Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Albert Pujols: "leaning in" for success...
or turning into a "lean-to"???
(We are swamped, swamped, OK, let's say it again, swamped; hoping for some respite over the next few days to complete a few more items that will make insiders shrug and outsiders, we'll say "stay tuned" at the top of the damn essay for a change.)

Ol' Joe P. is at it again, harping on the struggles of poor little rich guy Albert Pujols, using and ignoring park effects as he goes, piledrivin' a heapin' helpin' of blame on the slow-startin' superstar for his team's current sorry state (the Angels are 18-27 as of this writing).

True enough that Albert has now had three consecutive slow starts in April and May, which doesn't quite make us get into lockstep with the ideological empiricists who cluck a lot about signing older players to large contracts. Makes us think that Albert is not doing what he needs to in order to be in shape for the season, and that his employers might want to get a message to him about it.

As it is, Albert's OPS+ is 105, which is lousy for him but is not something that should be costing his team more than a game, maybe two, up to this point. Joe might be waiting to write another one of these snifflin' pieces about rich little po'boy Josh Hamilton, who took more stuffing out of Arte Moreno's pocket this off-season and is proceeding to have a real live monster of an off-season himself (82 OPS+ thus far).

No, the real reason that the Halos are back in their Village of the Damned mode right now isn't really due to their offense (106 OPS+). It's due to the fact that they let three starting pitchers go during the off-season and replaced one of them with Joe Blanton.

Or, as we've taken to calling him: BLAMton.

Smile,'re making history.
Right now ol' Joe (sorry, hard to keep those Joes straight, especially since both of them have been on a parallel steep decline over the same time frame...) is 0-7, with an ERA of 6.62.

That's bad enough, but here's the freakin' "freak stat" that will cause what's left of your hair to curl: after nine starts, Blanton (sorry, that's BLAMton...) is allowing 15.4 hits per nine innings.

According to the fabulous Play Index at Forman et fil, that's the highest such average for any pitcher with nine or more GS (games started) in the history of the game. (Or, should we say, from 1916 until now; the Play Index only goes that far. But the even the lusty hitting in the 1890s didn't manage to produce a pitcher who exceeds Blanton's H/9 in nine or more starts.)

Claude Willoughby
Les Sweetland
Joe is allowing hits at a significantly greater rate than those 1930 Phillies hurlers (Les Sweetland, Claude Willoughby) who had to pitch half their games in the Baker Bowl.

He's about four-tenths of a hit per inning ahead of Jake Miller (15.0), a lefty who had a season from hell in 1930 (and who will drop off the list once Joe makes start #10: even the lowly St. Louis Browns wouldn't give Miller more than nine starts that year).

Joe is not pitching quite as badly overall as did Sean Bergman back in 2000 for the Twins, though folks will be shocked to know that despite a 9.66 ERA and a 1.065 OPS allowed, Sean was 4-5 at the time that he got banished by the Twins.

The year 2000 was, of course, a monster offensive season. The same is not the case for 2013, and Blanton's team has a home field that's a pitcher's park. That's precisely what makes this such a startling achievement.

Joe's QMAX "S" scores (the hit prevention measure: 1 is best, 7 is dire) look like this so far: 6, 7, 7, 7, 6, 4, 5, 7, 7. That averages to 6.22, which--yes--is the worst we've ever seen. Joe's "hit hard" percentage is currently 78%.

Blanton was always a guy who was hittable, but he was still a league average pitcher up through '09 (102 ERA+). Since then, his ERA+ is 80 (84 if you're compassionate and leave out the partial debris of '13).

Bad as that is, there's worse news for Halo fans. The Angels signed him to a three-year deal over the winter. (Of course, they can just eat the money...then Joe will go to the Yankees, room with Vernon Wells, and, summarily, rise from the dead.)

Vance's ugly shirt for an ugly season...
What's killing the Angels is not Pujols, it's a paucity of pitching--or, more accurately, an unwanted bounty of Blamton. He can't possibly keep this up all season, can he? Can he??

[UPDATE: Joe got off the schneid tonight, pitching creditably into the seventh inning and notching his first win when the Royals' ninth-inning rally fell short. He also lowered his H/9 down to 14.77 and is no longer the all-time "leader" in this category, thanks to the Twins' Vance Worley, who's been hit at a .418 clip over his last five starts and now has a H/9 of 15.17. Vance might just keep this record, at least for the foreseeable future, since he was sent to AAA after getting shelled by the Braves the other night.]