Why Joe Blanton Will Be an Impact Player for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012
We give him nicknames like Heavy B (a nickname I love), want him traded to free up salary space (an idea I was totally behind a couple months ago) and write him letters urging the removal of his facial hair (okay maybe that was just me).
Reporters forget he won a World Series with the Phillies, and I'm going to assume the other four "cool" pitchers last season gave loser Joe lots of wedgies, noogies and wet willies.
That said, Joe Blanton has been an effective pitcher throughout his major league career, has helped the Phillies win a World Series and will have a significant impact on this 2012 season one way or another.
Here's why Joe Blanton will be an impact player for the Phillies this season.
He's Performed in the Clutch Before
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In these trying times, it often helps to remember the good old days of 2008. Back then, it was a simpler time, a time when all the Phillies had to worry about was how many home runs Joe Blanton would hit in a World Series game.
Blanton has been a clutch performer for the Phillies in the past, and you can never have enough clutch performers on your team.
On the biggest stage in baseball, against the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series, Blanton went six innings and gave up only two runs to pick up a win in Game 4.
At some point this season, he will be pitching in an important game for the Phillies. Maybe it’s a game they have to have against a division leader to make up ground, or maybe it’s in the World Series again (I can still have high hopes, can’t I?).
Blanton has been there and done that before, and he could very well make an impact in an important situation again.
It's His Contract Year
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Anyone who’s taken any courses in economics knows that people are driven by incentives (and also that profit maximizing firms produce where marginal revenue equals marginal cost, but that’s not so important here).
And players may have no greater individual incentive in the game of baseball than to secure a big contract.
Blanton is set to be a free agent after the 2012 season, and you can be sure he knows that every game he pitches this year is going to be re-examined later by any team thinking of signing him this offseason.
The “contract year” has a tendency of bringing out the best in many players, and Heavy B’s quest for the most lucrative deal he can secure will impact the Phillies this season.
He'll Be Counted on to Step Up Without Cliff Lee
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Thinking of the Phillies without Cliff Lee for an extended period of time hurts.
Oblique injuries are a tricky thing with pitchers, and the Phillies smartly shut Lee down right away rather than letting him aggravate his injury even more. Still, while the team is hopeful Lee will only miss a few starts, you never really know how long he’s going to be out.
Without him, everyone is going to have to step up. Blanton’s starts are going to be even more impactful without Lee in the rotation, as he is essentially moving up a rung in the rotation hierarchy.
Every Pitcher's Performance Is Crucial This Season
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Bad. Not good. Fledgling. Stinky. Like the Giants, only worse.
These are all descriptions of the Phillies' offense.
Every pitcher is important this season, because if the Phillies don’t have good pitching, the Phillies are not going to win very many games. Unless Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton drink some of Jose Bautista’s secret stuff and have a late-career revival, it’s going to be up to the Phils’ rotation to carry the team this year.
That said, we fans already kind of know what we’re getting from each other starter. Halladay, Lee and Hamels might pitch a no-hitter, shutout or 15-strikeout game each time they toe the rubber. Worley is going to give you a solid six or seven innings most of the time, get a lot of strikeouts looking and wear cool glasses.
Joe Blanton? He could go either way.
We’ve seen good Joe and we’ve seen bad Joe, and the fact that he is the main source of uncertainty in the Phillies' rotation means that he’ll have an impact on this season one way or another.
He’s fully capable of getting bombed early (figuratively, of course—I don’t think any pitcher has ever had a B-52 take them out of a game), and he’s fully capable of going eight innings while only giving up one run.
For the Phillies to overcome their offense this season, keep your fingers crossed for the latter.