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One take on John Lannan's start to the season

Leading statistical baseball analysts, using figures and formulas that probably make uninitiated, casual fans feel as if they're doing algebra homework, have long been puzzled by John Lannan's success. Lannan became a legitimate front-line starter by inducing a truckload of groundballs, but he allowed a ton of balls in play, didn't strike out many batters and walked a fair amount. It didn't add up.

This FanGraphs piece, written after Lannan's fourth start, offers the standard advanced-metric explanation to his slow start to this season: Basically, what's happening now is more in line with the kind of pitcher he is than his past.

What you think of the piece will probably depend on your perspective. Lannan himself said he simply has not located the ball well enough, like he has in the past and believes he will in the near future. That's a good explanation, too, and Lannan has a two-year track record to back him up. But no matter your view of the game and of the advance stats, the FanGraphs piece is worth reading and considering. I'm not judging, only presenting.

FROM THE POST

The Marlins knocked around Lannan and beat the Nats 9-3. They weren't happy about their losing consecutive games for the first time since April 14.

Stephen Strasburg, Dave Sheinin writes, faced a new and different opponent Sunday: adversity.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Columbus 6, Syracuse 3: Mike Morse went 2 for 3 with a home run. Colin Balester allowed five runs on five hits and three walks in just two innings. Jason Bergmann allowed one run on three hits in two innings, striking out three.

Altoona 6, Harribsurg 1: The Senators managed four hits, all singles. Chris Marrero went 1 for 4 and is batting .256.

Potomac 11, Lynchburg 6: Edgardo Baez went 2 for 3 with a walk and a double. Dan Leatherman earned his first save by striking out three in 1 1/3 perfect innings.

Hagerstown was off.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

This Nyjer Morgan interview with Big League Stew is one of the craziest things I think I've ever read. Just tremendous.

Goessling Game looks at what's up with all those strikeouts this weekend.

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 3, 2010; 12:08 AM ET
Categories:  John Lannan  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: For Brian Bruney, a frustrating end to a bad week
Next: Matt Capps takes home April relief award

Comments

I'd read this piece before and was aware of this continuing debate, but what struck me on this reading was the issue of called vs. swinging strikes. I was already getting impatient with our homer TV announcers whining yesterday about the ump "squeezing the plate" on Johnnie Boy and thinking that it was a bad sign that you had to depend each game "on the kindness of umpires," to paraphrase Tennessee Williams. But the swinging strike to pitched ball ratio really opened my eyes. Anybody know what Johnnie's ratio was yesterday? Don't get me wrong, I like the kid, but I'm worried...

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | May 3, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Look, John is what he is - at best a 4 or 5 starter, at worst a long reliever. He's never had top of the rotation stuff, and I think he like many young pitchers has some success at the beginning and then folks figure you out. He won't suddenly become a dominant pitcher - he really never has been.

Posted by: bendersx6 | May 3, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

'tired lament by the same forlorn people' Having posted very little in the last year, I can't imagine I've put out too many 'tired laments'. Ironically, the reason I have not posted is because of these personal comments and the fact that, before, I was being critisized for being overly Pollyannish (Is that a word?) and optimistic. (Used to be Jeeves, but couldn't retain said moniker for some reason--likely my ignorance.)

Posted by: jcampbell1 | May 3, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

And again, that is one big reason why this early season success can't last... we have nobody to match up with Halladay, Santana, Tommy Hanson or Josh Johnson... nobody to lead the staff... for the most part, the SP has suprisingly good... but, we are talking about a bunch of 4th starters at best who need superior command, top notch defense and luck behind them to be consistently successful.

I like Lannan... I like Livan, Olsen, Stammen and what we have seen from Atilano... but they are going to take their hits because they can't make anyone swing and miss on a consistent basis...

Looking forward to Strasburg obviously, but he likely won't pitch enough in 2010 to lead the way... ah well, as long as the team keeps fighting, they will be fun to watch...

GO NATS!

Posted by: Ghost7 | May 3, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Wow, I was right. Two losses and the "the rats from the sinking ship movement" came back.

