Stats & Info: Joe Blanton

Joneses change up outcome with homers

August, 17, 2012
Chipper Jones
At 40 years old, Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones should be slowing down, right?

Thursday, Jones matched his age with his 40th career multi-home run game. His second homer of the night traveled 437 feet, his longest since Aug. 31, 2011, off John Lannan (also 437 feet).

Elias tells us Jones is just the fifth player in Braves history, dating back to 1876, to have a multihomer game at age 40 or older. The others? Babe Ruth (1935, 3 HRs), Hank Aaron (1974), Darrell Evans (twice in 1989) and Julio Franco (at age 46 in 2005).

Plus, among players 40 or older whose primary position was third base, Jones' .315 batting average would be the highest in the live ball era. He's currently ahead of two Hall of Famers in Luke Appling and Wade Boggs.

It’s been quite a season for Jones, whose two blasts put him ahead of Dave Winfield for 32nd place on the all-time list.

They also gave him 2,700 career hits, good enough for fifth-most among active players.

Another Jones who made noise on Thursday was the Pittsburgh Pirates' Garrett Jones, who hit a pair of three-run homers against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Elias says the Pirates didn’t have a home run with two or three runners on base in their first 46 games this season but have had 21 three-run or grand slam home runs in their past 72 games, five more than any other major league team since May 27.

Thursday marked Garrett Jones’ fifth multihomer game of his career. His first-inning home run came off a changeup from Joe Blanton, a pitch he has had success against this season.

Garrett Jones is hitting .340 in at-bats ending with changeups, including six home runs, tied for second-most in the majors.

It’s been a season of change for the Pirates given they are 12 games above .500 and holding on the second NL wild-card spot. After all, the Pirates haven’t had a winning season or made the playoffs since 1992.

The Pirates also haven’t had a 15-game winner since Todd Ritchie in 1999. The 12-year drought tied the longest in major league history with the Rays from 1998-2009.

That all changed Thursday thanks to A.J. Burnett, who recorded his second 15-win season of his career and first since 2008, when he won 18 games.

The Pirates are now 18-4 in Burnett's 22 starts this season, giving them a win percentage of just under 82 percent.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that would tie the highest single-season mark by any starter in Pirates franchise history.
The National League Wild Card race goes to the final day with the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals tied at 89-72. The Braves entered Tuesday with a one game lead in the Wild Card, but lost 7-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies, while the Cardinals scored 13 of the game’s final 14 runs against the Houston Astros in a 13-6 win.

In Wednesday’s Wild Card madness, Atlanta’s Tim Hudson gets the call at home against the Phillies (7 ET on ESPN2). Over the last two years, Hudson is 21-9 with a 2.38 ERA at home, including a 2.29 ERA there this season. Last year, Hudson pitched in the final game of the regular season, when the Braves clinched a playoff spot. He allowed four ER in seven IP and got the win over the Phillies.

Chris Carpenter will start for the Cardinals against the Astros at Minute Maid Park, where he has not won since September 3, 2005 (he’s made five starts in Houston since that last win). If both teams are still tied after Wednesday, a one-game tiebreaker would be Thursday at Atlanta.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since 1995, 13 different teams have clinched a playoff spot on the final day of the postseason, not including regular season playoff games. The biggest September deficit ever overcome by a team that made the postseason was 8½ games by the 1964 Cardinals, who went on to win the World Series. The 2011 Cardinals were 8½ out after games of September 5.

Story to Watch
The Braves were 81-55 through September 1 and seemingly in command of the NL wild card race, with an 8½ game lead over the Cardinals. They were leading the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 at home on September 2, but blew the game, losing 8-6. That started their collapse.

What’s gone wrong for the Braves and who’s to blame? Well, Atlanta is struggling against left-handed pitching during its September to forget. The team is hitting .231/.263/.332 against left-handed pitching this month. The Phillies will start the right-handed Joe Blanton but lefty Cole Hamels is expected to pitch in relief.

Those who were reliable in the Braves bullpen in the first five months of the season have not been in the final month. Jonny Venters has a 6.08 ERA since August 26. Craig Kimbrel has a 6.75 ERA since September 9.

Key Stats
Chipper Jones has hit a wall. He’s 8-for-41 (.195) in his last 12 games. Brian McCann is hitting .180 in 36 games since coming off the DL in mid-August.

With a win, the Phillies would set a franchise record with their 102nd win of the season.

Story to Watch
The Cardinals looked to be out of the Wild Card race, but have won 15 of 19, including a 3-game sweep of the Braves, to move into a tie for the NL Wild Card lead. What’s gone right for St. Louis?

