With the conclusion of the Serie Nacional de Béisbol playoffs, the 2020-2021 baseball season officially came to an end. While a lot of fun baseball was played and there were many great accomplishments, the performance of one player stuck out more than anyone else. The amazing thing is, his accomplishments were much less than what they likely should have been as he ended up not playing during the summer months after Liga Mexicana de Béisbol canceled their season and he found himself without a team. He did play in the winter and Lázaro Blanco’s performance across two leagues over said winter was more than enough to let him finish the baseball season as the best unaffiliated pitcher in the world.
Blanco’s 2020 season didn’t start when it was originally scheduled. 2020 was supposed to be the year that he made his LMB debut for Saraperos de Saltillo. The cancellation of the LMB season thanks to the Coronavirus nixed any baseball activities for Blanco throughout the summer. While not seeing him pitch was a bummer, it did have the good side effect of giving the tall Cuban’s arm some time to rest. He usually pitched on a 12-month basis and despite having great results, it also undoubtedly had some deleterious effects on his arm.
After missing the summer Blanco’s winter began as it usually did, with Alazanes de Granma in the SNB. He was dominant for a little over a month with Granma before heading even further south to ply his trade in Nicaragua’s Liga de Béisbol Profesional Nacional for Leones de León. The Leones were the defending LBPN champions and while the addition of Blanco immensely helped their pitching staff he couldn’t make up for setbacks in other areas. Still, he plugged away and ended up finishing his LBPN Tenure when the Leones didn’t manage to make it out of the round-robin section of the playoffs.
Blanco’s LBPN season shouldn’t have ended there. Tigres de Chinandega, the eventual 2020-2021 LBPN champions, attempted to add him to their roster but a hiccup with the Cuban office of sport ended up with their request denied and Blanco was on his way back to Cuba and his Alazanes. Not missing a beat, Blanco hopped right off the airplane and proceeded to dominate every SNB lineup he faced the rest of the year. He guided the Alazanes to the SNB finals, and in a series, most, including me, predicted them to lose his grandiose game one performance set the table for Granma to shock the Cuban baseball world by easily vanquishing a powerhouse Cocodrilos de Matanzas team and take home the SNB season title.
When the dust had finally settled one thing was clear, Blanco was better than ever. The man most consider to be the best pitcher of this Cuban generation had proven he deserved to be in the conversation as one of the best Cuban pitchers of all time. More than that, Blanco turned a corner from being just a great Cuban pitcher into the rarified air of being a great pitcher in the global game of baseball. While he will never take his wares to a Major League Baseball field, I don’t believe Blanco needs to do that to end his career as one of the best pitchers the game of baseball has ever seen.
Blanco’s final stat line for 2020-2021 sits at a 2.39 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 173 innings pitched. He had 50 walks to 141 strikeouts and every step of the way he looked like one of the best pitchers on the planet. His stat line, great though it may be, doesn’t truly do him justice. The longer the season went, the clearer it became that his team was likely winning the game that day if he was on the mound. He put together one of those performances that Cuban baseball fans will look back at years from now and still hold in the highest regard. If you’re not tuned into who Lázaro Blanco is and why he’s one of the best pitchers of his generation, now is a great time to hop on board the Blanco hype train.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Football 24 News