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John Lannan or Jason Marquis?

Jim Riggleman has mapped out who will pitch once spring training games begin, giving the ball to J.D. Martin and Garrett Mock for the two split-squad games March 4 at Florida and at Houston. On March 5, Miguel Batista will start against Atlanta. Riggleman wasn't sure, but he thinks he put down John Lannan for the next day.

This is consequential only because of why Riggleman picked who he picked: He knows that Lannan and Jason Marqius will start the first two games of the season, and the spring pitching schedule has been worked backward to accommodate that. But Riggleman has not decided on who gets the ball Opening Day.

"We're still tossing that around," Riggleman said. "We really are. Steve (McCatty) and I are tossing that around. Mike Rizzo, we've talked about it."

The Nationals start this year at home with three games in four days against Philadelphia, and then after three games in New York, they play another three, with another mid-series offday, in Philadelphia. The way that schedule breaks, depending on if the Nationals choose to give their starters an extra day or rest or use a truncated rotation, one of the first two pitchers will face the Phillies twice.

"We're just going to have to try to see who we're more comfortable with -- the combination of the Opening Day situation and facing the same team twice," Riggleman said. "Somebody's going to have to face the same team a couple times."

"The Opening Day situation" is the more interesting aspect. There is no question pitchers understand the honor of taking the ball on Opening Day, the symbolic meaning of designation as an ace. Statistically, Lannan and Marquis were strikingly similar last season:

Pitcher INN ERA SO/BB WHIP ERA+ AGE
Lannan 206.1 3.91 1.31 1.347 108 25
Marquis 216 4.04 1.44 1.380 113 31

Lannan had better numbers for the most part, but Marquis pitched his home games at Coors Field for a team in a pennant race. Who do you want representing the franchise on the calendar's marquee day - the homegrown pitcher who became a steady staff ace last season, or the free agent acquired to bring stability and added legitimacy to the rotation this season?

By Adam Kilgore  |  February 28, 2010; 4:16 PM ET
 
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Comments

Given that the two of them are basically pretty much equal, one not head and shoulders above the other one, and given that Lannan is the veteran with this team, give the ball to him. Let him have the chance to atone for last year's OD debacle. Maybe he'll have a little extra motivation on account of that. When it all comes down to it, aside from little things like this OD is just another game. One out of 162. No need to blow it out of proportion.

Posted by: TBCTBC | February 28, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I would like them to get at least four spring starts first, who ever looks the best gets the ball on opening day. Could be Stras.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 28, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I'd vote for lannan for sure

Posted by: bford1kb | February 28, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Lannan - no disrespect to Marquis, but Lannan's paid his dues with this team and deserves it.

Posted by: siamch | February 28, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

If you choose the Opening Day pitcher based on the intangibles you go with Lannan, since he's one of "your guys" from the organization.

If you're picking based on facing the Phillies twice in the early going:

Lannan career stats against the Phillies: 0-6, 5.82 ERA

Marquis career stats against Philly: 5-3, 4.38 ERA

Posted by: baltova1 | February 28, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

baltova1 - good info. Betting the Lannan history with Philly is a big part of the decision process on this one.
If the decision is just who gets the ball on Opening Day, I would think they would give it to Lannan.
But with the OD starter also getting Philly again on his next turn, it wouldn't surprise me if they choose Marquis.

PowerBoater, the one certainty is that it will not be Strasburg.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 28, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

LET THEM COMPETE in Florida !!!!!.....isn't that what Fl is for....or has Riggleman made all the decisions months ago?

Posted by: FletcherChristian1 | February 28, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Lannan was 9-13????? What does/ should that EARN YOU anywhere but in MLB LOSERville ....

Posted by: FletcherChristian1 | February 28, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

LET THEM COMPETE in Florida !!!!!.....isn't that what Fl is for

************

Actually, for veteran players, it is not what spring training is for.
They're working on specific things that want to improve upon or implement. They are not competing. If Morse has a better spring at the plate than Zimmerman, do you sit Zimmerman on Opening Day and start Morse? Of course not.

