Joseph Matthew Blanton
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 225 lb.
- School University of Kentucky
- High School Franklin-Simpson High School
- Debut September 21, 2004
Pitcher Joe Blanton was an unimpressive 13-12, 5.11 during his three years at the University of Kentucky. After he led the Southeastern Conference with 133 strikeouts in 100 innings as a junior, he was chosen by the Oakland Athletics in the first round of the 2002 amateur draft (the 24th overall selection). He was signed by scout Rich Sparks for $1.4 million and made his pro debut that season, going 1-1, 3.14 with 15 K and 2 BB in four games for the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League and 0-1, 7.50 with 6 K and 6 BB in two games for the Modesto A's of the Carolina League.
He split 2003 between the Kane County Cougars of the Class A Midwest League and the Midland Rockhounds of the AA Texas League, going 11-8 with a 2.29 ERA and 174 strikeouts between the two stops, before making one postseason appearance out of the bullpen for the AAA Sacramento Rivercats. He led the Midwest League with 144 strikeouts and was second to John Maine in total minor league strikeouts. He was picked as the #5 prospect in the Midwest League by Baseball America and the #20 pitching prospect in the minors. He was 7th in the MWL in ERA (2.57).
He returned to Sacramento the next year and went 11-8 with 143 strikeouts, a 4.19 ERA, 35 walks and 199 hits in 176 innings with the club before being recalled by Oakland in September. He was seven strikeouts behind Pacific Coast League leader Dan Haren. He was also the starting pitcher for the USA team in the Futures Game, hurling one scoreless inning, allowing hit and a walk and fanning one.
Blanton spent the entire 2005 season in the A's rotation, going 12-12 with a 3.53 ERA in his rookie season. In 2006, he logged 16 wins for the Athletics, against 12 losses, although he surrendered 241 hits in only 194.1 innings on the mound. His high ERA of 4.82 kept him out of the starting rotation in the post-season, and he made a single appearance as a reliever, pitching two scoreless innings in the Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. He had another solid, if unspectacular season, as a starter for the A's in 2007,posting a record of 14-10, 3.95 and pitching a career-high 230 innings as the team fell out of contention.
On July 18, 2008, Blanton was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for three prospects, second baseman Adrian Cardenas, left-handed pitcher Josh Outman and outfielder Matt Spencer. He was having an unimpressive season for the A's, having gone 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA in 20 starts over the season's first half. However, the division-leading Phillies were interested in his proven capacity to pitch a lot of innings and were not looking for an ace. It was the second trade in a week by Oakland involving a front-line starter, following a deal immediately before the All-Star break that sent Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin to the Chicago Cubs. Blanton went 4-0 in 13 starts for the Phillies in the second half of 2008 and was in the postseason rotation. Blanton won game four of the 2008 World Series and homered, the first World Series home run by a pitcher since Ken Holtzman in the 1974 World Series.
He had a good year as a starter for the Phillies in 2009, going 12-8, 4.05 in 31 starts and pitching 195.1 innings while striking out a career-high 163 batters. He was again active in the postseason, making two relief appearances in the NLDS against the Colorado Rockies, then pitching 6 innings with a no-decision in a start in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He started a game against the New York Yankees in the 2009 World Series, giving up 4 runs in 6 innings for another no-decision. He fell to 9-6 in 2010, making only 28 starts. He did get to start a game in the NLCS, but was pulled out of the game against the San Francisco Giants in the 5th inning and did not figure in the decision. He started 2011 in the Phillies' juggernaut starting rotation that also featured Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, but after making 6 starts and sporting a record of 1-2, 5.50, he was placed on the disabled list with nerve inflammation in his elbow, virtually ending his season. He made a handful of appearances in September, enough to show he was back in health, and to lower his season's ERA to 5.01. He pitched a scoreless inning in his only appearance in the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Blanton was back in the Phillies' starting rotation at the start of the 2012 season, but the team, racked by injuries, had its first poor season in a number of years, and was in a mode to shed some veteran players when the trading deadline rolled around. Blanton was 8-9, 4.59 in 21 games and was rumored to be on the trading block, but survived the deadline, while two teammates, OFs Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were traded. But only three days later, on August 3rd, he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made 10 starts for the Dodgers, going 2-4, 4.99, to finish the season a combined 10-13, 4.71 in 31 games and 191 innings. He then became a free agent after the season and moved across town, signing a deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on December 12th.
Blanton had a rough start to his first season as an Angel in 2013. He was winless over his first 9 starts, being saddled with an ugly record of 0-7, 6.62, and giving up an American League-leading 86 hits over 50 1/3 innings. He finally recorded his first win on May 23rd when he gave up 2 runs in 6 1/3 innings against the Kansas City Royals; however, the Angels needed to use 6 different relievers to finish the game, but hung on for the 5-4 win with Robert Coello picking up his first career save. The rest of the year did not go much better, however, as he finished the year 2-14, 6.04 in 28 games. The Angels did not want him back, and he signed with the Oakland Athletics in 2014. However, he did not make the team, and after a couple of starts for the AAA Sacramento RiverCats, he announced his retirement.
After taking most of the year off, he changed his mind and in February of 2015, signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals. He started the season in the minors, but made it to Kansas City by mid-May, where he was used as a swingman, alongside another veteran, Chris Young who was used in a similar fashion, taking an occasional turn in the starting rotation and helping out in the bullpen when not required to start, On July 19th, he picked up the first save of his career in his 278th major league game, when he relieved Danny Duffy after he had given up a solo homer to Tyler Saladino in the 9th inning to lose a shutout bid against the Chicago White. Blanton then recorded the final three outs to close out the 4-1 win that put the Royals 20 games above .500 at that point. However, when the Royals landed Johnny Cueto in a deal at the trading deadline, it made Joe supernumerary, but he found another good home when on July 29th he was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was 2-2, 3.89 in 15 games in his time with Kansas City, then was even better in Pittsburgh, with a record of 5-0, 1.57 in 21 games, all in relief.
On September 10, 2016, he was playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers when his manager, Dave Roberts put him in a game in a completely unprecedented situation, at least at the major league level. Starter Rich Hill had started the game against the Miami Marlins by retiring the first 21 batters and was still going strong when Roberts decided to pull him out of the game, wary of previous blister problems his starter had encountered. Thus, Blanton entered the game in the 8th with a perfect game on the line, something that had never previously happened. He struck out Christian Yelich and got Marcell Ozuna on a ground out, but Jeff Francoeur broke up the bid with a two-out single to left. Overall, he had a very solid season as a set-up man for closer Kenley Jansen, going 7-2, 2.48 in 75 games, with 80 Ks in 80 innings while recording 28 holds in 29 opportunities. Things did not go as well in the postseason, however. He was excellent in the Division Series against the Washington Nationals, giving up only a hit and a walk in 5 innings of work, but in the NLCS, the Chicago Cubs tagged him for 7 runs in 2 innings and he was charged with two losses, in Games 1 and 5. In the first, he allowed homers to Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler in a 5-run 8th inning, and in Game 5, it was Addison Russell who took him deep, in the 6th.
Blanton became a free agent after the 2016 season and in spite of his season in the previous regular season, he found it hard to find a team, leading observers to comment that the game had now become hostile older players (he had just turned 36), even though they were still solid contributors. In any case, it was announced on February 28, 2017 that he had signed a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals for $1 million.
- 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2006)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (2005 & 2007)
- Won a World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008