John Lannan Fights to Prove He Belongs
One small off-season move the Mets made this winter was the signing of John Lannan. Today is his first opportunity to impress as he is scheduled to pitch against the Marlins. I have to admit, I will be rooting for John. He is a local kid, born in Long Beach, and played high school ball at Chaminade, right down the road from my house. I know kids that went to school with him, and a few of his old teachers, and I’ve never heard a bad word about the guy. But I understand how things work. When all is said and done, Lannan has to produce.
Yes, he’s a nice story. I’ve followed him because he’s an alumni of Siena, which is just down the road from us. Not a lot of major league talent comes out of that school.
Lannan was drafted by Washington in the 11th round of the 2005 draft, at a time when their system-wide talent level was extremely low. The team had just escaped Montreal and a situation where the league had taken over stewardship of the team. During this period, minimum effort was put into anything regarding the future of the franchise.
John was able to take advantage of this and moved quickly to the majors, and he made his debut in July 2007. Lannan pitched well enough to earn a rotation spot in 2008, and from 2008 to 2011 he proved himself a capable back-end starter. In 2009 and 2010, he was actually the Nationals Opening Day starter, which, frankly, was mostly a reflection of the continued sorry state of the Nat’s, who went 59-103 and 69-93 in those seasons.
However, Washington had been improving their organizational talent greatly during the 2007 to 2011 period, and by 2012 Lannan was not able to make the Opening Day rotation for the then-contending Nationals. Lannan was optioned back to the minors and made only a handful of appearances that year. No longer fitting into their plans, they non-tendered him prior to the 2013 season (Lannan had earned $5 million in 2012.) The Phillies signed him for $2.5 million, and Lannan was having a shaky season when he suffered a year ending knee injury on August 15. The combination of injury and a bad 2013 generated very little interest in Lannan this offseason, and eventually he signed with the Mets for a minor league deal.
I like him as an emergency starter, long reliever, possible pie man. Sentiment aside, John’s deeper numbers are not good. A very high WHIP, poor K-ratios, too many walks. On the plus side, he’s stayed away from the long ball. I should note that when you’ve got John’s stuff, walks are sometimes a good idea. I don’t say that to be snarky. It’s just that not all pitchers are equal; it’s one thing to tell Jenrry Mejia to go after the hitters, but maybe a guy like Lannan needs to nibble. I’ll always remember Steve Trachsel saying that he became a better, more successful pitcher when he learned not to give in to hitters, that he accepted some walks. I always thought that was kind of a profound, counter-intuitive concept.
Maybe Lannan converts to the pen, maybe he becomes an ace LOOGY. Can Scott Rice repeat?
I don’t know. Josh Edgin? He’s aggressive, but I’ve never liked his secondary pitches.
As a #5 starter, I think Lannan could possibly give you a couple of strong months, but he’d be exposed over time. Again, that starting slot is an investment: I’d give those starts to Mejia or Montero over Lannan any day of the week.
I hear you on Montero, hopefully Sandy is listening and can resist his natural urge to manipulate another player’s service-time clock. Some habits are hard to break. With Meija, it will still be some time before we know if he is finally healthy. And it’s a long year, and pitchers get hurt. Jon Niese has already reminded us of that.
I don’t see Lannan in camp fighting for that fifth starter job (if they go veteran, I expect it is going to be Dice-K) but more fighting to show he can still pitch. Although I agree that the parts were uglier than the sum when you look at his Nationals years, he provided some solid innings for them.
If he can return to that form, uglier options exist.