Josh Lindblom always had the pedigree of a great pitcher. He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2005 Major League Baseball amateur draft by the Houston Astros. Then again in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Throughout his time in Minor League Baseball, he posted impressive numbers. When he got the call-up he was just as impressive, albeit now out of the bullpen. There were some blips, but any pitcher has blips. All the makings were present fro Lindblom to have a good MLB career. Then a 2012 stint with the Philadelphia Phillies changed everything.
Lindblom had never been an extreme control pitcher prior to the 2012 season. Still, outside of a disastrous 2010 season with the Albuquerque Isotopes he never had concerning control issues. His last few years in affiliated ball painted the picture of a guy who simply couldn’t find the right part of the zone on a consistent basis. He oscillated back and forth between decent seasons and seasons where his WHIP set off alarm bells. His initial time in Korea didn’t improve his stock all that much, especially not following his 2016 season where he posted a WHIP of 1.545 in 177.1 innings with the Lotte Giants.
After another brief foray into the world of the affiliated Lindblom returned to the Korea Baseball Organization to try and prove he could finally live up to his potential. It took him a few years, and a team change to the Doosan Bears, but Lindblom appears to have finally tapped into said potential. In 2018 he was one of the better pitchers in the league, though his stats weren’t always in agreement. A much improved 2.88 ERA was countered by a higher 4.02 FIP. His WHIP of 1.067 was phenomenal though and it’s that stat that gets to the core of the small improvements Lindblom started to make.
2018 was a transition year for the Indiana native. Instead of doing the same things as before he started focusing on throwing his cutter more. By focusing on that pitch it allowed the rest of his repertoire to shine. Slowly but surely he got his sequencing down more, changed when and how he threw most of his pitches, and saw an uptick in his velocity with an improved break on his offspeed stuff. Those were little changes and his 2018 kWAR of 6.8 showed how well his new approach worked in an offense-first league.
2019 has been as dominant of a year as Lindblom has ever put up as a starter. So dominant that MLB teams have been sending scouts to watch his starts for the past few weeks. In 176.0 innings he has an ERA of 2.15, FIP of 2.94, a WHIP of 0.943, and an ERA+ of 194. His 7.1 kWAR is good for second in the league, and he looks like the horse he was always supposed to be. It’s taken him a few years, but the 2019 version of Josh Lindblom is a pitcher that can be counted on to go deep into games, miss bats, limit walks, and control the at-bats of the opposition.
I’m not sure what the future will hold for Lindblom. More than likely he is on his way back to the MLB ranks. Maybe he has really figured it out this time and he’ll be able to provide a solid middle rotation arm upon his return stateside. No matter what’s in his future I’m enjoying what Lindblom’s doing in the here and now. He’s become must-watch when it’s his turn to take the ball, and honestly, a few years back I never thought I’d be able to say that.
Lead photo courtesy of Sung Min Kim – FanGraphs