Joe Blanton pitched in a variety of roles in the Dodgers bullpen in 2016, working his way up to the primary setup man in the second half of the year. The veteran right-hander put together a strong year but will probably be overshadowed by the home runs he allowed in October.
What went right
After he was out of baseball in 2014, the former big league starter made his way back to the majors in relief in 2015, and put up a second straight solid season for the Dodgers in 2016.
Blanton put up a 2.48 ERA in 75 games, striking out 80 in 80 innings with 26 walks. Blanton led the Dodgers in appearances and innings, the first Dodgers pitcher with 80 innings in relief since Ramon Troncoso in 2009.
Right-handers hit just .198/.250/.337 against the right-handed Blanton, but left-handers were even worse, hitting .186/.288/.258. Overall he was 29th in the majors in OPS allowed (.577) among MLB relief pitchers who faced at least 100 hitters, second only to Kenley Jansen on the Dodgers.
Blanton allowed runs in consecutive appearances just once all season — July 26 against the Rays, and July 29 against the Diamondbacks.
He carried over his strong regular season into the NLDS, pitching in four of the five games against the Nationals while tossing five scoreless frames, including four big outs in the third and fourth innings in his earliest appearance of the season, as the bridge from Rich Hill to Julio Urias in the all-hands-on-deck Game 5 clincher.
Also, Blanton made poor Seth eat his words, almost literally:
What went wrong
After allowing just seven home runs in 80 innings during the regular season, Blanton allowed three home runs in the NLCS. Most notable was the grand slam by Miguel Montero, who crushed a slider left over the plate to win Game 1.
Blanton also allowed a two-run home run to Addison Russell to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning of Game 5.
Stats: 7-2, 2.48 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 80 K, 26 BB, 80 IP, 1.7 rWAR, 0.9 fWAR
Salary: $4 million base salary, plus another $1 million in bonuses for pitching 70 innings
Game of the year
Blanton retired all six batters he faced, including three strikeouts, in two scoreless innings against the Cubs to earn the win at Wrigley Field on May 31. It matched Blanton’s longest outing of the season.
Blanton is a free agent.