John Lannan trying to figure it out
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."
FROM THE POST
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.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
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.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
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.
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