Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lannan learns to adjust

Associated Press photo
John Lannan takes over Stephen Strasburg's rotation spot tomorrow night.
NEW YORK -- The 2012 baseball season has featured one unexpected turn after another for John Lannan, so it's perhaps appropriate the left-hander's return to the Nationals rotation will come at a time and place nobody expected.

Though he was promoted from Class AAA Syracuse on Sept. 1, Lannan wasn't supposed to make his first start for the Nationals until this weekend in Atlanta. But then the club decided to shut down Stephen Strasburg five days earlier than planned, so now Lannan finds himself preparing to start tomorrow night's series finale against the Mets.

He hasn't appeared in a game since his Aug. 30 start for Syracuse, but he's tried to keep himself on something of a regular routine entering this outing.

"We're just gonna act like I skipped a start," he said. "I didn't pitch, but I followed my routine. I had a pretty good one going, so I just kept on doing that. Got my lifts in, did my running, did everything necessary. I threw three bullpens. I just acted as if I skipped a couple starts, and now I'm pretty much on the routine as if I was pitching Wednesday. So it worked out."

Lannan has gotten used to adapting to unexpected challenges. After assuming he'd be in the Nationals' Opening Day rotation, he learned on April 3 he was instead being shipped to the minors despite his $5 million salary and big-league track record. After initially requesting a trade, he set about trying to work his way back to D.C., ultimately earning two summer starts during doubleheaders.

Lannan won both of those games and was given assurances he would return in September to take Strasburg's rotation spot. He tried not to anticipate when exactly that would take place, and that approach probably paid off because he's now starting several days earlier than expected.

Lannan's last two starts at Syracuse -- back-to-back shutouts -- were by far his best of the season, but he's being careful not to assume that success will immediately carry-over into a big-league pennant race.

"It just doesn't translate," he said. "It is what it is down there, but it's a whole different mindset right now. I just tried to stay as fresh as I could in the bullpens. I knew I couldn't create what I'm going to feel on Wednesday. But looking forward to something, the last bullpen I threw, the mentality changed."

A Long Island native, Lannan will have family on hand for tomorrow's game. It's his first start at Citi Field since April 10, 2010, when he beat the Mets, 4-3, and it comes five months after he thought he'd pitch here in the fifth game of this season.

"I was supposed to make my first start here, when I was supposedly in the rotation," he noted. "So it's kind of crazy that I'm making this start now."

It's easy to think of Lannan stepping in as a fresh arm to take over for a tiring Strasburg, but the 27-year-old has thrown 161 2/3 innings over 26 starts combined starts between Syracuse and Washington this season. He insists he remains physically strong for the stretch run.

"I feel great," he said. "Obviously I ended the season strong at Syracuse, and I felt good those last two starts. I threw 122 pitches in my last start. Obviously it's different; I'm not throwing in front of 200 people here, so the adrenaline is probably more up here than it is down there. It's just something that happens.

"It feels great, because I haven't been in a lot of pressure situations down there. But I'm ready."

45 comments:

Atlee said...

Pitch well, John. Assuming he's non-tendered this winter, I hope he can land somewhere where he can get back into a starting rotation.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Best wishes to Lannen. I hope he shuts them out like he did in '09.

I also hope Nats trade him to another team instead of non-tender in case they wanna move on.

Tcostant said...

I don't know if anyone read the Washington Post article around September 1st, but it was amazing ly candid. Lannan talks about those DH call up, how he felt part of the team and was happy and then two night later he back in the minors as a Pizza Unos after a game talking up the bartendor alone. Powerful stuff.

MicheleS said...

Welcome back John.

Chip Chanko said...

Here's the article...

http://goo.gl/GFC3r

Positively Half St. said...

Atlee, Faraz-

It will be awfully hard to non-tender or trade the World Series MVP....

+1/2St.

Theophilus T. S. said...

I'm not a real Lannan fan but it makes sense to give him a tender and head for arbitration. Jackson will be going somewhere else, there's no one in the organization ready to take his spot, and what happens in the FA market is totally random. The Nats aren't committed to anything before the arbitration hearing. All they have to trade is their rights in arbitration but that's better than having him walk.

The Nats' #5 starters are going to end up w/ 30-31 starts, essentially as many as 1 thru 4. I think that's in part because Johnson was looking for additional days off between starts for Strasburg, Zimmermann. In a typical season, the #5 gets about 28 starts, maybe 29. In that role, Lannan might be tolerable.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Positively Halt St., I hope you are right.

natsfan1a said...

Go, John, go!

NatsLady said...

