Nationals Baseball: It begins!

Monday, April 05, 2010

It begins!

But that was non alcoholic champagne!

It begins again. Need I remind you:

2006: 9-20, May 4th, 10.5 games out
2007: 9-25, May 9th, 12.5 games out
2008: 5-15, April 21st, 7.5 games out
2009: 5-17, May 1st, 8.5 games out

By May 25th the Nats will have played 13 games vs the Phillies, Rockies, and Dodgers, three teams projected to be in the playoff hunt. If the Mets and or Brewers, the other opponents in this stretch, are better than people think it could be another terrible start. The Nats' attendance can not afford another poor start. Who's got the over on 6-13?

World War Lannan : Battle 2010

There are two distinct opinions on the success of John Lannan so far. On one side there are those that look at all the numbers; the Ks (or lack there of), the walks, the homers, and see something unsustainable. On the other side are those that see the success he's had so far; and take it to be a strong basis for future success. These two groups are locked in an war for the definition of Lannan's career; as fluke or as something not yet explainable by the numbers, and 2010 is a decisive battle. If Lannan were to do well this year, can anyone seriously argue that 3+ years of good baseball is a fluke?

Well the opening salvo went to the Lannan haters. That was a embarrassing start yesterday. A complete and utter falling apart. (which really makes the signing of Marquis all that much more important, money bucketers!) With that in mind, some anti-Lannan ramblings.

There's a reason why these guys don't believe in Lannan. There have only been 5 other seasons since the strike, none since 2000, where a guy struck out so few (under 4.0 K/9), walked so many (over 2.9 BB/9) and still managed to have an adjusted ERA better than the league average as Lanna did last year. Out of those 5, only one would ever again have an above-average season (Kirk Rueter in 2002)

Tom Boswell, ever the wide, alien-sized eyed optimist, has compared Lannan a couple times at least, to some successful low-K, some BB type pitchers. An on the surface the comparisons aren't terrible. However one thing that he doesn't do is account for the changing offensive prowess of the league. Hits, HR, Walks and Ks have mostly increased since these guys had their day. How does the comparison hold up if we compare their stats to the average for the years they pitched? (note: I limited these stats to the years I felt they were better than average pitchers. I also limited to one league per player. Really only Liebrandt had significant time in both leagues during the time frame I specified. You want to start something about it? Didn't think so.)

YRS H/9 HR/9 BB/9 K/9
Grimsely 71-78 1.01 1.08 0.73 0.70
Browning 85-91 1.02 1.45 0.74 0.83
Splitorff 71-83 1.04 0.91 0.83 0.76
Gura 74-82 0.95 1.03 0.74 0.72
Black 82-90 0.95 0.99 0.79 0.85
McGregor 78-84 1.01 0.98 0.59 0.78
Liebrandt 84-93 1.07 0.93 0.75 0.79
Lannan 07-09 0.98 1.00 0.97 0.66

Lannan actually fairs ok comparing H/9 and HR/9 vs the average over the years. He doesn't give up significantly more (or less) hits or home runs than these pitchers. But the walks and strikeouts are another matter. He clearly walks far more batters than these other guys. Lannan is just barely below the NL average, while these other players are far below it, indicating a much better level of control. He also strikes out far fewer batters. You could make a case that Grimsley and Gura are close I guess, but they both were better here and had much better walk numbers. (One silver lining? It doesn't seem like the walks or Ks are most indicative of a long career - instead the home runs seem to be most correlated with that. )

Boswell wasn't wrong in his comparison prior to last season. Lannan's season adjusted K numbers took at tumble last year. Before that they were probably close to what we see for these players. While his walks would have been much higher, I don't think it's a bad comparison to make. After last year though, the comparison breaks down. Now not only are the walks no longer in line, but the strikeouts aren't either. Lannan isn't one of these guys. Not yet anyway. He's different, possibly (probably) worse.


cass said...

It's just one bad start, just like he had last year. Lannan will prove the haters wrong again and the FIPers will be mumbling about 600 lucky innings.

Just saw a similar post on fangraphs:

Harper said...

As one of the commenters on fangraphs mentioned the Phillies are a bad match up for Lannan. In some posting earlier I mentioned that Lannan's true strength is a bizzarely low SLG from righties. The Phillies are loaded with lefty power.

Bryan said...

The Phillies are a bad match up for nearly anyone.

They are an AL lineup in NL clothes. Not that that makes it OK, but you have to realize that they have a damn solid 1-9. Its 2009 Yankeesesque.

Add in the fact that he was pitching against Halladay and had to know that he wasn't going to get much run support, and well, you have a pretty good recipe for disaster.

All of that, and he still pitched a pretty good first two or three innings. His first run through the line up was pretty impressive.

Harper said...

Bryan - his first run through was pretty good. Of course that makes him sound like a long reliever...

Bryan said...

I can promise you this won't be the last time, nor even a rare time this season, that the Phils put an 11 spot on a team.

And they'll do it to pitchers who are far superior to Lannan, regardless of what you think of him.

If this happens in his 4th start, its an outlier, its only because its the first game that its an anything.

Come back to me at the end of May and we can talk.

Harper said...

Nope last time!

I think Lannan is fine and am rooting for him to spit in the face of evidence. Two and a half years itself is a pretty good bit of evidence. (But three, three would be undeniable.)

Ryan said...

I do agree that Lannan is an outlier. I think that these types of statistical models that predict a pitcher's success work reasonably well for the vast, vast majority of pitchers, but there is no way that they can work for all, and I think Lannan may be one of the few exceptions to the rule.

That said, having Lannan as your ace or co-ace is just flat out bad news. In fact even when the reign of Stephen Strasburg begins, you still need at least one more pitcher better than Lannan to be a successful baseball team.

Ideally the Nats would slot Lannan in as a number 3/4 guy and have him be the only really low K guy in the rotation. If you can play him off of guys who rack up Ks like Strasburg and (assuming he can regain full strength) Zimmermann, I think he'd be even more effective because of the contrast. When that day comes, I think it will mark the turning of a corner for the Nats.

Harper said...

I think (hope) that's what we'd see next year. Strasburg/Lannan/Zimmermann back to back to back. Of course that means Marquis is either 1st or 4th (or traded)