Folks, they are doing better than expected. Enjoy, breathe, relax. It's just a game. It's just a game.

Posted by: natsguy | May 3, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

I was on 680 the fan (sprts.talk Atl.) this am and i told them if someone had told me this team would be one game over.500 in May I would do the "James Brown" on the top of their radio station in downtown Atl.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 3, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

I am worried about Lannan though. Curious to see how many bad starts they let him have.

Posted by: FriendofalltheWorld | May 3, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Seriously, who thought we'd have the record we do at this point, particularly given the string of teams that we faced in April?

...crickets...

Uh-huh.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 3, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

If you'd asked Riggleman at the beginning of the season who were his five most important pitchers, four of them would have been Lannan, Marquis, Capps, Bruney (who was going to be the 8th inning guy) and the fifth guy would have been either Clippard or the 3rd starter (whoever that is).

Lannan's been bad, Marquis was horrendous, Capps great, and Bruney terrible. Only one of the four has done the job. And they're still 13-12. I'll take it.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 3, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

If you'd asked Riggleman at the beginning of the season who were his five most important pitchers, four of them would have been Lannan, Marquis, Capps, Bruney (who was going to be the 8th inning guy) and the fifth guy would have been either Clippard or the 3rd starter (whoever that is).

Lannan's been bad, Marquis was horrendous, Capps great, and Bruney terrible. Only one of the four has done the job. And they're still 13-12. I'll take it.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 3, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Oops, sorry about the double post. My posting finger isn't awake yet.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 3, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

As a fan, I'm pleased by the teams' record to date, but there are points to be concerned about. As Adam K. points out, Lannan has been less effective than in the past; The RF combo, while very good defensively, has provided little offense; and first Dunn & now Willingham are in the throes of a slump. Toss in a sketchy top-end of the bullpen (Batista, Walker, Bruney, Burnett), and I can see the reason for worry.

Riggleman's getting a lot out of the current team, but opponents like the Phillies & Marlins expose the flaws quickly.

Posted by: BinM | May 3, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Certainly there are points of concern. For one thing, I likely wouldn't mind "errors of aggression," quite so much if they didn't also seem to be, um, "skeletal-headed" errors at times.

Still, at present there are, what, eight teams in baseball with a better record than us, and two tied? That's a darn sight better than having the worst record in baseball. (BTW, who has that honor at present? hmmm, I think it's a team in the AL East. But I digress...)

Yeah, it's a long season, and who knows where we might end up, but still, this could be something to savor just a wee bit. I'm gonna do so, anyway. Y'all are welcome to join me, or not. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 3, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

It's pretty simple. In yesterday's game, the umpire was not giving either pitcher the knee-high strike nor was he giving the outside part of the plate (to RH batters). Difference is, Josh Johnson adjusted and came inside more plus he's able to throw his fastball by hitters. Lannan can't.

Lannan, throughout his entire career, needs to have the knee-high pitch called a strike to be effective. If he doesn't get that called, then he has to elevate his pitch or he'll end up walking every batter. This happens to *ALL* pitchers. Maddux, Pettite, Glavine, Livo etc. If these guys don't get the call, they won't last more than 5 innings.

I'm not worried about Lannan at all. He's proven that he can be successful in the majors without having overpowering stuff. Location, location, location. And defense. What's more troubling was the fact that the Nats offense couldn't make consistent contact all weekend long. I don't care if your pitcher is throwing 85mph or 105mph, if your offense isn't hitting you're not going to win.

Posted by: erocks33 | May 3, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Well, we have weathered what could have been a disastrous April but after today we have 27 games in a 28 days including 20 in a row, OUCH! I hope the bullpen can get some rest at least a few of thos days.

