Joe Blanton is a pretty good baseball player, on the balance. He has added between 10 and 20 Wins Above Replacement for his career, depending on your WAR variant of choice. He started more than 225 games and earned more than $34 million dollars. He had some great seasons with the A’s back in the day but is now just about (or below) league average.
Joe Blanton took the hill for the Dodgers in San Francisco last night, picking up teammate and staff ace Clayton Kershaw who was unable to start due to a hip strain. It was a big game for the Dodgers and, while he didn’t pitch poorly, Blanton gave up four runs and LA lost. C’est la vie.
One of the runs Joe Blanton surrendered came courtesy of a home run by Giants catcher Buster Posey. Posey is putting together a tremendous season, one that will earn him serious MVP consideration. In addition to the big sixth inning home run to center, Blanton struck Posey out in the first and allowed a soft single to right in the third.
This is noteworthy because Joe Blanton made one mistake to Buster Posey. One pitch you could consider “bad”, and Posey hit it a mile. Being a Major League Baseball player is really hard.
Buster Posey is a tough out. He proved that over and again on Sunday night. The single to right field in the third inning was a great piece of hitting, flicking a good pitch away from into right field. The final at bat of the night, which ended in the impressive home run, was a real battle. Jeff Sullivan
pulled some straight-up Inception shit recapped the battle for Fangraphs, full of GIFy goodness and the like.
The screen grab below, featuring the excellent ESPN Sunday Night Baseball K Zone provides a Cliff Notes verison, highlighting all the pitches Blanton threw to Posey.
As Sullivan notes and you can plainly see, there was one bad pitch in this entire at bat: the last one. Blanton kept the ball away from Posey, he changed speeds and did everything a pitcher can. It wasn’t enough.
Not only does this battle confirm what we already know about Posey (he’s a great hitter who, by accident or by design) kept his plate appearance going long enough for Blanton to make a mistake. It also says a lot about Blanton: a barely league-average pitcher threw nine out of ten pitches exactly where he wanted them thrown. He threw pitches that broke this way and that, that varied in velocity by almost 15 miles per hour. One slider spun on him and Posey hit it 400 feet, through all the heavy sea air and super poisonous shadows.
Not all plate appearances are this dramatic nor does anybody bother attaching greater meaning to the average sixth inning battle between fourth starter and catcher. But what Posey did was very special, and Blanton deserves credit as well. Just a tremendous display of skill and overall competence, two things in short supply in our world.
It is at bats like this which make me wonder about the impossible expectations placed on prospects in the current baseball universe. If Joe Blanton —Joe Blanton— can string together as impressive a sequence as this, what hope does that leave all the 25 year-old with fistfuls of PCL home runs to their names? Baseball is really hard and the guys at the Major League level, they’re very good.