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Adam Dunn takes the mound

This morning before the Nationals began their fundamental drill for the day (first-and-third situations), Adam Dunn provided the most un-fundamental drill of spring camp. He walked to the mound, grabbed a ball, and started to pitch.

Dunn threw about eight pitches as a crowd of teammates gathered on the first base line. "He's pretty good when he stays on top of the ball," catcher Wil Nieves said afterward, laughing. "His sinker works. ..."

As Dunn pitched, General Manager Mike Rizzo watched from a golf cart along the first base line. "Hey, Wil," he shouted. "Don't encourage him."

Rizzo has spoken of Dunn's "quirky" way of leading. This might have been an example of that, a way to break the monotony of spring. Or maybe he just wanted to have fun.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 1, 2010; 2:35 PM ET
 
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Comments

Maybe 2 years ago Dunn would have been a #2 or #3 starter for the then ragtag Nats....today...not so much. Thankfully.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 1, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Just as long as he doesn't pull a Jose Cansenco...

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

I see Kilgore got the memo about new posts whenever I take the time to put together some research....

Posted by: Section506 | March 1, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

twinbrook that was exactly my thought. Maybe Dunn is trying to increase his value for the extension!

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 1, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

He's probably bored ...

Posted by: periculum | March 1, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Did he pitch with a glove or his mitt?

Posted by: Section314 | March 1, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

@506 - even though you got new posted, very interesting research. For what it's worth, I think I'm in agreement with your working theory, and would add that pigeonholing people with a label of "he's just a number 4" or "he's just a number 5" strikes me as trying awfully hard to sound scouty. I think if you had five guys like Lannan in your rotation, there's no good reason you couldn't be a very good team depending on the construction of the rest of the team. That is, five Lannans plus a good defense and a good offense is probably a plenty good team.

Posted by: Section220 | March 1, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Just as long as he doesn't pull a Jose Cansenco...Posted by: twinbrook

Exactly. First thing I thought of.

Posted by: dovelevine | March 1, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Don't think you will see that again...Riggs goes out and stops him quietly and Rizzo was not joking with his comment...at $12 Million a year I do not think they want him throwing curve balls....he would not be the first or last to come up hurt doing that.

Posted by: JayBeee | March 1, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

he was a quarterback, right? i wouldn't charge the mound.

Posted by: longterm | March 1, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Whatsa matter, longterm, don't think you can take a poncey little quarterback? :-)

506 -- and 220 -- I just recently read a thing about what truly constitutes a 5th starter and how the term is abused. I could have sworn someone here provided the link.

Posted by: Scooter_ | March 1, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

So...was he any good? Granted, it's only 11 pitches, but freaky things happen in games some times....

Posted by: EricS2 | March 1, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

It's a never-ending cascade of guys agreeing and linking to each other. I found this one: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-dodgers-fifth-starter

The article someone (Sec3?) linked to was referring to that one, which in turn refers to something at Lookout Landing. There's another article pasted into the comments that looks about the same too. You get my drift; there's been some discussion, is what I'm saying.

Posted by: Scooter_ | March 1, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

If you ask me people who throw out that kind of research [sec506] seems awfully "scouty" or "snooty".

The problem is if you are going to be a "stat" head then the right measure would be WHIP not ERA,

First, Lannan finished 25th in innings pitched.

Lannan's WHIP is 1.35

Verlander who also pitched more innings: 1.18
Halladay who again pitched more innings : 1.13
Fernandez who again pitched more innings: 1.14
Grienke who again pitched more innings: 1.07
Sabbathia who again pitched more innings: 1.15
Piniero who again pitched more innings: 1.15
Matt Cain who again pitched more innings: 1.18
Lincecum who again pitched more innings: 1.05
Randy Wolf who again pitched more innings: 1.10

Marquis who also pitched more innings: 1.38

I'm not an expert, but I am sorry to say that neither Lannan nor
Marquis seem to be at the same level as the pitchers listed above. In the case of Lannan that may be a "well at least not yet" because he is after all only 25. In the case of Marquis he is probably on the downside at this point.

