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Pitching Accuracy, Briefly Forsaken

John Lannan is generally one of the most accurate pitchers in baseball. Just not on this night. In the Nats' 8-1 loss to the Braves on Tuesday night, Lannan was totally out of whack, uncomfortable and wild. He walked four, his most since May 31. He lasted just 4-2/3 innings, his shortest outing since Opening Day. Auf wiedersehen, eight-game winning streak.

"John didn't have his best day," interim skipper Jim Riggleman said.

I go over some of this in my gamer, but I'll use the blog as a template for a statistical list or two. I remember pitching coach Randy St. Claire talking in March/April about the importance of first-pitch strikes, especially for Lannan, a lefty with an 87 mph fastball. In 2008, Lannan threw first-pitch strikes 57.3 percent of the time. St. Claire wanted Lannan, in 2009, to shoot for somewhere around 65 percent.

You know how turnover ratio is football's most telling statistic? First-pitch strikes might be the pitching equivalent. (I'm open to the idea that I could be proven wrong, of course.)

Still, check out the list of baseball's top first-pitch strike-throwers. Also, note the significance. League-wide, batters have a .396 OBP after a 1-0 count. They have a .276 OBP after an 0-1 count. That's the difference between a middle-of-the-lineup player and a guy who belongs in Class AA.


1. Roy Halladay -- 68.7
2. Javier Vazquez -- 67.6
3. Dan Haren -- 67.4
4. Carl Pavano -- 66.7
5. Joel Pineiro -- 66.1
6. Roy Oswalt -- 65.2
7. Johan Santana -- 64.3
8. Cliff Lee -- 64.1
9. Justin Verlander -- 63.8
10. Randy Wolf -- 63.8
11. John Lannan -- 63.6

And against the Braves? Oh boy. Lannan was pitching behind all night. He threw first-pitch strikes to just one of the first nine batters, and to just seven of 22 batters overall. No wonder he got into trouble. Also, please note: The above list is based on statistics from before Tuesday night. Lannan's percentage, after this game, will take a nosedive.

By Chico Harlan  |  August 11, 2009; 11:11 PM ET
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Next: Some Perspective on Tommy John Surgery


Strasburg news please, Chico.

Posted by: mherd1 | August 11, 2009 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Tick Tock Rizzo your on the Clock.

Posted by: mintbucket | August 12, 2009 12:55 AM | Report abuse

The important thing from here on out is not to go into another funk and lose 5 or 6 in row. The Nats need to build some momentum. There's 49 games left, and some very reachable goals.

I don't really give a hoot about whether they get the no. 1 draft choice, rather no. 2. I want them to win as many games as they can. 23-26 means the Nats avoid 100 loses. That's got to be the minimum goal to shoot for.

Posted by: nats24 | August 12, 2009 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Little as they've produced for him at times when he's pitched the lights out, it would've been nice if our bats could've picked Lannan up more on a rare off night (though the blown SB call at 3B didn't help matters)...But there's still an opportunity to do it (sort of) with a series win, let's go Nats!

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | August 12, 2009 3:06 AM | Report abuse

Wow, how things have changed with the pitching staff in just three weeks. Olsen and Zimmermann both gone with arm injuries, Zimmermann for at least 18 months. Now Lannan is looking shakey for his third start in a row, better sign some pitching here guys....

Posted by: bromisky | August 12, 2009 6:48 AM | Report abuse

My guess is that there is no Strasburg news to give. The Nats are not talking and Boras is also quiet. Boras has the top three picks and none are signed. I would think he wants to get SS signed and then he can use that as a guideline on the others. I believe the count is 19 unsigned first rounders, including Crow.

Posted by: mikeladd123 | August 12, 2009 6:51 AM | Report abuse

I am curious as to whether all the Boras clients will be willing to give up a year. I'm guessing yes, or they wouldn't have hired him. Also, I don't know whether the Strasburg signing can be used as a barometer for his others, as none of the rest of them are purported to be "once in a lifetime" anythings. I feel like he cheapens his position regarding Strasburg if he tries to lump them all together.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | August 12, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Check out who makes yesterday's top play of the unfavorite son with initials LM play's "Wall Ball" to rob a hit/HR.

Honestly, even though he makes the play, it still looks ugly to me. But then, I'm biased from his days in Nats OF.

Posted by: gusgrace | August 12, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Well, we hope Lannan's fall from grace is going to be brief. If not, we get what? A bunch of wannabes.

The news on Zimmerman is especially discouraging. He will miss 2010 and if he's recovered, will have to take it easy in 2011, re-learning how to pitch, maybe with a different motion. When you're counting on this guy to be your stud, then it doesn't look good. Trade for Lincecum, I say (just kidding).

By the way, Robin Roberts, Steve Carleton, Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, etc., all came up and never stopped throwing once they got to the majors. What is it about these new guys? Too much Little League, American Legion or what?

Posted by: JohnRDC | August 12, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Stammen likes to try and one-up Lannan. Let's hope he can tonight, in a good way and not in a bad way.

On a positive note, our lead in the BHD (Bryce Harper Derby) just went back up. We are now a whopping 4 1/2 games ahead of(behind) KC.

Posted by: twinbrook | August 12, 2009 8:02 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't expect ANY news of a Strasburg signing or not until the bewitching hour on 8/17. Any such news before that I'd be shocked to hear.