Albert Pujols has looked like the Albert Pujols we’ve come to expect at this time of the season. He’s hitting .363 (fifth-best in the NL) with five HR and 19 RBI (tied for fifth-most in the NL) in September. Pujols had one of the biggest hits for the Cardinals, a two-run game-tying single with two outs in the ninth inning of the series opener against the Braves, a game the Cardinals would win in extra innings.

Key Stat
Pujols is hitting .300 with 98 RBI. He has never finished a season batting under .300 (he will do so with a 1-for-4 or worse Wednesday if the season ends) or with fewer than 100 RBI.
In the San Francisco Bay Area fans describe Giants baseball as "torture". The Giants picked up their sixth win this postseason Wednesday; this time by a narrow 6-5 margin. That is San Francisco's fifth one-run win this postseason. They finished tied for second in the National League with 28 one-run wins during the regular season. Who led the NL? The Phillies with 29.

Buster Posey
After going 6-16 during the NLDS against the Braves, Buster Posey was mired in a 1-11 slump through the first 3 games of the NLCS. He picked a good time to break out. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Buster Posey is just the fifth rookie to have four hits and two RBIs in a postseason game. The others are Jacoby Ellsbury (2007 Red Sox), Miguel Cabrera (2003 Marlins), Joe Garagiola (1946 Cardinals) and Freddie Lindstrom (1924 Giants).
Pablo Sandoval came up with a key 2-run double for the Giants. Last season that wouldn't have surprised many, but this season Sandoval hit .208 with runners in scoring position. That was the 3rd-worst among NL hitters with at least 100 AB with RISP. He was 0-1 in the postseason entering Game 4. He had just 2 hits in his last 12 at-bats with RISP to end the regular season.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner was lifted with a 2-1 lead with two outs in the top of the fifth inning, and then in the bottom of the inning, Phillies starter Joe Blanton was removed from the game with two out and Philadelphia holding a 4-3 lead. That marked the first time in major league history that both starting pitchers were lifted from a postseason game one out away from being eligible for a victory.

This is the third time the San Francisco Giants have been up 3-1 in a Best-of-7 LCS. The two previous times (1989 against the Cubs and 2002 against the Cardinals), they closed out the series in five games. As for the Phillies, they are down 3-1 for the fifth time in franchise history. They've won Game 5 twice (2009 World Series, 1993 World Series), but they have never won a series when down 3-1.

Juan Uribe
Juan Uribe's sacrifice fly was the fourth game-ending postseason RBI in franchise history and the first since Kenny Lofton in the 2002 NLCS. Fred Merkle is the only other Giant with a walk-off sac fly (Game 5 of the 1911 World Series against the Philadelphia Athletics).

The last time the Phillies lost a postseason game by walk-off was in one of the most dramatic games in history -- Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Joe Carter hit a home run off Mitch Williams to win the game and the series.
A quick preview of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants have won eight of their last 11 home games against the Phillies, combining regular season and postseason.

The Phillies have won five of their last six postseason Game 4s (lost their last one to the Yankees in 2009 World Series). They’ve won eight straight postseason Game 4s against NL teams, last losing one in 1978 to the Dodgers. The Giants, on the other hand, have won four of their last five postseason Game 4s.

The Phillies trailed 2-1 in a best-of-7 NLCS only one other time (1993) and managed to win that series. However, they’ve trailed 2-1 in four other best-of-7 series (each in the World Series), and lost all four.

The Phillies have lost three of their last four postseason games against left-handed starters, beating Jonathan Sanchez earlier in this series. Prior to losing the three of four, they had won six straight postseason games in which the opposing team started a left-hander.

Madison Bumgarner, who starts for the Giants, has never faced the Phillies and has never faced a current Phillies hitter. And the Phillies have a decision to make with left fielder Raul Ibanez, who is slumping. He is 0-11 in this series and 0 for his last 15 overall. He hit .268 against lefties in the regular season and struck out in 23 percent of those plate appearances (.277, 14.4 percent against righties). His replacement would likely be Ben Francisco, who hit .284 with all six of his home runs against lefties, and .253 against righties.

The Phillies are 7-for-44 (.159) with runners in scoring position in this postseason (including 0-5 in Game 3) after hitting .327 with RISP in the postseason last season. They’re hitting .203 overall this postseason, .194 in this series.