Posted by: periculum | March 1, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

periculum, you list the best starters in baseball. No one is confusing Marquis and Lannan with Grienke and Lincecum but that doesn't mean they aren't good pitchers. To listen to you any roatation that doesn't have the top 5 starters in baseball is terrible.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 1, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Scooter, IIRC the Fangraphs article dealt with the overblown expectations of what a "#5 SP" should be, as opposed to actual production from SP's who accumulated the 5th-highest number of starts.

Posted by: BinM | March 1, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

@SCNatsFan,

There are around 20 or so starting pitchers who pitched more innings and had a lower WHIP than Lannan ... Marquis is pretty far down WHIP-wise.

I think 20 or so pitchers is an appropriate number representing "top rung". Just like Ryan Zimmerman must certainly be considered a top rung player, very much so ... and very close to the top. If Dunn works on his fielding, his batting average ... he too could end up there.

Would you put Lannan in the same category as a Zimmerman or Dunn? And honestly if he hadn't been hurt JZimm would likely have likely ended up higher ranked than Lannan. He was a pretty damned good "clone" of Matt Cain (as MZ attests).

Posted by: periculum | March 1, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

And again, Lannan is still only 25. There is still upside to be explored. He may end up on that list at some point ... but he's not there now.

Posted by: periculum | March 1, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Yes, BinM, that's what it said. I guess my point got obscured, but it wasn't a good one anyway.

Posted by: Scooter_ | March 1, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Lannan is an ace or a #1 but feel he can be a solid #2 behind one of the guys on that list or, hopefully, SS. You factor in Olsen, Moch, Chico etc. and you think a #5 will emerge, leaving #3 to wang and JZimm. Maybe I'm too optimistic but I think what we have right now has the potential to be an excellent rotation. What worries me is the strength up the middle; I'm not sold on Morgan and Flores shoulder troubles me (like all of us) and we know our middle infield problems. As I look at the Nats problems I think they need to solve things off the mound now; if they are wrong on the thoughts they have on our current pitchers then we are in deep trouble.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 1, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

@SCNatsFan,

And I am "pessimistic"? Here is a blog entry from Dave Nichols over at Nationals News Network.

"But it again leads me to the question I posed in the beginning: Is it better to be optimistic and be disappointed by the results, or pessimistic and be pleasantly surprised?True optimism comes from the youngsters in camp, namely Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen and Ian Desmond. But as the team is configured now, none of these players will wear the major league uniform until Memorial Day at the earliest. So hope for better things from the collection of veterans Mike Rizzo assembled during the off-season, just don't necessarily expect it. Save the real optimism for the kids."

Posted by: periculum | March 1, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Hold up a sec, you're saying that Lannan is worse than ~20 pitchers? How many teams are there? Sure, he wouldn't be a #1 SP in a playoff contender (and I don't think anyone thinks the Nats are playoff contending this year) But he's a serviceable #1 for now. When SS comes in, or CMW, they'll take that role. Having a #1 and #2 in the top 30 pitchers is certainly good enough to contend. Maybe not win the Pennant, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

Posted by: swang30 | March 1, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

@SCNatsFan,

You aren't sold on Morgan? With his ungodly UZR? Wow! But, you have Maxwell who I think will undoubtedly permanently make the team. You also have Willie Harris, and then there's Tavares ... I think you can be reasonably assured that centerfield is covered. There's Eury Perez who may just move quickly with age and maturity.

Catcher remains a question mark. But many here seem convinced that Jhonathan Solano is a superb defensive catcher.
He is in Syracuse right now. There is also Jamie Burke. Sean Rooney and Derrick Norris are long shots to help out this year.

The middle of the infield appears to be reasonably sound with the addition of Kennedy basically a better defensive version of Belliard. Desmond and Espinosa are on their way.

In the end its the pitching that matters for this team. Starting pitching remains the biggest question mark.

To paraphrase Boz, I wouldn't depend on Chico, JZimm, Wang ... the walking wounded.

Posted by: periculum | March 1, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"Hold up a sec, you're saying that Lannan is worse than ~20 pitchers? How many teams are there?"

I wouldn't use or say the word worst and I didn't. He is 25 years old. He is still learning. Would you say that Strasburg is "worst" than Lincecum. What would you say? C'mon people, Lannan is not at that level yet. And Marquis will likely never reach it.

