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2009 Year in Review

Year in Review: Joe Blanton

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, November 09, 2009 03:45 PM Comments: 25

Philadelphia Phillies' Joe Blanton throws during the second inning of Game 4 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the New York Yankees Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)From one big guy to another, we look at the biggest pitcher of the crew, Joe Blanton.

For a stretch of roughly two months, Blanton was the most reliable starter in the Phillies rotation.  On July 5, he held the Mets to four hits over 7 1/3 innings, allowing no runs.  From that point until the 5th of September, Blanton would put together 11 straight quality starts, while lowering his ERA nearly a run. For being “only” a number three or four starter, that’s was quite impressive to see for such a lengthy period.

Beyond that ridiculous streak, the season as a whole was certainly a success for Big Joe.  He finished with a team-high 12 wins (tied with Happ and Moyer) and finished with a 4.05 ERA, a respectable figure for a mid-rotation type pitcher.  His 163 strikeouts on the year were second to Cole Hamels, and were a career best for Blanton.

The middle months were clearly the apex of the 2009 season as Blanton struggled with inconsistencies in April and September.  The opening month was disastrous for the Tennessean, as he allowed 19 earned runs in just over 20 innings. He then blazed through the summer before fading a bit in the final month.

September, and for one start in October, proved to be erratic for Blanton.  He began the month with the last quality start of the 11-game personal streak, then allowed Washington to tag him for eight runs in 4 2/3 innings.  Following that dud, Big Joe did not give up a run in back-to-back games, then was spanked for 10 earned during his last two starts of the season.

In the playoffs, Blanton was utilized precariously, beginning as a starter, while working his way back into the rotation in the Dodgers series. The best word to describe him during the postseason has to be “adequate.”  He did not wow anyone with his overall performance, but was his usual six inning, three-or-four earned run self. His mantra of keeping the Phillies in most games served him well in the playoffs, although his World Series start ended in defeat.

For the 2009 season, Blanton made slightly less than $5.5 million, and will surely be due for a raise this off-season.  This is his final year of salary arbitration, meaning he can become a free agent in 2011 should the Phillies not lock him up long term.

For at least one more season, Blanton will be a major part of the Phillies rotation.  The fans enjoy his consistency, his gamer nature, and his blue-collar presence on the mound. After a solid, but unspectacular ’09 campaign, you can expect all of the above to continue in 2010 here in Philadelphia.

2009 numbers: 31 starts, 195.1 IP 12-8, 4.05 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 163/59 K/BB

GRADE: 5.8/10 – Blanton has proven to be an adequate middle of the rotation starter.  He won’t wow you, but he’ll do his best to keep the Phils in most games.

Pat Gallen can be reached via email at Pat@Philliesnation.com

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Year in Review: Ryan Howard

Posted by Pat Gallen, Sun, November 08, 2009 02:48 PM Comments: 17

Over the next few weeks, Phillies Nation will break down each player on the Phillies roster and grade their 2009 season on a very unofficial 1-10 scale.  The players will be chosen in no particular order.

Philadelphia Phillies' Ryan Howard leaves the batting cage during baseball practice, Monday, Oct. 26, 2009, in Philadelphia. The Phillies face the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the Major League Baseball World Series on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)Big Brown.  The Big Piece.  Ryno.  The Big Man.  Call him what you will; it doesn’t really matter.  The dude continues to rake no matter what his nickname is.

Ryan Howard has launched himself into super-stardom, and it’s not because of his Subway commercials.  His four straight seasons of 40-plus homers and 135-plus RBI will do that to a player.  Offensively, he is a juggernaut and provided he stays healthy, the Phillies should be able to enjoy this for many more years.

Defensively, Howard made strides toward becoming a more complete player, although there are still some issues with his fielding.  His errors dropped from 19 to 14  after losing approximately 30 pounds in the off-season prior to ’09. His newfound range on the diamond was apparent from the get-go.  Howard does struggle with the relay to second base on certain throws, and at times has lapses on seemingly simple plays, however, he’s no longer being called a DH.

During the regular season, his numbers once again held steady.  A .279 batting average was a pleasant surprise, especially after many believed he would never trend back toward his MVP-season figure (.313).  He launched 45 homers, knocked in 141 runs, and even stole eight bases.  His doubles jumped from 26 in 2008 to 37 in 2009, a sign that he is moving away from being a “three true outcomes” player.  His 75 walks were tied for 16th in the National League, so a little more selectivity next season would certainly be welcome.

In the playoffs, we saw two different players.  We saw the Ryan Howard that can easily carry a franchise on his broad shoulders.  We also witnessed the transformation from NLCS MVP into World Series goat.  Through the first two postseason rounds, Howard knocked home a ridiculous 14 runs, and in the process tied a record by doing it in eight straight games.  Hot.  Six games later, Howard was mired in a 4-for-23 World Series slump and fingers were being pointed toward him as to why the Phillies lost.  Cold.

There’s not much you can complain about with Ryan Howard.  You know exactly what you will get from him year to year.  He’ll give you jacks, he’ll give you some palpitations defensively, and he’ll strike out a whole bunch. When he gets hot, he’s a veritable sunburst.  When he gets cold, it’s like hell freezing over for a week or two at a time.

Looking past the numbers, Ryan Howard is downright durable. He’s played in 625 of a possible 648 games over his four full major league seasons.  It would be wise for the Phillies to get a respectable backup first baseman to give him a breather on occasion, since the games played are adding up.  Still, it’s nice to know you have a consistent, powerful first baseman that will be there every single day.

Ryan Howard has been, and will be, beloved in Philadelphia as long as he is in red pinstripes.  Was a hell of a year for the Big Guy, or Big Piece, or whatever you want to call him.

2009 numbers: 160 games, .279 avg., 172 H, 45 HR, 141 RBI, 105 R, .931 OPS

GRADE: 9/10 – The only thing keeping Howard from being a “10″ is the defensive liabilities, and penchant for strikeouts.

Pat Gallen can be reached via email at Pat@Philliesnation.com

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