The Phils counter with Joe Blanton, who is 2-0 with a 3.89 career ERA in eight postseason appearances. However, in his five career starts with Wally Bell calling balls and strikes, he’s 1-4 with a 5.70 ERA and a K/BB ratio less than two. Bell will be behind the plate tonight.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy will have a decision to make in center field tonight against the right-handed Blanton. Aaron Rowand, who hits right-handed, is 2-for-4 with two doubles in his career against Blanton, while Andres Torres, the lefty who was benched in Game 3, is 1-for-3 with a home run.

Red-hot Giants outfielder Cody Ross is 3-for-11 with a home run and six strikeouts in his career against Blanton and has struck out in his last four plate appearances against Blanton. Teammate Pat Burrell is 3-for-12 against Blanton, with three HR and five strikeouts.

Ross has an RBI in each of the last four postseason games in which he had a plate appearance. The last Giant to do that is Edgardo Alfonzo in 2003 (many Giants have done four straight). With an RBI in Game 4 tonight, Ross would tie Barry Bonds for the Giants record.

Phillies continue to roll at home

July, 26, 2010
Phillies 5, Rockies 4
Phillies sweep 4 from the Rockies and have won 5 straight, matching their longest win streak of the season. Philadelphia has also won 8 straight home games, its longest such streak since winning 16 straight at home in 1991. Joe Blanton earns his first win in his last 6 starts. Charlie Manuel wins his 500th game as Phillies manager, becoming the 4th to reach that plateau with the franchise. Jason Hammel loses his third straight road start. The Rockies have lost 6 straight since last Tuesday's 10-0 win over Florida. It's Colorado's longest losing streak since a 7-game slide in September 2008. Rockies finish 2-9 on their longest road trip of the season.

A-Rod sitting pretty

July, 22, 2010
Alex Rodriguez hit home run No. 599 Thursday in the Yankees' 10-4 win over Kansas City. Chances are, A-Rod reaches the big milestone Friday.

Among all pitchers Rodriguez has faced at least 10 times, his best career OPS (2.557) is against Brian Bannister - Kansas City's starter Friday. Rodriguez has three HR in 10 career plate appearances vs. Bannister. The rest of A-Rod's personal top-4 is Joe Blanton (2.299), Jeremy Affeldt (2.227) and Kenny Rogers (2.046).

The Closer: Pedroia and pitching

June, 25, 2010
Dustin Pedroia had himself quite a night, setting career highs with 3 HR and 15 total bases, and becoming the second Red Sox 2B with 3 HR in one game. Not surprisingly, three of his hits -- 2 HR and a double -- came against fastballs. Pedroia entered the game hitting .313 and slugging .544 against the heater with all nine of his homers. He was hitting just .224 and slugging only .318 against offspeed pitches but went 2-2 on Thursday with another HR. His offspeed HR came against a slider -- his first against that pitch since August 16th of last season -- and it came in extra innings on the only slider he saw.

Pedroia's three home runs traveled a combined 1,154 feet. His first HR of the game went 396 feet, accounting for the longest homer of his career. His third HR of the game, which proved to be the game-winner, traveled 373 feet thanks to 42 feet of "atmosphere assistance" (wind, temperature and altitude). Only Coors Field and Minute Maid Park's friendly confines would have yielded a home run on that hit. The MLB average distance on home runs since 2006 is 398 feet, so he's never once hit an average-length home run.

Despite what happened in Colorado, there were several starting pitchers who turned in great outings on Thursday. These four guys pitched into the eighth inning and recorded eight or more strikeouts, and not surprisingly, three of their teams won.

Why Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow beat the Cardinals:
- Battled. Morrow had 2-0, 2-1 or 3-ball counts to 12 batters and retired 10 of them (83 pct; MLB avg: 54 pct).
- Control. Morrow only went to 3-ball counts on three of his 29 batters faced (10 pct; MLB avg: 19 pct).
- Slider and curve. The Cards combined to go 1-9 against Morrow's top two pitches. For the season, opposing hitters are 19-103 (.184) against the slider and curve combined.
NOTES: Fifth straight quality start. Threw his most pitches and most strikes of season (112, 71)

Why Mariners starter Felix Hernandez controlled the Cubs:
- Used the whole plate. If the hitting zone is divided into nine sections (low & away, low & in, etc.), Felix was an equal-opportunity hurler with his 117 pitches. He threw at least 10 pitches in EIGHT of the nine zones (he threw only seven "middle/up" but hitters were 0-4). His most common spot was "middle/down" - 20 pitches and the Cubs were 0-5.
- The slider. The Cubs were 0-3 against the pitch, lowering hitters' season average to .176 vs. Felix's slider.
- Weak contact. Inside Edge determines if a ball is "well-hit." The MLB well-hit average this season is .267. Only five balls in 31 at-bats (.161) against Hernandez were deemed to be well-hit.