Posted by: periculum | March 1, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

periculum, the season hasn't even started yet and you're already about to get ignored. If you had bothered to read my snooty post, as difficult as it must have been, you would have noted that I tipped my hat to the flaws of ERA, but it's the most readily available and my 9-6 (does anyone work 9-5?) is pressing today.

"There are around 20 or so starting pitchers who pitched more innings and had a lower WHIP than Lannan ... Marquis is pretty far down WHIP-wise."

Given that there are 30 teams in baseball, if only a third of them are considered "good" teams, that means there is a maximum of 10 teams that could have Lannan equal or better to their #3 starter.

Even assuming your claim that he couldn't be a #1 or #2 on a good team with his WHIP isn't ridiculous, it's clearly ridiculous that he'd only be a #4 or #5 on a good team. Maybe if we opened it up to All-Madden teams or something, that would make sense.

Posted by: Section506 | March 1, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

@peric - realism has no place on this chat board. Pulling up pitchers and their abilities and showing that Lannan is no Ace only makes someone say that he is better than x pitchwer on some lousy team who is ranked higher. For instance:

"Come on man! Lannan is waaay better than the entire Pirates pitching staff."

And regardless of saying that the pitchers that the Pirates have are stinky, they will feel justified cause Lannan could lead the Pirates. Ok, well if you want your team to be stinky any pitcher could lead a stinky staff.

So instead of arguing the ridiculous, let's ask a very simple question, since the playoffs have only 4 teams from each league, does anyone on here think Lannan could lead any of those 8 teams? How about the top ten teams?

Posted by: Nataholic | March 1, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

"Does anyone on here think Lannan could lead any of those 8 teams? How about the top ten teams? "

Why not? Or could he back up Stephen Strasburg, which is the real debate, isn't it?

Posted by: Section506 | March 1, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Your prototypical #1 pitcher is a power-baller. Not a pitch-to-contact pitcher. By that definition, Lannan is not a #1. Nor does he need to be. He's good enough for a #2-#3 on a playoff team. I think he's fine for that.

Posted by: swang30 | March 1, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I have no desire to put words in 506's mouth (so, 506, please loudly correct me if this is wrong), but I *think* 506's point, which I happen to think is kinda interesting, is that there's not some sort of Platonic ideal of a baseball team to which one has to aspire with a certain kind of #1, a certain kind of #2, etc. So, I'd fall back on a hypothetical - couldn't a team with five John Lannans, a very good defense, and a good offense, be a really nice team?

I'm certainly not saying John Lannan is Tim Lincecum. I just think some people, including a lot of writers and analysts I really respect, are too quick to say "John Lannan is a #4," and I don't really know what that means or how it is particularly helpful.

Posted by: Section220 | March 1, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Craig Stamen had a 1.29 WHIP last year. Zimmermann had a 1.36 WHIP. But his BABIP was .339 while Stamen's was .282 and Lannan's was .272. Clearly I don't hear people saying Stamen is an Ace. And most just "feel" Zimmermann is better than Lannan. And Zimmermann's BABIP either means he was pretty unlucky, had a bad defense or threw some hittable stuff when he got hit. Regardless, the real story is how does Lannan consistently keep guys off base with his lesser stuff (he's been consistent at .273 BABIP)? And will that trend continue? He's a toughie to figure out and he battles. But an Ace? Come on!

Posted by: Nataholic | March 1, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

So I guess the argument is that unless Lannan is a #1 on a top contender then he isn't worth squat. If that is your view then you are correct.

As for Morgan, I have no problem with his defense - how could I - but offensively I wonder if at 30 he's seen better days. I hope not. He's 30 and been in the show three years... although been good those three. I hope he proves me wrong.

As for Dave Nichols, optimism v. pessimism is an interesting argument but just because the young 'uns don't arrive until the end of the year won't ruin the season; if you are looking for this team, right now, to be a contender then I suggest you start on prozac now.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 1, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Lannan's a groundball pitcher who throws about 2/3 fastballs and never down the middle of the plate. He's got control and consistency. And he's a good pitcher, a playoff caliber pitcher. But he's no shut them down playoff Ace. And another thing, does anyone really think he is one of the best 40 pitchers out there? 50? Really? Maybe a top 50 pitcher?