My understanding is you can re-work the roster for each playoff series. As long as the player was "in the organization" on Sept. 1, he is eligible to be in one or more of the playoff rosters.

My question is, when do you have to submit the 25-man roster for, say, the NLDS?

Assuming we take the Division, can you wait to see who wins the one-game play-in and select the (four) starting pitchers accordingly? Put in all three lefties and leave out EJax if it's Atlanta, for example? And would Davey do that--since he's just said he's not going to tinker with the rotation for the Atlanta series?

MJR said...

CC, Thanks for the link to the Lannan article. What a classy guy. Go, Johnnie, Go!

Section 222 said...

Theo, obviously a lot is riding on how Lannan does this month, but he was way overpaid for this year. I can't see the Nats tendering a contract for him. More likely is they non-tender him and try to negotiate another contract for next year that's not quite so pricey. At that point it's up to Lannan. He's not going to make this year's salary anywhere he goes. So does he want to take less and fight for a spot in next year's rotation, or move on. Like I said, a lot depends on what happens from here through the post season.

NL, I'm pretty sure that the roster setting can await the result of the WC game. Just because Davey isn't messing with the rotation for the upcoming ATL series doesn't mean he won't take a hard look at who he wants to start in the NLDS, since the off days will allow him to line up his preferred 4 starters. Barring unforseen developments, Lannan is probably not part of that conversation. I just don't think Davey will leave E-Jax out of the rotation even if the opponent is the Braves.

JaneB said...

NatsLady, I was also wondering how they could tinker with the rotation, and if the wold card play-in would count as it's own "series" or not. I know, from the perspective of the calendar, they'd likely treat the play-in as part of the same series as the next round. But it might be advantageous to be able to target a specific pitcher to boost the odds of getting out of that one game series.

THAT SAID, I picture us just watching with benign amusement at the four teams who will be in the play-in, because our guys won't start till the next night.

Welcome back, Johnny. Sleep well tonight and play extra well tomorrow.

JamesFan said...

Huge pressure on Lannan tomorrow night. This is not just a regular start in a pennant race. This start will go a long way toward defining him for this year and next. Fortunately, he has stepped up in his previous ML starts this year.

NatsLady said...

222, have to agree. I wouldn't leave EJax out in favor of Lannan if it were me. It's a mystery why Jackson is inconsistent, but whatever motivates him--or happens to him--when he's on, he's really on!

NatsLady said...

Yes, the one-game play-in counts as a "series." There was extended discussion on, I believe Rany and Joe podcast as to whether a manager might use a "bullpen" type approach for that game.

Assuming your Ace is not Verlander (i.e., that your rotation is fairly balanced) you could list one starter and a big bullpen and big bench and play it like the All-Star game where the starter goes two or three innings and everyone else takes a turn.

That way even the starter who pitched the WC game is not blown out for the next series, and could come back after a couple of days' rest instead of four days' rest.

NatsLady said...

JFan, yes, and every pitch Lannan makes will be compared to the pitch Stras would have made...

Section 222 said...

No way does a team in the WC game play it with a "bullpen" approach. It's a sudden death situation. You go with the best starter you have available at the time and play to win. With the off days, he's then available for the 3rd game of the NLDS.

The WC game is Oct. 5. The first two NLDS games for the winner are Oct. 7 and 8. To pitch in game 2, he'd have to pitch on 2 days rest. Not gonna happen. Teams aren't going to mess with the routine of their No. 1 starter, nor are they going to risk losing the WC game by taking him out after a few innings.

NatsLady said...

This season is like a really good book that you want to read cover-to-cover in one sitting but your mother comes in, grabs the book, turns off the light, tells you to go to sleep, and you have to wait until the next day...

NatsLady said...

222, agreed. It was discussed in the context of the WC game being a series--as "out of the box" thinking. Analysts like to dream up stuff like that...

Section 3, My Hitterish Sofa said...

The roster for a series has to be set when the series starts, defined strictly as when the home plate umpire gets the lineup cards. They can change between series for injuries with anyone who was in the organization on August 31, tho in some cases it's possible they would have to be added to the 40-man roster.

alm said...

I think its doubtful that Lannan even sniffs the post season. We will only need 4 starters in a 7 game series and 4 at most in a 5 game series.

I like John but the fact that we were able to keep him in AAA this year is a reflection on how far we have come and how good this team is. Hopefully we again have a rotation that is good enough to not need to tender him a contract next year.

I wish him well, as long as his interests don't conflict with ours...

sm13 said...

