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John Lannan trying to figure it out

Morning roundup

John Lannan could always get a groundball when he most needed one. That was his strength, the thing that made him unique and let him start on opening day in the majors - twice - despite below-average velocity and unassuming overall stuff.

The stat that best shows his ability to summon a grounder is this: Last year, Lannan got a double play 20 percent of the time it was possible. This year, Lannan has got his double plays only 11 percent of the time.

Something is off, and he can't figure out quite what, but his sinker is not sinking. He is walking more batters (3.0 per nine innings last year, 4.2 per 9 this year), allowing more line drives (20 percent of batters to 22 percent) and inducing fewer groundouts (1.14 groundball-fly ball ration to 0.94). Lannan is also much less lucky - his batting average on balls in play shot from .277 to .310.

Added together, Lannan, after establishing himself for two years, is having his worst season. He has a 5.45 ERA, and rather than helping lead a staff with the brightest young pitcher in memory, he is helping drag it down.

Imagine what Lannan at his best, as the No. 3 starter behind Stephen Strasburg and Livan Hernandez, could do for the Nationals. Right now, they have not been able to rely on their rotation outside of Hernandez and Strasburg in his two starts.

In the past month, Nationals starters aside from Hernandez and Strasburg are a combined 3-9 with a 4.59 ERA, a 1.47 WHIP, 49 strikeouts, 38 walks and 20 home runs in 125 1/3 innings. Some Nationals starters have pitched well without the reward of W, but the time a starter outside of Hernandez or Strasburg won was May 31, when Luis Atilano beat the Houston Astros.

Lannan has the best potential to reversing that trend. He vowed he would fix himself. The hard part will be figuring what exactly is wrong, how to make his sinker sink again, how to go back to getting those groundballs whenever he needs.

"John, he already proved that he's a great pitcher," Ivan Rodriguez said. "He started the season very well this year. Right now, he's struggling - right now. That's part of the game. That's baseball. That's why baseball is such a nice sport. Sometimes you're up. And when you're down, you've got to go up. That's what he's doing right now."


Stephen Strasburg has become a strikeout pitcher upon entering the big leagues, and that might actually be a problem, Boz writes.

Last night, John Lannan's struggles this year hit a low point in a 7-4 loss to the Tigers, a loss that dropped the Nats to 13-22 on the road.


Syracuse 5, Charlotte 4: Jamie Burke went 2 for 4 with two RBI. Joel Peralta earned his 19th save with a perfect ninth, striking out one.

Harrisburg 5, New Britain 1: Danny Espinosa hit a grand slam but is batting just .219. Andrew Kown allowed one earned run in 6 2/3 innings on eight hits and no walks. Chris Marrero went 2 for 4 with a double.

Myrtle Beach 7, Potomac 6 (12 innings): Chris Curran went 3 for 6 with a double. Trevor Holder allowed three earned runs in five innings on eight hits and no walks.

Hagerstown was postponed against Asheville.


Stephen Strasburg's coming out party equates to the birth of fan base in D.C., Jayson Stark writes.

Ben Goessling is starting to see some problems in the starting rotation for the Nats.

John Lannan is baffled, Mark Zuckerman writes.

The Nationals Enquirer wants you to Vote Zim.

A sure sign Strasburg has made it: He gets The Onion treatment. And it's great.

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 16, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Game 65 discussion thread: Nationals at Tigers
Next: Willie Harris coming up aces


Lannan's troubles are no mystery. He needs to pay a visit to Dr. Andrews and see what is wrong with his elbow. He got a cortisone shot and pitched well for 3-4 outings. Now he is back like he was before the shot. HE IS HURT!

Posted by: Section314 | June 16, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I like the Onion, but that piece was a little weak, imo. Bring your "A" game next time, fellas. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 16, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

If he's hurt - if - then he needs to say something. He's doing the team no favors pitching like this. When his pie throwing ability is his best value then something needs to be done.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | June 16, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

He's baffled because nobody swings at his pitches out of the strike zone any more. Unless he turns into Moyer and makes his changeup look like something they want to swing at, he's toast. The 'sinker' is just a euphamism for something that starts in the strike zone, and ends up out of it. They were swinging at it, now they're not. The umps are making him throw strikes. It's real simple - if he has to throw strikes, he doesn't have major league stuff. Like Riggs said after the game, their staff can't strike anyone out, so batted balls are going to find a hole eventually. It takes him a lot more pitches to get out of a jam because he can't get the K when he needs it. He needs to have someone hit it at a defender and that just doesn't happen with his stuff. 100+ pitches to get 13 outs?

Posted by: Brue | June 16, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

In other words, his cut fastball, or sinker, isn't designed to be a strike, and if the hitter recognizes it's a cutter, he lays off. Then they wait for the fastball, because that's about the only pitch he can throw for a strike. The fastball looks 'up' even if it's at the knees because it's so hittable. You saw the Tigers hitters just go down and get his fastball and rake it like a golf stroke.

