Fat guys. Fatties. Fatsos. Fatty fat fat fat-faced fatbutts. Whatever you want to call them, America has always loved its lovable fat friends. I guess that's why I called them lovable in the sentence I just wrote. From Yokozuna to Chris Farley, there's just something about fat guys that makes you want to give them a big bear hug, a friendly slap on the back, or a stern warning about the dangers of excessive, wanton daily cocaine abuse.
Baseball-wise, the new thing I'm noticing is that fat pitchers are sportswriters' new best friends, perhaps not supplanting tiny, gritty speedsters, but certainly elbowing them aside for a spot at the (dinner?) table. My evidence? I vaguely remember a piece awhile ago extolling Bob Wickman's blue-collar git-er-done-ness, and now there's this
:Blanton belongs with top hurlers
Right-hander proves that wins outweigh other stats
Joe Blanton? Proves the supremacy of wins? That's a lot to put on his plate! I mean, that premise is pretty hard to swallow. I'm going to have to chew on that one for awhile. If he's going to win that many ballgames, he better stay hungry! If Joe Blanton lives up to this article, I'll eat my hat ... if he doesn't eat it first!
Ahem.In 2005, Joe Blanton tied the Oakland record for victories by a rookie with 12, set the Oakland record with 32 starts, and his 3.53 ERA was the best among all big-league rookies with at least 100 innings logged.
Oakland. Record. For victories. By a rookie. I would like to call an emergency meeting of the Veterans Committee to induct Joseph Blanton into the Hall of Fame immediately.Last season he tied then-ace Barry Zito for the team lead in wins, and his 16 victories were the fifth-most in Oakland history by a second-year starter.
Fifth-most. Victories. Oakland. History. Second-year. Starter.
Aflac Trivia Question: Can you name the four Oakland pitchers who had more victories in their second year? The answer after the break!
[Foxwoods commercial. "The wonder of it all ... "]
And we're back. The correct answer is: shoot yourself in the face if you think this means Joe Blanton is an excellent pitcher.Yet when talk around baseball turns to the best young hurlers in the game, the 26-year-old righty barely gets mentioned.
Why? More than likely, it's a combination of factors.
These factors include:
1. He is not, in fact, one of the best young hurlers in the game.
2. He has a career WHIP of 1.37.
3. Last year, that WHIP ballooned to a Joe Blanton-size 1.54.
4. He has a career K/9 rate of 5.0.
5. Fat discrimination? Is that what you're implying?But Blanton's 4.82 ERA and unsightly .309 opponents' batting average -- the highest OBA by a big-league starter with more than 15 wins since World War II -- certainly rank near the top the list.
Wow. That OBA is
unsightly. So much so that I would actually expect Blanton to do a little better next year, since it's possible that better luck on balls in play will give him a sightlier OBA.And if you wanted to make a case in Blanton's favor, Friday was not the night to do it. His first pitch against the D-backs at Phoenix Municipal Stadium was blooped into left field for a double, starting a string of five consecutive hits that including a mammoth three-run homer to left-center by Carlos Quentin.
You are making a compelling case for Blanton, sir. This piece has officially lost its way.The D-backs batted around in that inning, Chad Tracy added a solo homer in the third and Blanton left his third start of the spring with a line of seven earned runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 ugly innings.
Whose side are you on? Are you a fat-hater or a fat-lover? Get on the fat train quickly, son. It's leaving the station very, very slowly (because it's too fat to fit on the tracks).Yet according to one longtime and respected scout, who works for one of Oakland's American League rivals and was on hand for Friday night's first-inning beatdown, Blanton does belong in any conversation about top young pitchers.
My impersonation of this article:
Facts, facts, facts, and spring training anecdotes showing that Joe Blanton is not that good. BUT: one guy somewhere thinks he is, in fact, that good.As long as those conversing are willing to evaluate Blanton in fairly unconventional terms.
"Almost every baseball man, and pretty much every pitcher you ask, will tell you that ERA and opponents' batting average tell you how good a pitcher is," said the scout.
Now, I don't qualify as a baseball man, and I'm certainly not a pitcher or someone who has ever watched a major league baseball game. But fuck it, I will tell you that neither of those things are the best as far as telling you how good a pitcher is. What is? I don't know, some combination of defense-independent ERA, K rate, K/BB, WHIP, WARP, and belt size?"And I don't necessarily disagree. But every once in a while, a kid comes along that you can't really judge on that alone, and I think Blanton is one of them.