Posted by: cokedispatch | August 12, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Somebody ought to tell Tracey that while its nice the Ted Leonsis linked to her article on Nyjer Morgan, he should link to the Washington paper she works for - not the Pittsburgh paper that picked up the story.

Posted by: GoNatsTerps | August 12, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

"...Robin Roberts, Steve Carleton, Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, etc., all came up and never stopped throwing once they got to the majors..."

That's why most of them are in (or going to be in) the Hall of Fame. As hard as it is to make it to the bigs, it is even that much harder to make it last. That is what makes those guys so special.

Posted by: twinbrook | August 12, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

mherd1 - there is none. Rizzo told Debi Taylor he has no comments and will have no comments. Things are going on behind the scenes that no one knows about. So unless you want Chico or Rosenthal to speculate, there is no news.

Posted by: dand187 | August 12, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Actually, Jim Palmer is a possible role model for J. Zimm. Palmer made it to the bigs in 1965 at the age of 19 and won 15 games the next year and beat Sandy Koufax in the World Series at the age of 20. He then spent the next two years bouncing around between the majors and the minors trying to solve some serious arm and shoulder problems. There was serious doubt about his career at that point. He then bounced back in 1969 and went on to have a Hall of Fame career. So there's hope for Zimm.

Posted by: baltova1 | August 12, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Good stuff in the last couple of posts Chico....I think DiPoto is an interesting option as GM. I was impressed to see the Express this morning mentioned the Strasburg clock is ticking down.

Posted by: markfd | August 12, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

#1 Web Gem from last night...Lasto...

Posted by: dclifer97 | August 12, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

OK, serious question that will seem like semantics. Is the SS signing deadline midnight Monday (i.e., end of the day Sunday) or really 11:59 p.m. Sunday night? I ask b/c I want to know whether this will all be over by the end of the weekend... All the reports say midnight Monday, but I've been assuming that's just fast and loose with the language.

Posted by: cdstej | August 12, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I believe they have until 11:59:59 pm on Monday, Aug 17. I assume that is EDT?

Posted by: twinbrook | August 12, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Just before Tuesday. We can agonize all day Monday.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | August 12, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I will be absolutely shocked if the Lerners sign Strasburg. Uncle Teddy has probably had about a dozen Fred Sanford moments seeing the numbers on paper from Boras.

I'm preparing myself for a Crow like excuse filled with a lot of BS.

Uncle Teddy, no one give a frog's fat arse about how it gets done, just get it done.

Posted by: Section505203 | August 12, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

NEW YORK (AP) -- Washington Nationals minor league pitcher Stephen Englund has been suspended for 50 games under baseball's minor league drug program after testing positive for an amphetamine.

His suspension began Tuesday. There have been 50 suspensions this year under the minor league drug program and four under the major league program.

The Nationals drafted Englund in the second round in 2006. The 21-year-old righty made one start and two relief appearances this year in the Gulf Coast League and did not allow any runs in 2 2-3 innings.

Englund was a shortstop in high school, and the Nationals took him as an outfielder. He batted .162 last year for Class A Hagerstown with two homers and nine RBIs and .213 for Class A Vermont with two homers and 16 RBIs.

Posted by: dclifer97 | August 12, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Hey, did you guys hear that Ryan Garko got traded?

Posted by: Scooter_ | August 12, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Scooter, would that be the trade to the Giants on July 30, or was there a more recent action?

In NL East news, I read (on MLB Trade Rumors) where the Phoolies are sending Moyer to the 'pen and starting Pedro tonight.

In other 'pen-related news (also per MLB Trade Rumors), evidently the D'backs released Flash Gordon and the Angels released Justin Speier.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 12, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Posting with expectation of getting next-posted:

Anyone else see ESPN's "reported news" last night that Rizzo is "not expected to become Nats GM" -- what kind of "report" is that?

My first instinct is that the Boras-paid/aligned "insider source" at ESPN "leaked" another negotiating chip into the media to paint the Nats as so unstable, they would HAVE to pay more for SS. What a freakin' joke for "news reporting."

Anyone else have a similar (or different) take?

Posted by: mo_dc | August 12, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

"Anyone else have a similar (or different) take?"

I hate to state the obvious, but it is almost certainly Belliard's doing...

Posted by: twinbrook | August 12, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Haven't seen that report so can't comment, mo. But you were right about being new posted.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 12, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Rizzo is more deserving of the GM job than Riggleman is of the field manager job (and I don't dislike Rigg'man).

Virtually every move Rizzo has made has worked out --- and the moves he didn't make are also good.

I'm a fan.

Posted by: nattydread1 | August 12, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

OMG, the waters are going to be boiling this week regarding SS! Just imagine how bad it would be if there were public comments from either Rizzo or Boras! I am biased and would like him to sign for a reasonable amount, but on the SS side - there are too many horror stories about players who didn't take money that was on the table! (see Crow) He hasn't played real competitive ball for a year, lost out on his money for a year, will(probably) get less money this year than last... I hope Crow and his agents are satisfied with their decision last year.

Posted by: 1of9000 | August 12, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I may have been guilty of following last night's game with my heart instead of my admittedly less than stellar brain, but did anyone else think that the home plate ump was squeezing Lannan somewhat while giving Hanson a very liberal strike zone?

Posted by: VaNat | August 12, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

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