Pittsburgh Pirates acquisition breakdown – Joe Blanton


The Pittsburgh Pirates made a move late Wednesday night – early Thursday morning if you prefer.

The news sent ripples through Pirates twitter.

Nationally, the deal was but a blip on the radar on a night that saw Cole Hamels finally moved as well as some more patented New York Mets wackiness.

Today we are here not to defend the acquisition but to tell Pirates fans how Blanton may help the team.  Let’s start at the beginning.

Joe Blanton is a journeyman pitcher who first found success with the Oakland Athletics in the mid-2000s. A 16-game winner in 2006, Blanton was traded to the Phillies for an underwhelming five years before bouncing around, eventually finding a home this year in Kansas City. This after not pitching at all in 2014. This year Blanton has served as a long-relief/middle relief option while starting a stretch of four games in late June.  Here now is a look at Blanton’s 2015 numbers overall with a snapshot of his career to date:

11 Yrs87914.502801621609.0176285580420541911261.3562.69

If we take a hard look at these numbers, we can find a lot to like. The first that jumps out is Blanton’s strikeout-to-walk ratio. With 40 punchouts against but seven free passes, we see that Blanton is a pitcher that values control. He would have to, as he’s not going to blow anyone away with his velocity. His four-seamer only averages 90.4 mph, according to FanGraphs. Blanton has a nice arsenal of pitches, with a cut fastball, sinker, slider, curve, and change all in play. Blanton uses all of those pitches to end up with a very good swinging-strike percentage – 11.1% to be precise. That figure would put him right in the middle of the current pack of Pittsburgh Pirates relievers, on par with Mark Melancon. Blanton sets batters up with the fastball (thrown 52% of the time) and then uses the slider as his strikeout pitch (hurled 24.2% of the time). On the slider, batters are hitting .240 while the changeup is even more effective, with batters struggling to hit it at .091.

What can be taken away from all of this? First, this was a shrewd move by Neal Huntington. Blanton is only making $1 million this year, so the Pirates will only be on the hook for about a third of that. After trading away Jayson Aquino for cash earlier this week, the team figures to at least break even on this deal. Second, Blanton provides a great bridge to Tony Watson and Melancon, who have a tendency to end up being overworked as a result of their success.

Sometimes the best deals in retrospect aren’t the flashiest ones. I still expect to see another move from Huntington, but in the interim this under-the-radar move has a chance to be very instrumental in addressing one of the team’s biggest needs.

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