Marquis and Lannan are #'s 1 and 2 in the rotation barring injury. The whole team will have a more productive spring knowing that, rather than everyone battling.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 28, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

For this franchise its more important to try to win that series ... and the next one to start the season with a winning streak. There is no honor in leading a team to a 100+ loss record. But, is Marquis a better answer? This is a case where they really needed the dominant power pitcher types to set the tone.

Posted by: periculum | February 28, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Loving the updates in the NJ... Kilgore is so money.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | February 28, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see Marquis get the start BECAUSE Lannon is my favorite pitcher. His 9-13 record last year was due in large part to minimal run support, which was in turn due to the fact that he was going up against everyone else's ace. I say let Lannan be the #2 pitcher and win 15 games this year.

Posted by: ammonite88 | February 28, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I'd go with Lannan. Like how he pitches to Howard and Utley (right on their hands if you know what I mean).

Go with the homegrown kid. He's our stopper.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | February 28, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I vote for Strassburg.... oh, wait. Lannan. Because he's a lefty. But I have no problem with Marquis either.

Atlanta features 5 RH starters. Mets 3 RH/2 LH. Marlins 4 RH/1 LH (probably). Phillies 2 RH/3LH (if you include Moyer). The Nats probably start the year with 2 LH (Lannan & Olsen) and 3 RH (Marquis, Hernandez, and whoever wins the fifth spot). Anyway, all other things being equal, LH have a slight advantage over the Phillies.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 28, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

My heart says go with Lannan, he's earned it over the last two seasons, in the clubhouse and on the field. My mind says go with Marquis because I think he's better suited mentally to face the other teams ace on a regular basis. It's not fair for Lannan at this point in his career to have to face the likes of Halliday and Santana more often then not. His winning percentage should improve as a #2 guy.

Posted by: hsukGO | February 28, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

The Nationals started 5-17 in 2009 and 11-17 in 2008. If they could simply avoid the disastrous start this year the talent will start to trickle in by mid summer with Wang, Strassburg, Storen, Flores, and others. The trick is to play .500 ball until then.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 28, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

I go with hsukGO's mind..Marquis.

Posted by: fischy | February 28, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Lannan, definitely.

You don't go with Strasburg for two reasons:
1. Too much pressure/hasn't earned his dues.
2. Opening day is going to be a near sellout anyway. You'll get more revenue having his debut on another day.

Posted by: cassander | February 28, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Lannan. He's pretty much grown up. He can win 15 if he gets some support for the first time. Maybe 18. As long as he sticks with locating his fastball. It's better than the hitters think. Like Scott McGregor and a brilliant breaking ball. He's there now. He just needs to use the fastball/changeup to get ahead, and use the breaking ball for an out pitch. And work that combination in reverse the way he does. But he needs that fastball to be over 90.

Posted by: Brue | February 28, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Actually, for veteran players, it is not what spring training is for.
They're working on specific things that want to improve upon or implement. They are not competing. If Morse has a better spring at the plate than Zimmerman, do you sit Zimmerman on Opening Day and start Morse? Of course not.

Marquis and Lannan are #'s 1 and 2 in the rotation barring injury. The whole team will have a more productive spring knowing that, rather than everyone battling.

Posted by: Sunderland
===========
the article is about OPENING DAY STARTING PITCHER..what the **** are you smoking??

Posted by: FletcherChristian1 | February 28, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

I put this very question up in poll form this afternoon. Go vote. I could use the hits:

www.natslooser.blogspot.com

We thank you.

Posted by: NFBLooser | February 28, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

I put this very question up in poll form this afternoon. Go vote. I could use the hits:

www.natslooser.blogspot.com

We thank you.

Posted by: NFBLooser | February 28, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Long as it isn't Odalis Perez.

I hope mgt. keeps SS in the minors not to lose a year of service to the big club. I understand wanting to see him right away but I'd rather have him here 5 years from now.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | February 28, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Fletcher - Having Lannan and Marquis, or any other pitchers, "compete" for the opening day start is not going to happen.

You want one of them overthrowing in a stupid meaningless March preseason game?

The younger, less established guys are competing for roster spots, sure.
But Lannan and Marquis are not competing for spots, and they are not going to be competing for who get the ball on Opening Day.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 28, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Neither...if he's healthy and his velocity has returned...Scott Olson.

