Investigating Veracity: My Joe Blanton Statement

Sometimes I make statements, then later I begin to wonder how accurate that statement actually was. Have you ever done that? At times things I have said in the past come back to me, and I am compelled to investigate. This is one of those situations.

On the evening of June 18, 2010 I watched a baseball game. The Phillies and Minnesota Twins were playing the first game in a three game series. I went over to my friend Jared‘s place to watch the game (he’s a Twins fan). The Twins would win two out of three in the series, but in the first game things went well for the Phils.

As we watched the Phillies jump out to an 8-0 lead in the first two innings it was evident this game belonged to the home team. In the bottom of the 5th Ryan Howard homered to make the score 9-0.  Joe Blanton was pitching for the Phillies, and I remarked at the start of the 6th inning to Jared that the Twins should not give up hope, for Blanton’s pattern in 2010 was to implode in or after the 6th inning. Consistently. My statement went something along these lines: I’m not sure what the deal is, but Blanton seems to hit a wall in the 6th inning. I know he’s throwing a shutout right now, but I’d get the bullpen up preemptively.

Blanton gave up three hits and a run in the 6th. Not excuse me hits, these balls were scorched. The top of the 7th inning started out with a near home run by Delmon Young (it was hit so hard it ended up being a single), followed by a home run by feared slugger Nick Punto (that would be his only home run of the season). And then Charlie pulled Big Joe. The Phillies used four pitchers to close out the last three innings of the game, finally winning 9-5.

This year Joe Blanton will be the fifth starter for the Phils. The struggles of last year left a pall on Big Joe as a starter, but I must admit I’m a fan of his. One of my favorite baseball memories is the home run he hit in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series. He also got the win. Epic. Anyway, as this season approaches I’ve been thinking about my perception of Joe’s problems in late innings. I watch a lot of baseball, and my perception is based upon my recollection of his starts. I did not know the statistical breakdown of Joe’s career by inning or if 2010 was normal or an anomaly.

So I checked.

Figure 1. A breakdown of Joe Blanton’s pitching performance by inning in 2010.
Split G IP ER ERA R BA OBP SLG OPS
1st inning 28 28.0 20 6.43 22 .317 .356 .480 .836
2nd inning 28 28.0 10 3.21 12 .238 .261 .390 .652
3rd inning 28 28.0 8 2.57 11 .245 .310 .321 .631
4th inning 28 28.0 7 2.25 8 .184 .200 .291 .491
5th inning 28 27.1 14 4.61 14 .305 .373 .495 .868
6th inning 25 23.1 18 6.94 17 .376 .404 .604 1.008
7th inning 15 11.2 15 11.57 10 .400 .433 .782 1.215
8th inning 3 1.1 2 13.50 3 .556 .556 .889 1.444
Innings 1-3 28 84.0 38 4.07 45 .269 .312 .401 .713
Innings 4-6 29 78.2 39 4.46 39 .288 .328 .463 .791
Innings 7-9 15 13.0 17 11.77 13 .422 .449 .797 1.246
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 3/26/2011.
I used red text on some of the telling numbers. They jump off the screen without being colored red, but I thought I’d make my point obvious. The numbers do not lie, things got messy for Joe in the 6th inning in 2010. So my observation was accurate.

My next question is whether this is normal for Joe (based upon my observations I was inclined to say this was not a pattern throughout his career).

Figure 2. A breakdown of Joe Blanton’s pitching performance by inning in his career (2004-2010).
I Split G IP ER ERA R BA OBP SLG OPS
1st inning 190 189.1 110 5.23 113 .277 .323 .433 .757
2nd inning 189 189.0 67 3.19 75 .269 .320 .421 .741
3rd inning 189 188.2 74 3.53 78 .239 .291 .350 .642
4th inning 188 187.1 71 3.41 77 .257 .304 .391 .695
5th inning 186 179.2 105 5.26 102 .300 .350 .473 .823
6th inning 158 150.1 93 5.57 85 .297 .359 .495 .854
7th inning 98 87.1 40 4.12 32 .252 .296 .383 .678
8th inning 38 26.2 14 4.72 9 .330 .358 .487 .845
9th inning 6 4.0 0 0.00 0 .250 .294 .313 .607
Innings 1-3 191 567.0 251 3.98 266 .262 .312 .402 .714
Innings 4-6 190 517.1 269 4.68 264 .284 .336 .450 .787
Innings 7-9 99 118.0 54 4.12 41 .271 .311 .406 .717
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 3/26/2011.

The short answer is that Joe has had some issues in the 5th and 6th inning throughout his career. In 2010 the struggles were magnified from the 6th inning on (the 2010 opponent OPS over 1.000 from the 6th inning on is telling). I feel completely vindicated in making my statement about Joe on June 18.

Comparisons across Blanton’s career are interesting. He has a consistent alternation of good and  bad years.

Figure 3. The year to year fluctuation of Joe Blanton.