With one fewer starter needed for every series (maybe even two less in the NLDS), that opens up bullpen spots. Lannan might find a home as a situational lefty or a long man for the playoffs. And, if Burnett's elbow limits his innings, Lannan may get more opportunities.

DCGuy7 said...

does anyone here have a promo code for today's presale on NLDS that they're not using?

Theophilus T. S. said...

Optimistic notes notwithstanding, I'm not going to count on Burnett being a big thing, or even available, in the playoffs. The elbow has been bothering him too long, and his last few turns have been so miserable, I can't see him healing w/ a week in the hot tub.

I suspect Johnson will have to tweak the way he uses his bullpen and could see Lannan and Gorzelanny as situational LHs.

Section 222 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Section 222 said...

It's possible that the Nats would only use 3 starters in the NLDS, if they sweep the series. But they will have to have a fourth starter on the roster because with only single off day (between games 2 and 3), the No. 1 starter would have to pitch on 3 days rest to start game 4. I can see Davey deciding to go with someone on 3 days rest in the 7th game of the World Series, but no way is he going to do that at the beginning of the playoffs.

The only alternative I suppose would be to start out with 3 starters and an extra reliever, and then have one of the relievers you use in Game 3 get "injured" and replace him with your Game 4 starter. I imagine such a tactic would be frowned upon by the MLB front office, and I imagine there is some rule that would prevent it from happening.

In a best of seven series (NLCS or WS), with days off sandwiched between games 2 and 3 and games 5 and 6, you can manage with 3 starters only if you're willing to have all 3 go on 3 days rest. If you do that, your No. 1 pitches games 1, 4, and 7. I can imagine Davey doing that with E-Jax and maybe Gio, but not with JZnn or Det. So it seems pretty certain that the Nats will use four starters in those series.

Maybe in the WS, they line up Gio to pitch games 1, 4, and 7 (if needed), and use Det and E-Jax only once, but I kind of doubt they'll take the chance on Gio not being effective with less rest.

Another thing to consider is that if the NLDS or the NLCS goes the maximum number of games, the pitcher who starts the deciding game (likely Gio in our case in the NLDS at least) is not going to be available to start Game 1 or 2 of the subsequent series. That makes trying to use a starter for Games 1, 4, and 7 of the NLCS even less likely.

This is all a long way of saying we'll almost certainly have four starters on the roster for every series. As for pitching assignments, that depends on who is effective and how long the series go, but only in the World Series can I imagine Davey doing anything outside the box of a standard 4 man rotation and even that seems unlikely.

baseballswami said...

Missed the entire game last night and am hoping that I can find a video clip somewhere of Tyler's outstanding ninth. I understand he only threw 6 pitches? I have to see that somehow. I know that some posters were concerned about the walks, and about the team not scoring after the fourth. The Nats don't seem to have one signature winning style this season. It's all over the place. First we were only scoring late, winning close games with fantastic pitching. Of late, it's ridiculous power. If I were an opposing team I would probably just think that the Nats have multiple ways in which they can hurt you. They don't usually have all their weapons together in one game - when they do, they are a force of nature. I seem to remember that the Nats have come up with some strategies for facing Dickey. Espi bats right, they move up in the box, etc. I am hoping that they have solved him enough to score some runs and then knock him out. Walks or no walks last night - Gio is a real asset to this team. I think even in the clubhouse he has contributed to a good environment. Just love that guy. Hope JZ is back on track, as being the sacrificial lamb out there when Dickey is up is not exactly fun.

ChiefWJ said...

Lannan's lifetime splits:

vs. RHB: 275/345/405
vs. LHB: 261/327/421

He has not pitched in relief since 2 appearances in the minors in 2007.

Gorzelanny:

vs. RHB: 273/354/435
vs. LHB: 235/297/371

bigfitzva said...

I wish Davey had skipped a day for JZIMM, and started Lannan against Dickey. Killed the preverbial two birds.

ehay2k said...

Swami, I don't have any stats to back this up, but I really get the sense that the Nats' have had one particular way to win this year - by scoring more runs than the other team! ;-)

OK, in all seriousness, I agree with you that they have found different ways to win, but I think the commonality is unrelenting pressure that they put on other teams. The pressure just comes from different places and that is the sign of a balanced team. Whether it's a starter pitching lights out (early in the season when pitchers are supposed to be sharper than hitters) or our own reshuffled murderers row once we got our lineup back in shape (and in mid-season form as well), you just can't relax or these Nats will kill you. You just never know from which direction the sniper shot will come.

After the Barves series in DC, Atlanta got away with a split, but you wondered if they weren't wrung out by the whole ordeal. Meanwhile, the Nats just went on as if it had been a regular series. Next thing you know, we have a 7.5 game lead.

