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Friday, March 26, 2010
One2Watch4: Nationals SP John Lannan

By Mark Bowers, ESPN Stats & Info

In case you haven’t heard, Stephen Strasburg was optioned to the minors last week. While we expect to see the big guy in the majors at some point this season, we thought you might like to know who else we’ll be seeing on the mound for the Nationals in 2010. So, let’s take a closer look at SP John Lannan.

The Good
His ERA has decreased while his innings pitched have increased ever year he’s been in the majors, which are both good indications of a younger pitcher feeling more comfortable and getting better.Lannan also finished the year strong in September, posting a 3.58 ERA over six starts (3 of which were quality starts) and didn’t allow a home run in five of those starts. His strikeout to walk ratio was better in September (1.54) than it was for the full season (1.31) as well.Certainly not a strikeout king, Lannan showed continued control over his pitches by forcing a greater percentage of possibilities into double plays and decreasing the total number of his walks. Finally, despite the increased number of innings pitched, Lannan allowed one fewer home run in 2009 than in 2008.

All of these factors seem to trend to the positive for Lannan in 2010.

The Bad

Unfortunately it’s not all sunshine and roses for Lannan and a closer look at the numbers reveal some disturbing trends. Between 2008 and 2009 he saw an increase in his batting average against and decreases in WHIP, quality starts, strikeouts and swinging-strike percentage. In other words, he’s having trouble making people miss, which has led to more hits despite the lower ERA. The decrease in quality starts also shows that hitters are getting to him earlier in the game (slightly over 40% of his earned runs in 2009 were allowed between the 1st and 3rd innings) than they did in 2008.Of course, the argument could easily be made that Lannan is not a power guy and thus is not going to get the same number of strikeouts that other guys are going to get. While that’s true, it’s still a concern that more batters were able to get on base and that Lannan left more in the hands of his defense in 2009 than in 2008.

Conclusion

Lannan is a solid middle-of-the rotation guy, which is what he will be after Strasburg gets called up. Strasburg and Jason Marquis, who was signed in the offseason, put Lannan in a more realistic position in the middle of the Nationals rotation compared to being the ace he was asked to be last year.