The Politics of John Lannan

When John Lannan makes his debut as an opponent in Washington, it will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts. Lannan pitched 783 2/3 innings for the Nats, amassed a 103 ERA+, and was the team’s best starter in 2008 and 2009. He did this over 6 of the team’s 8 seasons, making him the longest tenured National other than Ryan Zimmerman. He didn’t choose to leave, he was told he’d been surpassed by others and was asked to leave, so there should be no ill will towards him. That being said, he wasn’t a great player, probably at best a #5 starter/swingman, so there shouldn’t be too much tearing of hair and rending of garments over his departure.

Nats fans haven’t really had to deal with this kind of situation before – not many guys who were any good have left this team, and the few of them that have (Dunn, Soriano) didn’t go to NL teams immediately, let alone NL East teams. They also didn’t have much tenure with the team. Lannan, meanwhile, is now on the current most hated rival, the Phillies. So what should be done? Here’s a guide

1. In his Nats Park debut as a Phillie, he deserves a round of applause. Not a smattering of applause, legitimate cheering. I’m not sure you need to stand for it, but feel free to if you’d like.

2. After his first pitch, he no longer deserves any cheering whatsoever (unless he does something spectacular and you have to grudgingly respect his play)

3. (And this is the most important point) There is no need to boo him unless he does something like throw at a player’s head or *gasp* throws over to first too much. In other words, he isn’t a target of derision any more than Kyle Kendrick at this point.

Raucous boos for a mediocre pitcher that was let go by your team belittles the fanbase. Lustily booing Lannan makes it appear as if you really miss him and wish he stayed, because he was such a great player. Booing a guy that your management didn’t re-sign is even sillier, it’s almost like you’re booing management. But it’s not because you want to boo your management, it’s because you’re too stupid to realize what they’ve done. No need to act like a Red Sox fan.

4. He is now to be treated as any other similar player on a hated rival. Unless you are one of those super crazy fans that will boo Freddy Galvis in every AB or B.J Rosenberg whenever he pitches, Lannan should be of no more concern to you than any other opponent.

That’s it, four simple rules to how to deal with this departure. Maybe you disagree and want to boo your head off for a guy that meant something to the franchise and was discarded. I probably can’t convince you otherwise. But to everyone else, he deserves recognition when he returns, then little else in either direction.

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5 thoughts on “The Politics of John Lannan

  1. He was a league average starter, as his 103 ERA+ indicates. I think that’s better than a 5th starter or swingman, isn’t it?

    I’m dumbfounded that his salary is so low, to be honest. I guess results over many years don’t matter nearly as much as velocity, as evidenced by the difference in pay for Jackson and Lannan. The Phillies got a steal.

    Also remember he helped the Nats last year when they really needed it and were very close to falling out of first place. And he suffered through pitching on some really miserable teams for us. I think he deserves a strong ovation.

  2. Ugh…John Lannan circa 2008 & 2009 was a “league average starter.” Since then? Not so much. Here’s the worst indictment, his innings pitched per start: 2009 – 6.24, 2010 – 5.72, 2011 – 5.58, 2012 – 5.37. That’s a very bad trend and indicative of his sneakily increasing ineffectiveness.

    Also, in 2008 & 2009 his combined Baseball Reference WAR in 64 starts was 5.6. Since then? A total of 1.0 for 64 starts. He’s barely above replacement level at this point.

    • Interestingly enough, according to B-R, he had the highest career WAR of any pitcher in Nats history, at 6.7. It indicates what he did for this franchise coming into 2012, especially compared to the putrid pitching staffs they were throwing out there. But being stuck in the minors all year means he leaves with a 7.0.

      Jordan Zimmermann had a career WAR of 3.2 at the end of 2011, and he is now the franchise leader with a 7.6 career WAR in Washington.

      • Over his 783 major league innings, John Lannan’s ERA has beat his FIP by half a run. Given that his home park wasn’t a pitcher’s haven and that his teams were not exceptional on the defensive front, I think we can credit that difference as a skill. Thus FanGraph’s RA9-Wins is the appropriate measure of WAR to use in my opinion, as it’s based on how many runs he gave up rather than peripherals. This is no different than other pitchers who consistently beat their peripherals like Tim Glavine, Matt Cain, or R. A. Dickey.

        John Lannan’s career RA9-Wins is 9.3.

        He struggled a bit in 2010 before turining in the best performance of his career in the second half, but if we exclude that year, then we can see that John Lannan put up three major league seasons with over 180 IP each and with ERAs of 3.91, 3.88, and 3.70. No, he’s not exactly Sandy Koufax out there, but he’s still been above average for three full seasons and just about average for his whole career.

        The Phillies got a fantastic deal. Amazing to get an average player for the amount of money they spent.

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