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Elephant Rumblings: Does Paul Blackburn deserve an All-Star nod?

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners
Jul 2, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Paul Blackburn (58) reacts after being relieved for against the Seattle Mariners during the seventh inning at T-Mobile Park.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Fourth of July, Athletics Nation!

Whoa. We’re halfway there—there being the end of this absolutely brutal 2022 regular season. The A’s are 26-55 at the season’s midpoint, making them worthy of “Worst Team in Baseball” status. On their home turf they are an astonishingly miserable 8-28.

But there’s always a bright spot to focus on for a bit of consolation. This year, Paul Blackburn is one of the A’s brightest. Following the righty’s terrific outing in Seattle on Saturday, Martín Gallegos at MLB argued that Blackburn’s All-Star resume is hard to ignore.

Blackburn held the Mariners scoreless through 6⅓ innings this last time out—an AL-leading sixth time he’s given opponents nothing but goose eggs this season. Gallegos cited a few other stats as evidence of Blackburn’s All-Star worthiness:

  • An ERA of 2.90, 10th in AL among qualified starters
  • A WHIP of 1.16 (14th in AL)
  • Opponents are batting .239 against Blackburn (also 14th in AL) and just .138 against his curveball

The A’s are far better on the road than at home this year: they’re playing .400 ball in away games versus .222 in Oakland. Surprisingly, even though he’s the sort of groundball pitcher that tends to hold an advantage at the Coliseum, Blackburn has also been better on the road, where he’s leading MLB with a 1.28 ERA.

Gallegos makes a pretty solid case for Paul Blackburn. But in the likely scenario that the A’s send a lone representative to the 2022 All-Star Game, the numbers favor Frankie Montas.

Let’s compare lines:

  • Blackburn, 2022: 6-3, 2.90 ERA, 87 IP, 67 Ks, 22 BB, 7 HR, 3.49 FIP, 3.66 xFIP, 1.4 fWAR
  • Montas, 2022: 3-9, 3.26 ERA, 96.2 IP, 100 Ks, 24 BB, 11 HR, 3.31 FIP, 3.16 xFIP, 2.0 fWAR

In pre-Sabermetric times, observers might just look at these pitchers’ W-L and ERA and say Blackburn has the better line. Today, we know full well that pitchers’ wins and losses are the ultimate “correlation without causation” metric, and that while Blackburn holds an ERA edge, fielding-independent metrics slightly favor Montas.

Montas is among the AL’s top ten starters in innings pitched, strikeouts, FIP, xFIP, and fWAR—and he’s skirting the top five in a few of these categories. If you lend credence to fWAR, Montas’ looks significantly better than Blackburn’s, and if you need strikeouts to get out of tough spots, Frankie is clearly the man you want on the bump.

However, if Frankie’s early exit from yesterday’s game proves the result of something more serious than just inflammation and renders him unable to pitch in the All-Star Game, we should be more than happy with Blackburn representing the A’s. And it would certainly be no travesty if both Montas and Blackburn got nods.

Going by the numbers, if the A’s can only send one player, I’d nominate Frankie Montas. Would you agree or disagree? If you think I’ve got it backwards, as Stephen Vogt apparently might, tell me why in the comments below!

A’s Coverage:

MLB News & Interest:

Best of Twitter:

The bad kind of historic.

Honestly though, I am surprised at just how bad. Would 20 more wins at the Coli be too lofty a goal for the remainder of the season?

Cross your fingers.

Barring a big injury setback, rumor has it that the Cardinals could be strong suitors for Montas.

Looking forward to Shea’s debut in green and gold!

Roster moves.

Nice catch, kid!

@jgoldstrass interviewed Lugnuts pitcher Jake Walkinshaw.

It takes all kinds, folks!