On Monday, the Nationals announced that struggling left handed starter John Lannan has been demoted to Double-A Harrisburg and purchased the contract of right handed reliever Joel Peralta to replace his roster spot. Lannan had started 14 games on the season, posting a 2-5 record and a 5.76ERA. He also posted a BB/K ratio of 35/24. Last year alone, Lannan had walked only 68 batters in 206.1 innings pitched. The most telling number of all, however, is that Lannan's WHIP has ballooned from 1.35 in 2009 to 1.85 this year.
Lannan has always pitch to contact, but this year, he's being hit especially hard which is concerning to those involved in the front office. Opponents have hit to the tune of .327/.462/.853. Furthermore, his groundball-to-fly ball ratio is a career worst 1.08.
Mike Rizzo has mentioned he isn't looking for Lannan to go down to Double-A and dominate the league. Instead, Rizzo is looking for Lannan to regain his sinker and draw more ground balls. Wins and losses are not his concerned, because, as Rizzo has put it, Lannan has proven he's a Major League pitcher, and he will be again. However, Rizzo did not place a timetable on Lannan's demotion.
John Lannan, as we all know, is a guy who pitches to contact. He is a true sinker-ball pitcher that needs to produce ground balls to survive on this level. The previous two years, playing for terrible Nationals teams, he produced nine win seasons and kept his ERA around 3.90, which is a shade above average for Major League pitchers.
This year, Lannan just hasn't been successful low in the zone. It's a correctable issue that can be worked out in the minors. The Nationals are taking the approach now when there is a surplus of pitching coming back soon off the DL and with strong arms in Syracuse. It's the same situation the Mets had wished Oliver Perez take to right himself, before the team quite possibly invented an injury so Perez's ego wouldn't be injured.
Lannan is a competitor. There is no doubt in my mind that he can right the ship. In the long run, he is the perfect left-handed compliment to Stephen Strasburg at the top of the rotation. He is the Glavine to Strasburg's Maddux, you could say. But, like Glavine, Lannan needs to learn to control his sinker, nibble the corners and stay low. He's proved he can do it, but for some reason, this year it has escaped him.