It’s difficult to say exactly how good Joe Blanton is - or perhaps more importantly, will be. He has never missed a start, he rolls (literally) out of bed and gives you 200 IP, and the guy has won 42 games in 3 years for a team that is worse at scoring than a Senator in an airport stall.
On the other side of the coin, each of Blanton’s three seasons has been fraught with not-so-fasts. In 2005, Blanton was abysmal for two months and then unhittable for four, leaving pundits to speculate which was closer to “the real Joe Blanton”. In 2006, Blanton won a career high 16 games but also sported worrisome peripherals, including such a terrible hits/9 IP ratio (11.16) that it frightened small children and caused thousands of puppies to flee the city in terror. Then in 2007, by all accounts Blanton established himself as a pretty legitimate #2 starter, yet he actually gave only 21 “quality starts” out of 34 – a rather pedestrian 62%. Of course five of those 13 “quality lacking” starts came in succession in July, as the Dodgers were saying, “We really want Blanton!...We think...Sort of…Maybe…Not.”
He’s a tough one to predict. And as Beane is, reportedly, shopping Blanton the response has been appropriately perplexing. Here’s arguably the best right-handed starting pitcher being shopped and interest appears to be somewhat lukewarm to low. Why? I have it narrowed down to three theories:
• Ability: The consensus around the league is that Blanton’s best seasons are behind him, not ahead of him, and that even though he is entering his prime years, he is just not in fact #2 starter material - more "smoke and mirrors" than "control and competitiveness".
• Health: Blanton’s weight has scared off teams that think it reflects either a lack of conditioning, or a poor work ethic, a risky tendency, etc., and they believe Blanton is not nearly as good a health risk in the future as he has been in the past.
• Bias: There is actually a prejudice, be it conscious or subconscious, because Blanton is overweight and just doesn’t look like a good ballplayer. Yes, Bartolo Colon and David Wells made it work for years on an ample frame, but many others didn’t. If I saw Joe Blanton at the hardware store, it would be difficult to convince me that he was a top athlete who could make the strapping young All-American boy-wonder look foolish on a slow curve.
My question today is: If the offers for Blanton so far have been disappointingly low, which of these elements is most at play – ability, health, or bias?