoff hitter as soon as 2012, but we don't have a large enough sample yet to declare that. Ramon Hernandez had a good past two offensive seasons, but take him out of the NL Central and Great American Ball Park and put him in the AL West in Oakland. That's a big difference. So while the offense isn't atrocious, it's not very good either -- and there is no bench depth anywhere but catcher. Also, Swisher's out of position in center, but, again, we don't have any other options.

Comparison to real 2011

While the rotation and bullpen are good, they are far from great, and the position players here just aren't enough. This team would be below average, an 85-90 loss ballclub. The real-life A's went 74-88, so I'd say it's just about the same result.

And we can now see the biggest problem. Of course it's tough to compete as a small-market team in a football stadium, but the A's haven't been drafting very well. They've made some good trades, sure, but also some pretty bad ones. For example, they spun Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street and Greg Smith for Matt Holliday back in 2008, but then dealt Holliday at the next trade deadline for Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson. So, yes, one reason the A's can't compete anymore in the AL West is because they don't have the money to retain or sign new expensive veterans. But another reason is they just aren't churning out draft picks like the Rays, for example, are. 

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Posted on: October 7, 2011 11:23 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 5:20 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Philadelphia Phillies

PhilliesBy Evan Brunell

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series... 

Team name: Philadelphia Phillies
Record: 102-60, First place NL East. Lost NLDS to St. Louis, 3-2.
Manager: Charlie Manuel
Best hitter: Shane Victorino -- .279/.355/.491, 17 HR, 95 R, 19 SB
Best pitcher: Roy Halladay -- 19-6, 233 2/3 IP, 2.35 ERA, 35 BB, 220 K

2011 SEASON RECAP

The Phillies didn't waste time asserting their superiority, running out to an 18-8 record. Cliff Lee needed some time to get going in uniform, racking up a 4.15 ERA in five starts, but better times were on the way. Meanwhile, the other three aces didn't have any problem locking down games, even though the offense was exposed with the loss of Jayson Werth. Ben Francisco got April off to a rollicking start, but tailed off in May as the club went 16-13. Vance Worley, who stepped into the rotation to replace Joe Blanton, made his first start on April 29, posting a 2.14 ERA in his first five starts.

R.I.P. series

The club then registered two consecutive 17-win months and struck for Hunter Pence at the trade deadline. Philly then ran a nine-game winning streak into August, leading to their best month with an 18-7 record. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, their shot at extending their 102 victories higher was derailed by a September that saw an eight-game losing streak. Despite that, they were so dominant, they posted a 30-10 record in blowout games, as defined by Baseball Reference.

The playoffs were another story, though, as the Phillies lost in five games to the wild-card winning Cardinals. The offense was mostly the culprit.

2012 AUDIT

Philadelphia is still the class of the NL, even though everyone is one year older. Fortunately, the team is shedding the contracts of Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge most notably, so there is payroll flexibility to be had that will allow for a significant signing. It will still be some time before the Phillies drastically drop out of contention, and the club needs to continue its philosophy of putting all its eggs in one basket and contending while it still can. Flags fly forever.

FREE AGENTS

Ross Gload, 1B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Brad Lidge, RP ($12.5 million club option)
Ryan Madson, RP
Roy Oswalt, SP ($16 million mutual option)
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Brian Schneider, C

OFFSEASON FOCUS

  • Sign Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies will throw gobs of cash at the best closer they can get. Ryan Madson had an incredible season, finally delivering on his potential, but he's no Papelbon. Papelbon has done it all -- won a World Series, pitched in incredibly tight situations, pitched against elite competition and has experience playing in a hitter's park. (Health Bell, for example, would likely succeed no matter where he plays, but it's inarguable that he also is lucky to pitch in Petco Park.) Who knows if the Red Sox will let Papelbon get away, but the Phils need to try. Madson or Bell would be Plan B. Obviously, the team shouldn't pick up Lidge's option, but should absolutely explore bringing him back as setup man.
  • With Ryan Howard's injury knocking him out until at least May -- if not longer -- the Phillies need to get aggressive on offense. They simply had too much trouble in 2011 with the bat, so need to go after one of the better bats on the market and sign Josh Willingham. Willingham can fill in at first base with Howard's absence. That allows John Mayberry and top prospect Dominic Brown to share time in left. When Howard returns, Willingham simply shifts to left field. Yes, that puts Mayberry and Brown on the bench, but word is Philadelphia has soured on Brown as a long-term player. As for Mayberry, he had quite the coming-out party, but a team like Philadelphia can't make any assumptions about his long-term viability.
  • Bring back Jimmy Rollins. Rollins may not give the club a hometown discount, but he's a very popular player in town and will cost much, much less than Jose Reyes. Even the Phillies can't throw cash around at any player they want. They could potentially sign Jose Reyes, but that would likely mean giving up on Papelbon (or any high-salaried closer), and that would be the wrong move.
  • Let Roy Oswalt walk. While Oswalt is still a good pitcher, $14 million is a lot to pay for someone that may not be capable of making 32 starts anymore. (He has a $16 million mutual option with a $2 million buyout, so the true cost is $14 million.) There doesn't need to be any replacement starter, as Vance Worley can move up to No. 4 and Joe Blanton can slide in at No. 5. The club would need to sign some solid pitchers for Triple-A as depth, though.
  • Bring in a solid utility infielder. One of Philly's biggest issues this past season was offense. Hunter Pence helped address that, but the team needs to upgrade where they can regardless. Wilson Valdez is fine as backup shortstop, but Adam Kennedy should be brought in to man second and third, as well as become pinch-hitter du jour after revitalizing his career in Seattle. Kennedy would have to settle for less playing time, but here's figuring that's not an issue for Philadelphia.
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Posted on: September 28, 2011 12:57 pm
 

