By Jon Weisman
Joe Blanton’s new life as a full-time reliever — illustrated by his 1.57 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 21 games for the Pirates last season — has reunited him with the Dodgers for 2016 on a one-year contract.
Blanton started 10 games for the Dodgers in 2012, and it didn’t go all that well, with a 4.99 ERA and 1.42 WHIP despite an 8.0 K/9. The following season, spent with the Angels, went even worse (6.04 ERA), which led to his release in the midst of a multi-year contract.
But as Neil Weinberg of Fangraphs noted in November (via Mike Petriello of Dodgers Digest), Blanton turned the beat around by shifting emphasis to a slider and lowering his arm slot. Throw out the four starts he made in 2015 for Kansas City (which sent him to Pittsburgh near the July trading deadline), and Blanton had a 2.04 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 9.7 K/9 out of the bullpen.
The 35-year-old will give the Dodgers reliever depth as someone who can throw multiple innings in an outing. His 2015 stats on pitches 1-25 were almost identical to his numbers on pitches 26-50.
Once he pitches a 2016 game, Blanton will become the latest two-term Dodger and potential member of the Grover Cleveland All-Stars (click to enlarge).