Why Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo shut out the Twins:- 80 pct strikes when behind in the count (most in a start since April 24, 2009) meant he wasn't behind for long
- Good idea as hitters went 1-for-18 (.056) when he was ahead in the count (.168 entering Thursday)
- 66.4 pct fastballs, his most in a start since August 14, 2009
- 65.6 pct fastballs with 2 strikes (51.3 pct entering Thursday)
- Got 9 K with his fastball (most in his career)

Why Phillies starter Joe Blanton beat the Indians:- Strike pct of 75.0, his most in any appearance in his entire career
- Fastball averaged 90.8 MPH, nearly 2 MPH more than his season average entering Thursday
- Set up offspeed stuff: 11 misses with non-fastballs (12 in last 3 starts combined)
- Chase pct of 41.2, miss pct of 45.8 vs offspeed stuff (32.1 and 26.2, respectively, entering Thursday)
- Overall chase pct of 41.0 and overall miss pct of 25.5 (both highs for a single start this season)
- 14 swings-and-misses (had 15 in last 3 starts combined)

The Closer: Inside (the park) edition

May, 20, 2010
Hit Tracker
- Mets outfielder Angel Pagan's 4th-inning inside-the-park home run against the Washington Nationals traveled 396 feet and hit the center-field wall. Despite being a solid shot, only Coors Field's friendly confines (and atmosphere) would have yielded an out-of-the-park home run.

- The longest home run of the night came off the bat of Arizona's Adam LaRoche, whose second shot of the game traveled 435 feet to center field. Surprisingly, the blast wouldn't have been a home run in every MLB park. The cavernous center field of Minute Maid Park in Houston would have gobbled it up.

Why Tigers Starter Justin Verlander Won:
- Controlled the count. Verlander only went to a 2-0 count once in Wednesday's game against Oakland. It was to Daric Barton in the bottom of the seventh inning who then flied out to center on a 2-2 pitch.
- Finished off Athletics hitters efficiently. Verlander retired 15 of 19 A's hitters with two strikes (78.9%), including five strikeouts.
- Used his fastball early and often. Verlander threw 25 first pitch fastballs to the 30 batters he faced, and 21 of them were strikes. Oakland hitters only swung at one first pitch fastball all night, a third-inning pitch Adam Rosales flied out on.

Why Red Sox Starter Clay Buchholz Won:
- Deadly with two strikes. Buchholz held the Twins to 1-13 (.077) in two-strike counts, and seven of the Twins 14 plate appearances that reached two strikes ended in a strikeout (50.0 K pct). Buchholz especially controlled Minnesota hitters with the slider in two-strike counts, holding Twins hitters to 0-5 and four strikeouts on the pitch.
- Started innings strong and maintained efficiency. Buchholz retired seven of the nine leadoff men he faced, and ended 15 of 28 (53.6%) plate appearances against him in three pitches or less (MLB avg - 47%). Buchholz also went to a three-ball count only four times all game, holding the Twins to 0-3 and one walk.
- Grounded the Twins. Buchholz recorded 11 of his outs on groundouts, tied for his second-highest total this season. Buchholz also recorded seven outs on groundballs from the fifth to the seventh inning, with only a Justin Morneau single preventing them from being consecutive. The batter after Morneau (Michael Cuddyer) grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

Why Marlins Starter Anibal Sanchez Won:
- Retired the first batter of the inning in all seven innings pitched.
- Hitters were 1-10 against the slider (opp BA against slider is now .098).
- 76 percent of sliders went for strikes (MLB average: 63 percent).

Looking Ahead
- Clayton Kershaw has held the Padres to a .186 batting average since the start of the 2009 season, but has been especially good against San Diego lefties, who are just 1-17 against him. Lefties do not have a single well-hit ball against Kershaw (0-for-17). Also, he's allowed just six hits in 39 at-bats when he is ahead in the count.

- Alfonso Soriano is scheduled to face Joe Blanton on Thursday, a pitcher he’s had success against in his career (5-14, 2 extra-base hits). Soriano has been hot in May, batting .357 with four home runs while Blanton has struggled in three starts since coming off the DL (1-2, 5.49 ERA). Opponents have jumped on Blanton’s first pitch (6-14, 2 HRs), a count Soriano has feasted on this season (6-11, HR, 2 doubles).