When the Phillies acquired Joe Blanton in July of 2008, I wasn't exactly enthused. Partially because I probably overrated Josh Outman and Adrian Cardenas, two of the three prospects dealt for Blanton. But mostly because I perceived Blanton to be an "innings-eater who didn't actually eat too many innings", who had pitched the majority of his innings in a pitcher-friendly environment. Blanton didn't exactly dispel those perceptions in the remainder of 2008's regular season, as he only averaged 5.4 innings in his Phillies starts, posting a 4.20 ERA (4.83 xFIP). However, two of his three postseason starts were strong, and his contribution to the Phillies' postseason run was vital. Of course, it was probably Blanton's World Series home run, a Game 4 blast which remains the only extra-base hit of his career, that cemented my Blanton fandom.
Over the past two seasons, the Phillies have displayed a startling propensity for acquiring aces, who are slotted ahead of Blanton in the rotation. These acquisitions, which have bumped Blanton to the fifth spot in 2011's Super-Rotation, haven't done a lot for Blanton's rep. He is now oft-perceived as a back-of-the-rotation talent, though his ability, obviously, doesn't fluctuate as his rotation-mates change. In 2009, Blanton provided 195 innings of 4.07 xFIP ball, good for a 2.0 WAR. Last season, Blanton's ERA (4.82) was bastardized by a unfortunate BABIP/LOB% combo of .321/69.1, but he posted a 4.06 xFIP over 176 innings (1.9 WAR). A pitcher who can provide almost two-hundred innings of 4.00 xFIP is pretty valuable. Particularly when you consider the probable drop-off in ability, that the pitchers who would otherwise cover those innings bring to the table. To a contending team like the Phillies, who will likely spend 2011 sitting smugly near the marginal value of a win curve's end, Blanton could be even more valuable.
Fortunately, it appears that Phillies' management doesn't seem particularly inclined to trade Blanton. (Or, at least, has opted not to deal him for an underwhelming package.) Presently, Blanton is a good insurance policy against injury to the front four starters. When the trading deadline approaches, if Blanton still projects as a postseason bullpenner, he could be dealt to fill a current need, or for prospects. Plenty of teams would be interested in Blanton, just as the Phillies were in 2008. For now, I'm glad he is still a part of the Phils' rotation, as every start that Blanton makes in a Phillies' uniform, is one fewer than Kyle Kendrick makes.