<div class=”sr_share_wrap”>
<table style=”border-collapse: collapse; font-size:.83em; border: 1px sold #aaa;” class=”sr_share” id=””>
<colgroup><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col><col></colgroup>
<thead>
<tr id=”” class=””>
<th onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”background-color: #ddd; border: 1px solid #aaa; padding: 2px;” class=”tooltip sort_default_asc show_partial_when_sorting” align=”left”>Year</th>
<th onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”background-color: #ddd; border: 1px solid #aaa; padding: 2px;” class=”tooltip sort_default_asc hide_non_quals” tip=”&lt;strong&gt;9 * ER / IP&lt;/strong&gt;&lt;br&gt;For recent years, leaders need 1 IP&lt;br&gt;per team game played” align=”center”>ERA</th>
<th onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”background-color: #ddd; border: 1px solid #aaa; padding: 2px;” class=”tooltip” tip=”Games Played or Pitched” align=”center”>G</th>
<th onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”background-color: #ddd; border: 1px solid #aaa; padding: 2px;” class=”tooltip” tip=”Innings Pitched” align=”center”>IP</th>
<th onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”background-color: #ddd; border: 1px solid #aaa; padding: 2px;” class=”tooltip hide_non_quals” tip=”&lt;strong&gt;ERA+&lt;/strong&gt;&lt;br&gt;100*[lgERA/ERA]&lt;br&gt;Adjusted to the player’s ballpark(s).” align=”center”>ERA+</th>
<th onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”background-color: #ddd; border: 1px solid #aaa; padding: 2px;” class=”tooltip sort_default_asc hide_non_quals” tip=”&lt;strong&gt;(BB + H)/IP&lt;/strong&gt;&lt;br&gt;For recent years, leaders need 1 IP&lt;br&gt;per team game played” align=”center”>WHIP</th>
<th onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”background-color: #ddd; border: 1px solid #aaa; padding: 2px;” class=”tooltip hide_non_quals” tip=”&lt;strong&gt;9 x SO / IP&lt;/strong&gt;&lt;br&gt;For recent years, leaders need 1 IP&lt;br&gt;per team game played” align=”center”>SO/9</th>
</tr>
</thead>
<tbody>
<tr data-row=”0″ class=”” id=””>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”left”>2004</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>5.63</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>3</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>8.0</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>84</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>1.000</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>6.8</td>
</tr>
<tr data-row=”1″ class=”” id=””>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”left”>2005</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>3.53</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>33</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>201.1</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>124</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>1.217</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>5.2</td>
</tr>
<tr data-row=”2″ class=”” id=””>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”left”>2006</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>4.82</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>32</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>194.1</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>92</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>1.539</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>5.0</td>
</tr>
<tr data-row=”3″ class=”” id=””>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”left”>2007</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>3.95</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>34</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>230.0</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>108</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>1.217</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>5.5</td>
</tr>
<tr data-row=”4″ class=”” id=””>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”left”>2008</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>4.69</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>33</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>197.2</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>90</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>1.401</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>5.1</td>
</tr>
<tr data-row=”7″ class=”” id=””>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”left”>2009</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>4.05</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>31</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>195.1</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>104</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>1.316</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>7.5</td>
</tr>
<tr data-row=”8″ class=”” id=””>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”left”>2010</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>4.82</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>29</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>175.2</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>84</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>1.417</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; ” align=”right”>6.9</td>
</tr>
</tbody>
<tfoot>
<tr id=”” data-row=”9″ class=””>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; background-color: #ddd; font-weight: bold; font-size: 0.9em;” colspan=”1″ align=”left”>7 Seasons</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; background-color: #ddd; font-weight: bold; font-size: 0.9em;” align=”right”>4.30</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; background-color: #ddd; font-weight: bold; font-size: 0.9em;” align=”right”>195</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; background-color: #ddd; font-weight: bold; font-size: 0.9em;” align=”right”>1202.1</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; background-color: #ddd; font-weight: bold; font-size: 0.9em;” align=”right”>99</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; background-color: #ddd; font-weight: bold; font-size: 0.9em;” align=”right”>1.343</td>
<td onclick=”” onmouseout=”” onmouseover=”” style=”border: 1px solid #ccc; padding: 2px 3px 2px 2px; white-space: nowrap; background-color: #ddd; font-weight: bold; font-size: 0.9em;” align=”right”>5.8</td>
</tr>
</tfoot>
</table><div class=”sr_share” style=”font-size: 0.83em;” id=””>Provided by <a href=”http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/sharing.shtml?utm_source=direct&amp;utm_medium=Share&amp;utm_campaign=ShareTool”>Baseball-Reference.com</a&gt;: <a href=”http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/blantjo01.shtml?sr&amp;utm_source=direct&amp;utm_medium=Share&amp;utm_campaign=ShareTool#pitching_simple”>View Original Table</a><br>Generated 3/26/2011.</div>
</div>
Year ERA G IP ERA+ WHIP SO/9
2004 5.63 3 8.0 84 1.000 6.8
2005 3.53 33 201.1 124 1.217 5.2
2006 4.82 32 194.1 92 1.539 5.0
2007 3.95 34 230.0 108 1.217 5.5
2008 4.69 33 197.2 90 1.401 5.1
2009 4.05 31 195.1 104 1.316 7.5
2010 4.82 29 175.2 84 1.417 6.9
7 Seasons 4.30 195 1202.1 99 1.343 5.8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 3/26/2011.

For those of you not familiar with ERA+, a number over 100 means the pitcher was above league average while a number below 100 means the pitcher was below league average. I added red text to highlight the every other year pattern. So, good things in 2011?

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