On Deck: Wild cards hinge on final day



By Evan Brunell


Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

AL wild card: It's the final game of the season, and we've got two races currently tied. The first of them is the American League wild card, where the Red Sox and Rays are knotted at one apiece. Boston will send ace Jon Lester to the mound in the hopes of downing the Orioles. Lester has never lost against Baltimore, running up a 14-0 record. On the year, he has a solid 3.49 ERA but that mark is 6.97 over his last four starts, so there's concern there. He'll be opposed by Alfredo Simon. Meanwhile, down south, the Rays offer up their own ace in David Price to take down the Yankees. New York is already in the playoffs, so they could choose to rest some players and give the Rays a weaker opponent to play against. To that end, even the Yankees don't know who will be starting Wednesday night. Red Sox vs. Orioles, 7:00 p.m. ET | Yankees vs. Rays, 7:00 p.m. ET

NL wild card: Over in the NL, the Braves are new to this. The Red Sox have had an extra day to get used to the idea of falling into a tie, but Atlanta woke up Wednesday knowing the final game of the season was crucial to the playoff hunt. After all, if they lose and the Cardinals win, they're out. Fortunately, they have a pretty good pitcher heading to the hill in Tim Hudson, who will oppose Joe Blanton in what figures to be a bullpen game for Philly. On paper it's a mismatch, but the way the Braves has been playing lately is the complete opposite of St. Louis. Meanwhile, the scorching Redbirds offer up Chris Carpenter against the hapless Astros, who will send Brett Myers to the mound. Phillies vs. Braves, 7:00 p.m. ET | Cardinals vs. Astros, 8:00 p.m. ET

StrasburgNo walks: Stephen Strasburg has a very good chance to accomplish an incredible feat in his fifth and final start of the year. So far, he's walked absolutely zero batters in his 18 innings, striking out 14. That's a K/BB ratio of infinity. Thanks to the magic that is Baseball Reference's Play Index, I ran a query of all starting pitchers who had at least five consecutive starts with no walks in the millennium. There's been plenty of streaks of no walks allowed, most namely the amazing Greg Maddux who racked up two separate nine-game streaks of no walks allowed. If Strasburg gets through the game, he'll be tied with 15 others for five consecutive starts. Interestingly, Kevin Slowey accomplished the feat earlier this season, but before that you have to go back to Cliff Lee in 009, then Curt Schilling in 2006. Strasburg himself went six straight starts without a walk last season. He's opposing Chris Volstad in Jack McKeon's final game as Marlins manager. Nationals vs. Marlins, 4:10 p.m. ET

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 11:42 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:05 am
 

Playoff Race: NL wild card tied, too



By Matt Snyder


Just as is the case in the American League, 161 games isn't enough to decide the NL wild-card winner. After the Braves were destroyed by the Phillies, 7-1, the Cardinals came through with a come-from-behind victory. Both teams now have an 89-72 record with just one game to play, even if they've arrived at that record in much different ways. The Braves are limping into Wednesday with a 9-17 September record. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are 17-8 in the month. Since August 25, the Cardinals have made up 10 1/2 games on the Braves, so this is an epic comeback. The whole season counts, though, so everything comes down to one final game ... unless they both win or both lose. Then we get one more. As an aside, this is where baseball gets it right. There aren't tiebreakers off the field. You decide who gets in on the field.

If they're still tied after Wednesday night's action, a one-game playoff will be played in St. Louis Thursday night. Let's check out the pitching matchups for Wednesday's action.

Phillies at Braves, 7:10 p.m. ET
Tim Hudson (16-10, 3.23) gets the all-important start for the reeling home team. He's the best healthy starter the Braves have at this point, as three of their nine wins this month came in his starter. So things have worked well on at least one front for them. The bad news is last time Hudson faced the Phillies, he was knocked around a bit and took the loss. He's been OK in three starts against the Phillies this year, though, as he's got a 3.48 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 20 2/3 innings.

Joe Blanton (1-2, 5.03) is Hudson's counterpart for the night. He's only made one start since returning from injury and was limited on a pitch count. He worked two innings, allowing only a hit and striking out three. Expect the Phillies to take a Johnny Wholestaff approach like the Yankees will against the Rays. The Phillies aren't playing for anything other than health and sharpness. It's possible many regular starters are rested as well, though they won't play again until Saturday. Still, this game should be ripe for the Braves' taking.