Posted by: Brue | June 16, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

And all these hitters are just now figuring this out. Give me a break. They knew what he had by June of 2008 yet he was able pitch the last two years as an effective, albeit unspectacular starter.

What part of "he's injured" don't you understand?

Posted by: sjt1455 | June 16, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Novel idea..., how about John-Boy goes and figures it out in Syracuse. Nothing worse then watching a soft-tosser nibble and then have no choice 3-1 or 3-2 to groove a fastball over the plate to a .150 hitter. Even those guys can hit the meat-ball.

What galls me more then anything is managements selling of SS as the reason why this franchise is on its way. Hey LernerStank and RizRigs your boy only throws every 5th day, there's lots of dead space in between. The Braves had Smoltz, Glaven, Avery and then Maddox. The Nats have Jeezus, Livo and then Moe, Larry and Curly! With Shemp waiting in the BP!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | June 16, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Well, this is discouraging. Seems to me this is a story we have heard before with our pitchers. Lannan is hurt and about to be diagnosed as such and likely out for the season. And the rest of our walking wounded are not even close to ready. Most discouraging. And the crappy defense is just unacceptable. The Nats (or the ownership/management thereof) managed to blow the goodwill of the return of baseball to DC, the new stadium and are now on the way to failing to capitalize on Strasmas by failing to address critical team needs. They cannot be blamed for Marquis' crash and burn (who knew?) but they took a big risk on some of the walking wounded being ready by late May, then revised to June now looking to be August in some cases and never in others.

Always ready to risk the teams' fortune to protect the owners' fortune, or so it seems. Most discouraging.

Posted by: NatsFly | June 16, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I think a lot of you may be forgetting about Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, Chen-Ming Wang, and Scott Olsen. We are pretty much playing with our B squad right now. Livan will fall apart at midseason again. Lannan will go on the DL and Atilano will start getting clobbered. This isn't the year. We may go .500 this year if we're lucky. Next year we will be better. I'd guess that we may be a couple years away from being a contender. Just be happy we're winning some ballgames this year. This team has come so far in the last 2-3 years and there's more to come. This team is being built right. Doing things the right way takes time. Be patient.

Posted by: PAskinsfan17 | June 16, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Lannan is hurt and about to be diagnosed as such and likely out for the season.
Posted by: NatsFly

Where do you people come up with this crap? Was it on the radio or something?

Posted by: Brue | June 16, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

What's a radio? We pick up our opinions the good, old-fashioned way, via covert electromagnetic transmissions that are sent directly to our brains (when we don't have our tinfoil hats on, of course). :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 16, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I hate to say it, but there's a reason for that. We may see any or all of these guys again, but the odds of even two of them ever again being the pitchers we hope for are not great.
Detwiler was never any great shakes--a #4 starter if everything goes perfectly. Wang was always a longshot, still is. Olsen, nice kid, I'll miss him, genuinely sorry, but he ain't coming back. Znn might; then again, he might not. No way to tell until they get out there.
I think a lot of you may be forgetting about Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, Chen-Ming Wang, and Scott Olsen.
Posted by: PAskinsfan17 | June 16, 2010 12:20 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 16, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Agree with PAskinsfan17; be patient. The Nats are a much-improved team. It took time to get to where we are; it will take time to turn it around. And I really don't get the implicit "we need fireballers" claim. Dave McNally won a ton of games (and World Series games) for the O's with no fast ball to speak of. Ditto for Whitey Ford with the Yankees. The reference to Moyer is right on the money--different player, same point. Everybody wants a contender right now--who doesn't? It just takes time and patience. And injuries? They're part of the game. The Redskins are fair warning for what happens to teams that go for the quick fix.

Posted by: fpcsteve | June 16, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

What's a radio? We pick up our opinions the good, old-fashioned way, via covert electromagnetic transmissions that are sent directly to our brains (when we don't have our tinfoil hats on, of course). :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1

I suppose that's better than pulling them out of your backside like you usually do.

Posted by: Brue | June 16, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

All these wannabees with hurt arms and shoulders looks like a mash unit instead of a pitching staff how about giving Sharon Martis another look, hell you've given everybody else two and three chances why not Martis? they got pissed at him last year because he had a bad start against the sorry azz Orioles that was on Acta's watch, with all that's going on with the starters how come Martis hasn't been called up? i mean compared to what we've seen give the guy a shot he can't be any worse than Martin or Stammen and at least he's healthy.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 16, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I have a hard time seeing how someone is a "wannabe" when they're injured trying to do their job. J. Zimmermann had ligament-replacement surgery. Does that make him a "wannabe"?

Posted by: fpcsteve | June 16, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

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