Posted by: Nataholic | March 1, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Ok, I'll bite, pitchers from teams that didn't go to the playoffs last year that I would take over Lannan:

I'd take,

Josh Johnson -Florida Marlins
Yovani Gallardo - Milwaukee Brewers
Dan Haren - Arizona Diamondbacks
Zack Greinke - Kansas City Royals
Ricky Nolasco - Florida Marlins
Jake Peavy - Chicago White Sox
Tommy Hanson - Atlanta Braves
Javier Vazquez - Atlanta Braves
Matt Cain - San Francisco Giants
Wandy Rodriguez - Houston Astros
Tim Lincecum - San Francisco Giants
Roy Halladay - Toronto Blue Jays
Felix Hernandez - Seattle Mariners
Justin Verlander - Detroit Tigers
Johan Santana - New York Mets
Jair Jurrjens - Atlanta Braves
David Price - Tampa Bay Rays
Rich Porcello - Detroit Tigers
Brett Anderson - Oakland Athletics
Carlos Zambrano - Chicago Cubs

And probably a bunch more. Should I continue? Can the John Lannan is an Ace talk die it's death yet????

Posted by: Nataholic | March 1, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

"So I guess the argument is that unless Lannan is a #1 on a top contender then he isn't worth squat. If that is your view then you are correct."

No, just that ***at this point in his career*** he is middle tier, not top rung or top tier. That doesn't mean he isn't of value/.

Ask yourself this @SCNatsfan and sectio506 who seems to just be interested in being irritating: Even up would the SF Giants trade Matt Cain for left-hander John Lannan. Even up? They could use a left-handed starter. Would they do the do that deal? Would you do that deal? Silence ... right ... sheesh ..

He is not a top rung starter .. he hasn't even pitched 200 innings yet for criminy's sake. He may end up there but he is definitely not there yet ...

Posted by: periculum | March 1, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

peri, I hope at some point Matt Cain breaks down and answers your letters because you are clearly infatuated with him. Just because Lannan hasn't had as good a career doesn't mean he's worthless. As for iritating, well, c'mon now... pot... kettle

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 1, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Right-o 220, and said better, too.

peri, I thought we were discussing whether or not the Nats needed three pitchers better than Lannan in order to have a chance to compete.

If you want to move the goal posts to discuss whether the Giants will trade Cain straight-up, I'm happy to call you the winner.

Posted by: Section506 | March 1, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Just for grins, I looked up pitchers who threw at least 200IP in 2009 (36, by my count). Of those, 20 were considered as the #1 on their respective staffs:
Jurrens - ATL; Haren - AZ; Guthrie - BAL; Beckett - BOS; Arroyo - CIN; Lee - CLE/PHI; Jimenez - COL; Buehrle - CWS; Verlander - DET; Johnson FLA; Greinke - KC; Jered Weaver - LAA; Sabathia - NYY; Duke - PIT; Hernandez - SEA; Lincecum - SF; Wainwright - StL; Shields - TB; Halladay - TOR; Lannan - WSH.

Of those 20, Lannan ranked 19th in WHIP, 5th in efficiency (pitches/IP), and 19th in IP/GP.

He's not an ace, but he holds up decently against the best in MLB, and could fill a #2-3 slot on most any staff in either league, in my book. With both Lannan & Marquis (also a top-36) now on staff, I'll take the teams chances against the National League.


Posted by: BinM | March 1, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who actually thinks we have good starting pitching this year is crazy. Our rotation is still one of the worst in baseball. Strasburg will help whenever he comes up late in the season and adjusts to the big league, but I don't see anybody else for sure. There's potential in a few pitchers like Zimm and Wang, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Posted by: futbolclif | March 2, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

Dunn was a pitcher in high school ... I remember watching a game on MASN sometime this past season where his parents were in attendance, and his mother mentioned this during an interview with Debbi.

Posted by: MCarroll63 | March 2, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

There was a slugger who started as a pitcher and became a regular. He finished with more HRs than Dunn will. Maybe Dunn can round out his career on the mound.

Posted by: jy151310 | March 3, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

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