Cardinals at Astros, 8:05 p.m. ET
Chris Carpenter (10-9, 3.59) takes the hill for the Cardinals. He is locked in right now, too. In his past four starts, Carpenter has a 1.45 ERA in 31 innings. He shutout the Brewers and threw eight scoreless innings against the Phillies during that stretch. Carpenter's only faced the Astros once this season, when he went seven innings and allowed just two runs on eight hits. He has a 2.87 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in nine career starts at Minute Maid Park.

Brett Myers (7-13, 4.31) is the Astros' starter. Before Cardinals fans get all giddy, here's Myers' line in September: 4-0, 1.23 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. So he's throwing the ball better than he has all season right now. He hasn't faced the Cardinals since July 26, but he threw eight innings and allowed just three earned runs, taking the hard luck 3-1 loss that day. He was shelled in his previous outing against the Cardinals this season, though, while Albert Pujols, Skip Schumaker and Matt Holliday sport gaudy career stats against him. So the pitching matchup is a tossup on paper. The Cardinals, however, have a much better offense and are playing for the postseason.

So if I had to predict, I'd say we're headed for a one-game playoff after both the Braves and Cardinals win Wednesday. But you can't predict baseball. One game left and anything can happen with these two teams. This is what it's all about.

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Posted on: September 14, 2011 6:54 pm
 

Joe Blanton still deciding on surgery

BlantonBy Evan Brunell

Joe Blanton has been a non-factor in Philly's season, but don't overlook the righty as a significant contributor next season.

Blanton has only completed 35 1/3 innings this season, posting a 5.35 ERA in six starts and one relief appearance (which came Monday) thanks to right elbow inflammation that has kept him out much of the year. However, Blanton was an effective back-of-the-rotation starter for the Phillies last season and could be asked to fill a similar role in 2012. Roy Oswalt's pricey team option for $16 million is likely to be exercised given the righty's struggles to stay on a mound this year with back issues, as well as whispers of Oswalt retiring. If that's the case, the Phillies could slide Blanton -- who has $8.5 million due him in 2012, the final year of a three-year deal -- into the No. 5 spot behind Vance Worley.

Blanton hasn't decided whether he will undergo surgery or not, the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, but there is still time to decide. In the meantime, Blanton will continue pitching in Florida instructionals in October while the team is trying to win a World Series. How he performs pitching will determine whether he has surgery or not. Doctors say Tommy John surgery is not needed, but could require a nerve procedure that could knock him out for six months, so a decision is needed by the end of October.

"I need to know for me," Blanton said. "I need to know for our organization, for everybody. I don't need to show up next year and all of a sudden I'm hurt again and we're back where we were."

Blanton's relief appearance marked a return to the majors after a 121-day absence, clocking an average fastball velocity of 91 mph, a spike from 87 mph in May.

"I was happy with that," Blanton said. "It was almost like the first or second game of spring training because I threw basically one bullpen and one rehab game. Every player will tell you the more you throw your velocity will build and build."

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Posted on: July 28, 2011 12:07 pm
 

If Blanton returns in 2011, it'll be in bullpen

Joe BlantonBy C. Trent Rosecrans

If Joe Blanton returns to the Phillies this season, it will be out of the bullpen, not as a starter, he told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.

"I think there's zero percent chance i'll start this year," Blaton said. "There's just not enough time."

Blanton said he may be able to pitch out of the bullpen if all goes well with his return from nerve inflammation in his right elbow. However, surgery is still possible. Blanton will play catch on Thursday.

Blanton hasn't pitched since May 14. He was 1-2 with a 5.50 ERA in six starts this season. He is singed through next season.

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Posted on: July 26, 2011 4:10 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2011 4:16 pm
 

Report: Blanton likely done for 2011

By Matt Snyder

Phillies starting pitcher Joe Blanton has been troubled with elbow issues through much of the season and tests Tuesday revealed nerve damage. He is "unlikely to return" this season (Matt Gelb via Twitter).

This obviously isn't good news for the Phillies, as they rely on great starting pitching and Blanton came into the season as their No. 5 starter -- behind four frontline guys.

On the other hand, Blanton has only made six starts this season and hasn't really fared well. Meanwhile, the Phillies have the best record in the majors. Roy Oswalt will likely be returning soon and Vance Worley (6-1, 2.02) has been a revelation as a fill-in starter or reliever. With Worley stepping up and pitching the way he has, the Phillies have barely even missed Oswalt or Blanton to this point.

With the trade deadline approaching and general manager Ruben Amaro having pulled off several trades for starting pitchers in recent memory, speculation is bound to take place, but going with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Worley as the rotation doesn't sound like any sort of an issue. And Kyle Kendrick hasn't been bad, either. They will not be pursuing starting pitching. Period.

Instead, the Phillies will be focusing on bullpen help. So the major news here is Blanton missing the rest of the season. He does have one year left on his contract before hitting free agency after the 2012 season.

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