Can it be that we were oh so different then? Or has time rewritten every line?
Actually, it was only a year ago when we thought of John Lannan as the Nationals' ace. It was a team with a very uncertain rotation; only Lannan had more than 20 starts in 2009. Forget the won-lost record. Those numbers are a terrible way to judge a starting pitcher's efficiency. Really, how much impact does a starting pitcher have on the number of runs his own team scores for him? Minimal in the NL, zero in the AL.
No, Lannan was the ace because he didn't give up a lot of runs. With back-to-back seasons of a sub- 4.00 ERA, Lannan looked like a guy who, once he had some offense behind him, might be a mainstay for years to come.
Things started to change, ace-wise, when the Nationals brought up Jordan Zimmermann last year. JZ, who was shut down after it was learned he needed Tommy John surgery, threw a lot harder than Lannan, and after Stephen Strasburg was drafted and signed, it looked like Lannan would settle in as a mid-rotation lefty.
This year, however, Lannan has struggled with his command, and the results, at times, haven't been pretty. Never a strikeout pitcher, he nonetheless could be expected to have more K's than walks, but this year he's been missing by that much, and is averaging almost four-and-a-half walks per 9 innings.
The hair-trigger fantasy GM's out there are ready to cut bait with Lannan, but if you've ever spoken to him, you know he's a pretty smart young man. No one has ever questioned his work ethic. The club believes he'll figure it out.
Still, isn't it remarkable how fast things have changed? From staff workhorse and nominal number one starter to mid-to-back-of-rotation status in only 12 months? It has less to do with Lannan's ability than with the arms the Nationals have added to the mix. Last night's loss to Detroit upped Lannan's ERA to 5.45 in 13 starts. There will be a 14th start and a 15th start, and so on until the break. The arms returning to the rotation thereafter may affect Lannan's status, but the degree of that impact will be entirely up to his regaining command of the bottom of the strike zone.