Every day this month, we here at Philthy Stuff will be counting down the New Year's resolutions of each member on the Phillies, and what they can do to guide this team back to October. Next up, Joe Blanton.
During spring training last year, before anyone threw a pitch in an exhibition game, the Phillies held a press conference, where they proudly displayed their vaunted “Four Aces.” Except there was only one problem: There were five pitchers at this press conference.
While writers and fans were all agog to see Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt on the same dais, no one seemed to care that Joe Blanton -- he of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies -- sat alongside them.
His presence would bring a few laughs when one writer mistakenly forgot that Blanton was even on the 2008 team, and Lee scoffed at the “Four Aces” label because, in fact, it takes five pitchers to make up a rotation.
And let's face facts: Blanton is no ace. Sure, he is a fine pitcher -- when healthy -- but no one is going to give Big Joe the call over anyone else on the staff. Not even to pinch hit (despite that World Series home run). But with Oswalt unlikely to return and an elbow that's no longer a concern, Blanton is for sure going to be back in the rotation in 2012. But will he stay there? Let's find out.
Stay Healthy: In his career as a Phillie, Blanton has been steady whenever he's been on the mound. Of course, the problem is that he didn't see too much time on the mound last season, thanks to an elbow injury that limited him to just 41-1/3 innings. Prior to that, Blanton was a rock, averaging just under 200 innings in his previous six seasons.
The big question for Joe is whether or not he can keep himself on the mound. While the injury that prevented him from having an actual impact in 2011 shouldn't be an issue, there is still concern that the right-hander -- who is on the final year of a three-year contract extension -- can make his trip to the mound every fifth day. And while the Phillies got lucky when Vance Worley turned himself into a legitimate big league pitcher last season, his success is not a known commodity, meaning that Blanton would be wise to stay off the DL.
And...that's really it. Blanton is unlikely to hurl a complete game shutout, and he won't have some un-earthly strikeout-to-walk ratio like Halladay, but he will be steady enough to anchor a rotation if he can stay healthy.
In his time with the Phillies, Blanton has been good enough. He's had his struggles, and you certainly can't expect him to be anything more than a 4.00 ERA pitcher in 2012, but with a rotation and bullpen that is as deep as it is, that's all he has to be.