Posted by: markfd | May 3, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Nickname Update:

Ivan Rodriguez - Pudge
Adam Dunn - Freddie Physical
Ian Desmond - Hee-Sop
Willie Harris - Willie Wampa
Justin Maxwell - Maxi Priest
Ryan Zimmerman - The Franchise
Nyjer Morgan - Tony Plush
Nyjer Morgan - After 30th birthday - Real Lowry

Posted by: hansenjo | May 3, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

This might be a hard swallow for the kool-aiders but Dibbs said it best yesterday.

"As long as you make the hitters comfortable at the plate you are asking for trouble"!

Most kids learn in High School and College, getting brushed back on an 0-2 count is just business, not personnal. Its the way good pitchers set up the batter for the next pitch.

Lannen, Stammen, even Olsen have a tendency to leave pitches out over the plate. Against good hitting teams like the Marlins, its only a matter of time before the hitters know they are going to be serverd batting practice in the 3rd and 4th inning.

This is the kind of baseball talk you don't hear in DC. Now in NY, Mets fans are looking for a ledge to jump from after Santana's stinker last night. Radio Talkers on WFAN are encouraging the inevitable, the Mets and Nats have had their flash in the pan.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | May 3, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

The past is prologue, eh Tippy? I still hold to my prediction of 72-75 wins. Maybe, Strasburg-Storen gets us to 81. Wailt till June 30, y'all before starting to sing the 100+ blues.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | May 3, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Certainly I've enjoyed the current run, but I'm a realist. They won't keep it up and I think if I saw more pieces to the puzzle being filled in for the future (beyond the obvious SS and Storen) I would be more excited. Face it besides RZim, Desmond, and maybe Morgan, what position players do you really see as part of the long-term plan? The lack of depth at the ML-ready level is still the biggest problem with this team and their competitiveness in the next 2-3 years.

Posted by: bendersx6 | May 3, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

The series with Atlanta looks pivotal. A poor showing, and it feels like a nose dive. But a few wins, and I can breathe again.

Other topic: I like MLB Network, but do they give the Nats' offense too much credit? I hear remarks like -- these guys can hit, and they can score in bunches, but (insert doubt about pitching here). And in one report, I think they credited Zim with 7 homeruns so far this year.

We've seen worse, but this team is not a run producing powerhouse, yet.

Posted by: KenNat | May 3, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Actually, for the next 2-3 years, they're okay with their position players, with the exception of RF. The only everyday guys over 30 are Willingham, who's only 31, and I-Rod and Kennedy and they have prospects to play those two positions coming along: Rooney and Norris (and maybe Bryce Harper) at C, and Espinosa in the middle infield.

If Strasburg and Storen develop to the expected level and do it quickly, this will be a much different looking team. In the meantime, if they play at a .500 level or just below that, I'm not going to complain.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 3, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-just a quick ...weell, something to ponder. Seems that in most of the games this year, the umps have had small strike zones. Putting aside whether or not we've gotten the worst end of the deal, I wonder: A few years back, MLB "broke" the umps union, so to speak. Now they're all under MLB control-and Quest-Tec, or whatever it's called, and I'm sure a lot of other kinds of scrutiny. Perhaps chafing under the lash of MLB - and Joe Wests' rant notwithstanding- I wonder if the umps are in some way "colluding" to call a small zone as a way of thumbing their noses at the increased scrutiny (meddling, I'm sure some of them feel) by MLB inc. I've watched lots of other teams with the b.ball package and I hear the same lament frequently-even switching between broadcast teams for the same game.
And on another note....I really thought highly of Randy St. Claire. Nothing against the Walrus(although his 'stache is missing!) but that's one move in particular the Wiz has made that I wasn't fond of; especially since Manny was gone soon anyway..I always thought Randy was sort of a Dave Duncan lite. Hope he has success-just not against us!
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | May 3, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang.....and as a follow up to my last post, I'd like to hear what all of your take is on the apparently small strike zone-not that I need to ask you all to do that!
Go Nats!!!!

Posted by: zendo | May 3, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

HeeSop, that's just awesome. Now wondering if he watched that old Aesop's Fables cartoon with the really bad jokes like "a benny shaved is a benny urned".

