Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Notebook Dump (6.18.08)

Game: Twinks 2, Nats 1

Box Score

Record: 35-36, 2nd place, 4.5 games back

Streak: 1 win

The Quote: “I don’t think that’s where that guy wanted to throw that ball.” - Ron Gardenhire

The Inning: The 23-year-old John Lannan has been a lightening rod for bad luck. In his past three starts his offense has generated one run per game. The three before that, they scored two-runs per game. That’s a measly 1.5 runs of support in those games (a number that is qualifying of a "Deadbeat Dad" offense). Lannan, meanwhile, was allowing just 2.0 runs per game in those previous six outings. Somehow, he managed to win one. The Nats are 4-10 in his starts providing the young left-hander with 2.49 runs per start so far this season. He has lost games with game scores amounting to 53, 73, 56, 52, 53 and as of last night, 60. For five innings the sophomore pitcher cruised against the Twins, relinquishing just the one hit – a double to Joe Mauer that could have just as well been caught by left fielder Kory Casto - there were essentially no well hit balls by the Twins line-up.

Lannan entered the bottom of the sixth inning with just three runners reaching base. With the top of the Twins order coming up, Nationals manager Manny Acta was expecting his young hurler to pacify the Twins for as long as he could fully aware that the Nationals had a bullpen with a combined 4.19 era. Lannan began the inning by getting Carlos Gomez to pop weakly to second and then followed with a groundout by right-handed batting Alexi Casilla. Throughout the game, Lannan had induced groundballs nearly 70% of the time keeping his infielders busy. On the season, Lannan had been an extreme groundball pitcher, getting batters to hit gounders 57% of the balls put in play. This is significantly higher than the National League average of 44%. "His ball kind of gets on you,” said Joe Mauer, “I don't know if it's something with his delivery. He had a good angle on his pitches. He had some good stuff working tonight." Fortunately for the Twins, Joe Mauer has proven success against groundball-type pitchers. In 127 plate appearances against groundball pitchers, Mauer is hitting .336/.394/.425. Mauer then proceeded to fend off one of Lannan’s good pitches following Casilla’s ground out and almost Charlie Browned Lannan with a grounder back through the box.

By keeping the inning alive, Mauer’s single brought Justin Morneau to the plate. For 16 games Morneau’s bat had not created a home run. Lannan had all the intention in the world of keeping it that way when he released the curveball. "I figured if I threw the same kind of pitch..." Lannan began reminiscing about his first inning double-play inducing curveball, "I shouldn't have thrown that pitch in that same situation. It was a mistake." The mistake pitch, clocked at 72-mph by pitch f/x data, left Morneau’s bat at 107-mph landing over the baggy and 10 rows deep. categorized Morneau’s 403-foot true distance home run (the Dome estimator says 421) as a No-Doubter, clearing any stadium in professional baseball. "I was looking for something offspeed, he threw it over and I wasn't trying to hit a home run, but I'll take it," the Canadian said.

Some will credit Livan Hernandez for matching Lannan (for the most part) frame by frame, only giving up the double to Paul LoDuca and the subsequent infield hit to Cristian Guzman for the solitary Nationals run. "He's always amazing," Lannan said. "He just throws strikes, and he mixes it up well. He's not overpowering, but he knows how to pitch, and he always has known how to pitch. You always learn something when you watch a guy like that." True, it was a good outing that only required 77 pitches to obtain a victory with a game score of 63, but credit is also deserving of the anemic National offense which is last in the National League with 3.71 runs per game.