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 28, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Please, no more talk about Strasburg coming up before June 1st. It would be absurd for Rizzo to essentially void the final year of his contract just to start a stud everyone wants to see at this point in the rebuilding process. We can not and will not win the pennant with one fifth of a rotation. Respectability is the goal this season and if we're lucky and everything works out mostly as planned we can shoot for the division and possibly a pennant in '11 or '12.

Posted by: hsukGO | February 28, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Off topic -- Here's the link to a Baseball Prospectus Q&A with Drew Storen. Some interesting stuff here:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=10125

Posted by: OldSkoolDiehard | February 28, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

>>Who do you want representing the franchise on the calendar's marquee day

Compared to whom they had last year, either would be a vast improvement. Man that was a real travesty.

Posted by: dovelevine | February 28, 2010 8:52 PM | Report abuse

The Full Squid -- looks like Elwood has some competition this year, too.

*******************
not trying to nitpick but Wang isn't at camp either, so they're two men short of the 'full-squd.'
Posted by: deposetejada | February 28, 2010 7:55 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 28, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

I will vote for mystery Ace-like pitcher yet to be acquired beghind door Number 3! Ok, so that aint gonna happen.

Lannan the lefty should start against the Phils, because they eat RH pitching for lunch. He might as well be the Ace. Lannan, Maquis, Olsen, whomever and then later when they need a 5th, the other whomever, sounds about as good as it is going to get for this club until Stras shows up in June.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 28, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Re to;
He might as well be the Ace. Lannan, Maquis, Olsen, whomever and then later when they need a 5th, the other whomever, sounds about as good as it is going to get for this club until Stras shows up in June.

Posted by: dfh21

As good as it's going to get will have to include z2n's in the rotation and a healthy JoT (Jordan of Tiawan), and storen and martin holding down late innings.

Posted by: hsukGO | February 28, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Lannan should get the start, but it doesn't really matter. he's going to pitch every 5th day and after opening day who's counting. it's about prestige and lannan has earned that distinction.

Posted by: joerutgens72 | February 28, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Trade for Matt Cain. Start him on opening day.

Posted by: periculum | February 28, 2010 11:40 PM | Report abuse

See. This is why I don't like Riggleygum. Big mistake keeping him and not getting Valentine. You just spent some nice bank on a pretty much top of the line starter - Jason Marqius and you're debating who your number one is? It's not like the Nats have Roy Halladay's sitting around. And I'm sorry, if Strasburg does well this Grapefruit season the only reason they don't want to bring him up is the salary issues. Gonna be another frustrating year for my Number 2 team. Thanks God for my Phightins'!!!

Posted by: billm32 | March 1, 2010 6:52 AM | Report abuse

I go with cokedispatch choice, have neither Lannan nor Marquis... Take the pressure off those two guys....Have Scott Olson...

Posted by: bsballu5 | March 1, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Isn't it just a tad early to speculate on the identity of the Nats' Opening Day starter, here before the first pitch of Spring Training has been thrown in anger?

I mean, if you're a Nats fan you KNOW from wide and deep experience that scheiss happens, particularly to Nats' #1 starting pitchers, so there is a real possibility that as yet some unnamed starter could be nursing a boo-boo before Opening Day.

Furthermore, it is entirely possible that Lannan could shine or stink, that Marquis could be a slow starter for us, that Olsen could start blowing hitters absolutely away like he has shown in flashes that he is capable of doing, that Martis could pitch back-to-back no-hitters... The list of possibilities is endless at this point. Heck, maybe they'll decide that Strasburg is ready.

As things are I am sorry I won't be in Viera to see the Nats this Spring, as I have done in previous years before I moved back home from my decade of exile in Orlando.

I do like Jim Riggleman but I must admit that I agree with the previous poster about harboring a pang of regret or two that we didn't choose Valentine instead. Even if he didn't actually manage any better (and he might have), his volatility would add a fairly significant dosage of excitement and entertainment to Nats' games.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | March 1, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

An exhumed Walter Johnson, could pitch better than either one of those bums.

Posted by: magilla | March 1, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Loving the updates in the NJ... Kilgore is so money. Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq

Yeah - it would seem Kilgore actually likes baseball insteqd of just liking being employed by the Post, aka Chico.

Posted by: DCSec112 | March 1, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

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