Section 3, My Hitterish Sofa said...

I think preverbal birds dig Longball.

Section 222 said...

There was an interesting discussion on MLB Network last night about the Cy Young award in the NL. It started out with a comparison of Dickey and Gio, and then added in Kershaw. Several comments were made downgrading Dickey's performance because he's not playing for a contender. The argument made was that Gio and Kershaw deserved extra credit because of the pressure they are under in the pennant race.

First of all, if that's a factor, it only matters in the past month or two. The Mets led the NL East briefly and as late as July 8 they were only 4.5 games out.

But more importantly, isn't it tougher to pitch well and, especially, actually win games when you play for a lousy team? I love Gio, but Dickey is having and amazing year, playing for a near cellar dweller. He's the strongest Cy Young candidate in my view.

NatsLady said...

I don't think JZ does well with the extra day of rest. Something about his sinker not sinking.

natsfan1a said...

I don't know. I've not heard a peep out of them.

Section 3, My Hitterish Sofa said...

I think preverbal birds dig Longball.
September 11, 2012 2:46 PM

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

NatsLady,.JZ said he overthrows with the extra rest and wasnt getting that 4 seam movement.

Theophilus T. S. said...

My expectation is Dickey -- if he wins 20 -- will get the Cy Young because he gets the national media treatment. Working against that, however, is that he's a gimmick. No one ever offered a Niekro a Cy Young, although each of them finished 2d once.

NatsNut said...

I actually wouldn't complain if Dickey got the Cy Young award. To me, it's a testament to how effective he has been to have so many wins on such a losing team otherwise.

Section 222 said...

NL and Ghost, I've heard this before about JZ, but I'm not buying it. And if he believes he's not as good on extra rest, he better get over it because he may have to get some at the end of the season in order to get lined up to start game 1 or 2 of the NLDS. And if the Nats win the NLDS in 3 or the NLCS in 4 or 5, he may end up with extra rest there too. There's no way to pitch a game on an off day.

Besides, he's had more than 4 days rest 12 times out of 27 starts this year. It's true that some of his recent poor outings came on 5 days rest, but he shouldn't blame his performance on extra rest. He had strong, quality starts on extra rest on April 25 (6 days rest)(6ip, 4h, 2er, 6k) May 12 (7ip, 5h, 1er, 9k), June 5 (7 days rest)(6ip, 5h, 2er, 5k), June 16 (6ip, 5h, 2er, 6k), June 22 (7ip, 8h, 2er, 2k), and July 3 (6ip, 7h, 1er, 7k).

Faraz Shaikh said...

For me NL Cy Young is Dickey, Cueto, and then Gio. If you had asked me at the end of August, Cueto and Dickey as top two. GG has been great for us. One of the main reason we are where we are, but Dickey has won almost 30% of Mets' wins and Cueto had pretty good numbers across the board before struggling in two September starts.

Anyways, I am more interested in AL MVP race. Will Trout be third player in MLB history to win ROY and MVP same season? I certainly hope not. If it were up to me, I would bump Fred Lynn out too and leave Ichiro in that category by himself.

Tcostant said...

The Cy Young award will likely come down to who pitches the best out of those big three, these last few weeks.

Section 3, My Hitterish Sofa said...

There is no gimmick, there's only Ws. I'm with 222 on this, it's harder to win on a lesser team. If Dickey gets 20+, neither Cueto or Gio will get much get much more. I'd vote for him.

alm said...

Its not only wins and never has been - see King Felix who got it recently by being the best pitcher in most of the stats but had only 12 wins, I think.

If you look at wins, ERA, K/9, whip and batting ave. against (BAA) - the most often discussed stats - Cueto falls behind with >20th BAA and K/9.

Dickey and Gio are top 5 in 4 of 5 of the stats.

I don't buy the 'Dickey gets it because he was on a crappy team' argument. If they stay close to the end, I think Gio gets it by being on the BEST TEAM IN BASEBALL - - I love saying those words!

Go Nats

peric said...

Since Gio was on just as desperate a loser as were the Nats? He just wants to win and be on a winner. He and "Godzuki" probably don't even think about individual awards like the CY Young until they get that part done.

If it hadn't been for that last poor start I would have to think Stras would be considered as he is the most dominant pitcher in the majors ... yes, ever more than Dickey and his knuckler. Dickey uses sleight of hand and tricks up his sleeve. Stras is like a man pitching to boys when he is on. Big, really HUGE difference.

JD said...


I will defer my award thoughts until after the season; for now there are bigger fish to fry.

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