@jcampbell1, yeah it does suck when Moe Green comes back to life to whine about what you post. I thought he was dead? I love it when they do. Gives me an excuse to trot out the old alt.flame UseNet schtick.

Sometimes makes good ol' BinM jump out of his wheel chair just like Teddy.

Posted by: periculum | May 3, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

zendo: As long as an umpire is consistent in his interpretation of the strikezone, I'm o.k. with it. Cortes wasn't calling strikes 'on the black' yesterday - Johnson adjusted, Lannan didn't.

Posted by: BinM | May 3, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

My biggest problem with the strike zone is how the Nats pitchers attack it, not how the umps call it. Is it just me or are the Nats overly focused on keeping the ball down? I know Dibble goes off all the time about the lack of pitching inside but I think he's right. I also think the pitchers don't throw enough pitches at letter height or higher. I know there was a time during the steroid years where it was dangerous to throw there because the juiced players could hit the (juiced?) ball over the close fences in the modern parks. Given that the hitters aren't as juiced as before, maybe it's time to try a few more high fastballs. But they definitely need to jam hitters more, in my opinion.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 3, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

In reality Volstad and Johnson #1 and #1a starters on most teams in the national and american leagues and if the nats can match them with a starter of equal talent or Livan then we've got a chance. This team needs another bat or we'll be hard pressed to get to.500 and Rizzo needs to address that issue pronto! The Braves are looking at this upcomming series(tue,wed,&thurs)as getting their season back on track, a week ago in the midst of a nine game losing streak fan's were screaming for Bobby Cox(braves mgr.)to be fired and Chipper Jones to be benched after Brian Jordan(frmr.brave&falcon)player questioned Jones off season workout routine as a reason Jones was slumping and injury prone and to think we're complaining about two weekend loses,go figure.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 3, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Baltova, you're remembering guys who threw in the mid- to high-90s throwing high strikes for a swing-and-miss. Most of the Nats pitchers, starters especially, need the ball down.
As for pitching inside more, yes. More please. But for crying out loud, don't hit the #8 guy to lead off an inning.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 3, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Keeping in mind, too, that slower stuff is more effective away, where it's a little harder to identify and adjust to.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 3, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Unless he's a Phillie . . . you can never hit those guys enough!
___________________________
As for pitching inside more, yes. More please. But for crying out loud, don't hit the #8 guy to lead off an inning.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 3, 2010 2:00 PM

Posted by: lowcountry | May 3, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm a big Lannan fan but let's face the reality that his fastball tops out at 87-88 and he doesn't have great control as evidenced by the number of his walks. If he's not keeping the ball down and inducing a lot of ground ball outs, he's going to get knocked around.

The Nats brass know that he's a 4th or 5th starter once Strasburg and Detweiler makes it to the bigs assuming that Marquis can return healthy. Next year, there is a chance he won't make the rotation assuming Jordan Zimmerman makes the rotation unless he can beat out Scott Olsen who has better stuff. The path from mediocrity to being a good team is often filled with guys who were okay to get buy with Lannan, Stammen, Harris, etc. who are not long-term solutions.

Posted by: wizfan89 | May 3, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

The team has done better than most expected so far. The ramifications of this is that future expectations are ramped upward. The pitching staff as currently constructed is on borrowed time. It's a results business and its as simple as that. Once Strasburg, Wang and Detwiler, not to mention JZ make it back and assuming they all produce it will make it hard for many of these current starters to maintain a spot in the rotation, and that will be a good thing for the team. All we want is to continue getting better. Status quo will not do. GO NATS

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 3, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Quoted for truth, as the kids say. :-)

---

Unless he's a Phillie . . . you can never hit those guys enough!
___________________________
As for pitching inside more, yes. More please. But for crying out loud, don't hit the #8 guy to lead off an inning.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 3, 2010 2:00 PM
Posted by: lowcountry | May 3, 2010 2:23 PM |

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 3, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

From the ESPN Power Rankings:

"The Nats have failed to score more than three runs in eight of their past 10 games."

The team has to score more runs.

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | May 3, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

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