Thanks for coming out, Joe Blanton, but your services are no longer required. Why don't you head out to the bullpen, pick out a nice seat for yourself and get comfortable. You could be there for awhile.
After a long season of drawing the ire of Angels fans (and Gatorade coolers), the time has come for the Angels to finally get around to removing Joe Blanton from the rotation. No matter where you think this team is headed, be it to the playoffs or to a top ten pick in the draft, there is no practical reason for Joe Blanton to remain a member of the Angel rotation for even one more start.
He isn't getting better. Joe had a run in June where he strung together several solid starts, but since then he has regressed to his early season form of getting battered like a piñata and has now turned in two consecutive starts in which he exited before the end of the fifth inning. This is while facing two of the worst offenses in the American League, mind you. If he were showing signs of progress, you could understand the front office wanting to ride it out in an effort to recoup some of their investment, but that does not appear to be happening anytime soon.
We all know about his monstrous 5.66 ERA, but his FIP is only slightly better a 4.89. That is a scary proposition considering Blanton's one claim to being better than his ERA suggests was that his FIP was near respectable levels. Now his FIP only hints that he is merely mostly terrible instead of completely terrible. The best he can hope for is that his marginally high BABIP and HR/FB rate could regress to career norms, but even then he'd still be dragging down the rotation as one of the worst pitchers in baseball as opposed to unequivocally the worst.
Worse yet is that he isn't even handling his struggles well anymore. At least early in the season Blanton was talking positively about how things will even out over time. But as we saw before the break, his frustrations are boiling over to a point where he is engaging in shouting matches with the pitching coach and blaming his problems on his catcher. If there was one thing Blanton had going for him it was the "consummate professional" label, but he stripped that away with extreme prejudice thanks to that outburst.
As a result, Scioscia and Dipoto need to put their heads together and come up with a replacement plan for Blanton. If Sosh really wants to continue the charade that this Halo roster still has a shot at reaching the post-season, then he owes it to his team to replace Blanton in the name of putting the most competitive roster forward. The Angels have one week until the trade deadline to find an upgrade over Blanton, which is a pretty low bar to set. They could wait it out until Jason Vargas returns, but that could be a handful more starts for Joe and would still leave them with Jerome Williams stuck in the rotation. If they really want us to believe they are still in this thing until the bitter end, there is no justification for giving Blanton even one more start and a replacement must be found as quickly as possible from outside the organization since the internal options are lacking and without much certainty.
On the other hand, if the team is ready to raise the white flag on the season, which they probably should, then it makes just as little sense to let Blanton get knocked around every fifth day when the team could use that time to evaluate younger rotation options in preparation for the 2014 season. There is no upside to letting Blanton work out his issues at the expense of the team. He is 32 this year, so it is not as if he has any learning curve left. They do still have him under contract for next season, but it should be painfully clear by now that a rotation including Blanton is not a pitching staff that is going to allow the Angels to contend.
In a best case scenario, Blanton can come into training camp next season to compete for the fifth starter spot. That, however, means that the Angels need to begin that competition now. They could hand Blanton's spot to Garrett Richards and see what he can do as a starter over an extended period of time, something he has never really gotten to do in the majors. They could throw Michael Roth to the wolves and see if his stuff can play at this level as a rotation member. They could even call up A.J. Schugel or Matt Shoemaker as a "throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks" strategy of rotation building.
Wherever the Angels are on the cognitive dissonance spectrum regarding their playoff odds, which Baseball Prospectus has at a generous 2.8% currently, they'd have to be outright delusional to still believe there is any utility being provided by Blanton logging another start. Just cop to the mistake, remove him from the rotation, and move on towards bigger and better things. Just do it now.