The headlines from last night go to Jayson Werthas
he morphs into an indestructible force, and the Phillies as a team for
a 10-game winning streak that is the longest for a defending champion
since 1971. But maybe the guy we should be giving a little more love to
is Joe Blanton.
After a May 21 outing in Cincinnati, Blanton was 2-3 with a 7.11. Since
then, in 10 starts, he’s gone 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA, and struck out 59
while walking only 16 in 66 innings. That includes last night when he
gave up one run in 7 innings in a no-decision.
The strikeouts have certainly helped Blanton’s production. His 7.8
K/9 is up from 5.1 last year, and he’s walking fewer batters (2.7 BB/9
vs 3.0 last year). And according to fangraphs.com, while his average
fastball is still clocking at about 89 mph, he’s throwing slightly more
fastballs and sliders as he ignores his curve more than usual (throws
it 4% less often than in 2008).
Blanton’s also still a relatively young guy at 29 in only his 5th
full season, so it could be that he’s just starting to put it all
together. Not that his recent run will stop the front office from going
after Roy Halladay, though.
By the way, Bill James, in a new and interesting
stat, has the Phillies’ current temperature at 120 degrees. And
honestly, that seems like it might be a bit low.
The Braves reportedly have a deal in place with free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that the contract is for one year, $1.5 million with up to $2.5 million in additional incentives.
Suzuki, 33, completed a three-year track with the Twins in 2016, slashing .258/.301/.403 with eight home runs in 373 PA. The veteran backstop likely won’t provide an offensive or defensive upgrade over current starter Tyler Flowers, but should give the Braves some depth at a position they’ve been looking to strengthen since the start of the offseason.
The team has yet to confirm the deal.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.