Free Agent Faceoff: Saunders vs. Blanton

MLBTradeRumors is introducing a new series in which two comparable free agents are analyzed side by side. Each post will conclude with a reader vote on the value of the two players.

Joe Saunders and Joe Blanton have a lot in common. They have both evolved into steady if unspectacular starters since being selected in the first round of the 2002 draft. Both of the 6’3” 31-year-olds were traded in waiver deals this past August. They even share a first name. Let’s move past the similarities and determine which free agent should appeal to teams more in the coming offseason, when both Saunders and Blanton will be eligible for free agency.

Saunders has averaged 175 innings over the course of the past five seasons and, unlike Blanton, hasn't missed significant time due to injuries in recent years. He’s six months younger than Blanton and he’s left-handed. Saunders also has the edge in career ERA (4.15 vs. 4.37). While Saunders has consistently kept his ERA below 4.50, Blanton hasn't posted an ERA below 4.50 since 2009. Let's not forget Saunders' two strong postseason starts against the elite offenses of the Rangers and Yankees this month.

Though Blanton missed much of the 2011 season, he pitched 191 innings this past season, and has completed at least 175 innings in seven of eight full years as an MLB player. He’s been every bit as durable as Saunders. Furthermore, he strikes out more hitters and does a better job at limiting walks. Blanton also throws harder than Saunders (90.4 mph) and generates more swings and misses (9.6% swinging strike rate). The right-hander’s ERA has been a little high in recent years, but once we look a little deeper, we’ll see he has produced more wins above replacement in his career, according to both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference (Blanton has been worth 20.4 WAR to Saunders' 12.0, per FanGraphs). And though he didn’t pitch in the 2012 playoffs, Blanton has 40 solid postseason innings to his name.

Both pitchers have a case for a multiyear deal this offseason, when many teams will be looking for rotation help. Which begs the question…


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31 Comments on "Free Agent Faceoff: Saunders vs. Blanton"


Jesus
2 years 10 months ago

Joe Blanton has Toronto Blue Jays written all over him.

johnsilver
2 years 10 months ago

Both have Twins written all over them.. Junk throwers and best suited to be a back of the rotation SP at the very best.. Yet the Twins have filled their rotation with people of this ilk for years.

I’d still take Saunders over Blanton, but neither is worth much. More faith in Lackey next year than either of these 2 being serviceable.

$1742854
2 years 10 months ago

Agreed, Saunders would be good in the spacious Target Field and provide stability at the back end of the rotation.

Lunchbox45
2 years 10 months ago

I’d rather see alvarez struggle in the 5th spot, at least its towards something

$1529282
2 years 10 months ago

A pitcher whose far and away largest problem is his HR/FB has “move to a band box in the AL East” written all over him?

Lunchbox45
2 years 10 months ago

why is neither not an option?

Casey McMahon
2 years 10 months ago

None. My teams are the Giants and Rays. They have no need for pitching. In Fact a surplus of arms on both.

vtadave
2 years 10 months ago

Because that option would easily get 100% unless relatives of either guy are MLBTR posters.

Eric
2 years 10 months ago

I would not want either Blanton or Saunders, unless they came in as a cheap, long relief and spot starter option. This is like asking me to choose between Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Vincente Padilla. If you are relying on any of these guys, then your year didn’t work out to well.

Eric
2 years 10 months ago

Is neither a possibility?

Rocco Schirripa
2 years 10 months ago

When in doubt, go with the lefty

Lefty_Orioles_Fan
Lefty_Orioles_Fan
2 years 10 months ago

I am going with Blanton.
However, you can’t deny that the Joe Saunders was exceptional in the playoffs this yr.
The only problem is he didn’t get thru 6 full in either game. That says something to me, what exactly, I don’t know.

2 years 10 months ago

It shows Buck Showalter is better than you think.

2 years 10 months ago

Joe Blanton is only 31 years old? I thought he was like late-30s verging on 40. He just seems like a journeyman veteran who’s been around forever.

vince9663
2 years 10 months ago

I already thought I was having a great day, and then I saw this headline.

daveineg
2 years 10 months ago

Saunders has predictability. He’s a 4.30, 1.45 WHIP guy in the AL and a 4.00, 1.35 WHIP guy in the NL. That’s about what the difference should be from one league (with a DH to the other without one). Those numbers aren’t great but they are adequate for a back end of virtually any rotation. Consistency and predictability are worth something especially on a good offensive team.