Let me guess: you have absolutely no common sense justification for this opinion. "He's one of those guys who probably won't ever have a top-10 ERA, and he's probably always going to give up a fair amount of hits. But I think he'll always win a lot of games, and the last time I checked, the team that wins the most is the one that gets rings at the end of the year."
Thanks to reader Jon for a response to this one. According to Jon: "12 teams won more games than the Cardinals last year ... Over the last 20 years, the team with the most regular season wins has won the World Series twice."
And of course, the statistical category misleadingly named "wins" for pitchers does not accurately measure how good a pitcher is at actually getting your team wins.Count A's manager Bob Geren -- and former A's manager Ken Macha -- among those who agree.
"Of course you'd like to see him lower that ERA," Geren said earlier this spring. "But if you offered me 16 more wins this year from him, with the same ERA, I'd take it."
I am a strange demon with special Joe Blanton wins-related supernatural powers, and Bob Geren, I am offering you this deal right this second. What an odd thing for this man to say. The crazy thing is, Joe Blanton is a beautiful case study for the capriciousness and whimsicality of the Win Gods. In 2005, he was very good for 33 starts but only "won" 12 games -- and people wrote articles
bemoaning his lack of run support. In 2006, he was very bad for 31 starts and "won" 16 games -- and now an article is written about how he is one of the best young pitchers in the game.
Again, because of pro-fat bias.
Macha, who last October was questioned by some for leaving Blanton out of his playoff rotation, struck a similar chord.
"It was kind of funny that I took some heat for not starting him," Macha said. "It was mostly fans, and it always, 'How can you leave a guy with 16 wins out?' Well, what happened to ERA and [opponents'] batting average being so important?
I understand that you're asking that question rhetorically, Ken Macha, but I'll answer anyway. The fans who were asking how you can leave a guy with 16 wins out of the playoff rotation were stupid fans. The people who preferred using ERA were smarter. They were different subsets of people."I think it showed that no matter what you hear from so-called baseball people, wins are still what matters to fans."
Wins and pie-eating contest-winning ability.How does Blanton manage to win so often despite giving up a lot of hits and runs? The scout thinks it starts with heart.
The same beer-battered, bacon-wrapped heart that yielded him a mere 12 wins the year before. To be fair, Blanton's heart doubles in size every year (having originally been grown in a laboratory from David Eckstein stem cells and then implanted into his chest cavity in March of 2005)."Certain kids might come up with great arms, great stuff, but they don't know how to compete," he said. "With Blanton, he doesn't have the greatest arm, and his stuff is very good but not lights-out, but he competes real, real well. You'd never know it just from watching his demeanor, but he's a tough son of a gun out there.
"That's why I wouldn't read much into whatever he does in spring games. When it matters, he gets tough when he's in trouble, he handles the middle part of the order well and he pitches well late with a lead. That's how you win a bunch of big-league games."
I'm now fairly convinced this memo was sent to all baseball writers:
FAT PITCHERS, TINY BATTERS: A SPORTSWRITER'S GUIDE TO BASEBALL
We're all friends, right? Let's start having a unified front on which players to love. Our proposal is right in the title of this memo. First: tiny batters are fun and easy to root for. They're so little! How'd they make it to the majors? Must have big hearts! Underdoggy scrappers, those guys. Second: fat pitchers are fun because they look so out of shape. We can relate to them, right? Plus, they must be real blue collar fellas, looking all fat like that. Literally lunch pail guys, you feel me? Bob Wickman must be trying harder than K-Rod. K-Rod can just stand there looking all normal-sized and pitcher-like and the ball throws itself. Wickman can barely move. He must have a lot of heart, daring to compete with all those fit guys!
If you're a tiny batter, you fight and scratch and claw during every at bat.
If you're a fat pitcher, you may not look the part, but deep down you know how to compete.
If you're a tiny batter, you work eight times as hard as normal guys and concentrate fifty times as intensely.
If you're a fat pitcher, your gut makes you gutsy.
If you're a tiny batter, your heart is bigger than people might think.
If you're a fat pitcher, your heart is exactly as big as people think: dangerously oversize and about to explode.
Labels: fat pitchers, joe blanton, tiny batters, wins