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Washington Nationals: Opening Day – Lannan Struggles

April 6, 2010

Groundhog day came late to Nats Park this year. Washington Nationals pitcher John Lannan, coming off of a disappointing 2009 opening day effort, threw a repeat performance against the Philadelphia Phillies to start the 2010 season. Various reports have Lannan getting squeezed by the umpire, leaving his pitches up in the zone, getting behind in the count, and waking up on the wrong side of the bed.  Let’s look at the PitchF/X data, and see where Lannan threw in relation to the strike zone.

The line on John Lannan was not good – 7 hits, 5 earned runs, 3 walks, and 0 strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings pitched. Opposing players hit 0.412 against him, with an OBP of 0.476, and slugged 0.588.

First, let’s look at the strike zone and see where each pitch was thrown. Lannan threw 72 pitches, 32 in the strike zone, 40 outside (Using the PitchF/X data, I break the strike zone into a 3×3 grid, with a border around the strike zone. After computing the top of the strike zone and the bottom of the strike zone for each pitch, the pitch is stored in the appropriate location in the grid.. The pitches in the strike zone are labeled in the RED BOX in the table below.)

According to the PitchF/X data, Lannan didn’t leave too many pitches up in the zone.

One way to look at a pitcher’s effectiveness is to see whee the ball was when the batter made contact – did the pitcher fool the hitter into swinging at a bad pitch? Here are the locations of the pitches the Phillies put in play:

The Phillies batters didn’t really chase anything – one pitch up and in that was fielded for an out.

Here is the Phillies’ batting average against Lannan, broken down by the strike zone.

Again, this isn’t really a problem with the location as much as a problem with getting hit. The Phillies didn’t chase anything out of the zone, and solidly hit the balls they contacted.

The final bit of information we can examine is the pitch count. Lannan faced 21 batters.  Phillies batters reached a count with 3 balls 6 times – 3 of which resulted in walks. Four batters put the ball in play with no balls, and 7 put the ball in play with 1 ball. Only 4 Phillies batters hit a pitch when ahead late in the count (either 2 or 3 balls). You can’t really say that being behind in the count was the problem either.

Some days you just get beat. Opening day was one of those days for John Lannan.

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