TheOnlyBravesFan
2 years 10 months ago

Joe Saunders all the way… not even close, esp. if you look at their last 3-4 years. Those (currently) 313 votes for Blanton need to choose again!

$1529282
2 years 10 months ago

In the past four seasons Blanton’s posted a combined 4.19 FIP and 3.72 xFIP against Saunders and his 4.66 FIP and 4.47 xFIP. Blanton’s 3.77 SIERA dwarfs Saunders’ 4.65.

In that time, Blanton’s whiffed 7.4 hitters per nine with a 2.2 BB/9 against Saunders’ marks of 5.1 and 2.7.

I agree, it’s not even close. Blanton.

However, if you prefer traditional stats, sure. Blanton’s 4.55 ERA is worse than Saunders’ 4.20. But Blanton issues significantly more strikeouts and fewer walks, and his WHIP (1.34) has been better than Saunders (1.38) in that time. I’m not sure how you can make the case that it’s “not even close” and pick Saunders, unless you’re really going to penalize Blanton for his one season in his career in which he’s been injured (2011).

crashcameron
2 years 10 months ago

cuz you need to look good in a baseball uniform

2 years 10 months ago

also because blanton would never ever ever ever ever beat the Yankees, and since Saunders did, all those stats are meaningless

Phillies_Aces35
2 years 10 months ago

After watching Blanton for the last four or so years… Joe Saunders is an easy choice.

bucsws2014
2 years 10 months ago

I voted for Saunders, but for a comparable FA #5 starter, I’d take Correia over either Joe right now. Correia showed some cojones this year where he might have blown up in the past. Did everything you’d want from a #5 and more.

Casey McMahon
2 years 10 months ago

I refuse to vote for either. The Rays and Giants have better arms in the minors then these 2 guys.

$1529282
2 years 10 months ago

I don’t get the perception that Blanton, who since 2009 has a 4.19 FIP, 3.72 xFIP, 3.77 SIERA, and the 14th-best K/BB ratio (3.43) among 151 qualified starters is some throwaway bum.

Yes, he’s been hurt by the home run ball, but he also pitches in a band box. Prior to moving to Philadelphia, his homer rate was below league-average, and he’s actually throwing harder now than he was then.

I’d take Joe Blanton over Joe Saunders in a heartbeat.

johnsmith4
2 years 10 months ago

Although, the writer implores us to move past the similarities between Blanton and Saunders, I find myself eerily drawn into them. Especially the fact they are both named Joe.

I must expand on this by pointing out Joe Saunders shares a birthday with Joe Decker (OMG another Joe) and Joe Blanton shares one with Gene Hiser. Both Gene Hiser and Joe Decker happened to be teammates while playing for both Tacoma Cubs and Chicago Cubs in 1971 plus Wichita Aeros and Chicago Cubs in 1972.

Although Gene Hiser does not have “Joe” as his first name. It must be noted Chicago Cubs did recall Gene in 1972 as an injury replacement for “Joe” Pepitone.

Somehow, I felt the analysis of Joe Saunders and Joe Blanton would be incomplete without this information. Furthermore, why does it have to be an either/or situation with them. Maybe. Just maybe. Joe Blanton and Joe Saunders are destined to become teammates just like Joe Decker and Gene “Joe Pepitone” Hiser.

crashcameron
2 years 10 months ago

supremely disappointed there’s no Joe Charbonneau connection

johnsmith4
2 years 10 months ago

I urge you to look past your disappointment and help us go to 1972 to help bring Joe Saunders and Joe Blanton “Back To The Future”.

Toronto GM AA to Blanton and Saunders: “I am your density”

2 years 10 months ago

this is the greatest ambiguous connection I have ever read in my lifetime. for the record, my name is not joe, although I went high school with a joe.

sarcasm_robot
2 years 10 months ago

as a cubs fan, unfortunately we could use both of these guys on our team. now, let me go cry in the shower for a few hours.

LazerTown
2 years 10 months ago

Saunders always seems like he wouldn’t be a good pitcher, but he always seems to get through his starts and has decent results. It also helps that he was very good vs Texas and NYY in the playoffs.

Jack Miller
2 years 10 months ago

I’d take Blanton don’t know why my gut tells me that he will do better than Saunders next year