Joe Blanton is 1-5 with a 7.28 ERA in 8 starts this year. Without looking at stats, I thought it would be a poor first-pitch strike percentage that was Joe's undoing. I was wrong. Joe's at 61%, which is better than league average and the best mark of his career.
Blanton struck out 7.5/9 IP last year. This season, he's at 5/9 IP, which is around his norm for every year other than 2009. His walk rate is down from 2.7 to 2.1/9 IP comparing last year to this season.
The line drive rate for Blanton is 15% so his .332 BABIP is high. His flyball rate is up, which has led to an increase in homers. He is stranding 59% of baserunners, which is down from 79% last year and well below his norm of around 68% in all other years.
It seems many things might have gone right for Blanton in 2009 and nothing is going right this year. Here is what I believe can explain part of the trouble:
Blanton's getting a career-best 32% swing rate at pitches outside the strike zone. However, batters are making contact on 78% of swings at pitches outside the zone -- which is 11% higher than average. These swings are resulting in lucky hits, as evidenced by his .332 BABIP, and also reducing his chances for strikeouts.
Last year, batters made contact on only 59% of swings at pitches outside the strike zone.