I’m normally a very tolerant man, especially when it comes to beat writers, who as a whole, say some really stupid things. In the light of the Cole Hamels-Bryce Harper beanball sitaution from last night, Phillies beat writer Kevin Cooney (PhillyBurbs.com) tweeted one of the most ignorant, unsubstantiated things I’ve read in quite awhile. And coming from a guy that follows Jon Heyman, you know it must be ugly.
John Lannan hit 27 guys as a Nats starter- 10 were Phillies. Six were named Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.. surely a coincidence, right?
— Kevin Cooney (@KevinCooney) May 7, 2012
This is the quintessential example of stating a fact with no background behind it in order to rile people up. Without context, you read this statement and assume “wow, more than a third of the guys Lannan has hit in his career have been Phillies! He must be doing it intentionally!” Of course he did. Well, until you look at the context of each of those hit batsmen, of course.
HBP #1: 7/26/07. Chase Utley. 0-2 count, one out, Phillies leading 3-2. Previous AB: single
HBP #2: 7/26/07. Ryan Howard. 0-0 count, one out. Phillies leading 3-2. Previous AB: home run
These are the two incidents that Phillies fans love to point out for Lannan being a dick to them. Here are a couple of problems with that logic.
1) It was only a one run game at the time
2) He hit Utley and Howard on back to back pitches and was immediately pulled from the game, suggesting that he was tiring
3) He hit Utley on a 0-2 count. If you’re going to hit someone, you don’t throw them two strikes first
4) It was his major league debut
5) There was no reason to throw at Utley, considered he had only singled in his previous at bat as opposed to doing something otherworldly
I’m sure people will point at the Howard plunking (since he had homered in his previous at bat) as intentional, but the fact that he had also hit Utley on the previous pitch indicates to me that there was no malicious intent, and that it was just a 22 year-old with the jitters that had lost command of the strike zone. By the way, Lannan would finish the 2007 season with 17 walks and 10 strikeouts. It’s not as if this is a guy with Cliff Lee-esque control here.
HBP #3: 7/31/08. Shane Victorino. 0-2 count, two out. No score. Previous AB: none
He hit Victorino in his first at bat of the game after getting him in an 0-2 hole. The night before, Victorino went 3/5 with three runs, three RBI, and a homer…but he actually had an at bat in the eighth inning where the Nationals could have thrown at him, but didn’t.
HBP #4: 5/15/10. Chase Utley. 1-1 count, none out, Nationals leading 4-1. Previous AB: groundout
HBP #5: 5/15/10. Raul Ibanez. 0-1 count, two outs, Nationals leading 4-1. Previous AB: single
Oh look, another Chase Utley HBP. Oh look, it came on the third pitch of the at bat after he did nothing silly. As for the Ibanez HBP, it came with two outs. Lannan’s motive then should be to get the hell out of the inning, not extend it. Sure enough, he extended the inning, Pedro Feliz singled in Utley to make it 4-2, and Lannan was pulled from the game.
HBP #6: 8/1/11. Ryan Howard. 0-1 count, two outs, no score. Previous AB: none
First inning. Two outs. Jayson Werth on second. The goal isn’t to extend the inning, but to GET THE THIRD OUT. After the Howard HBP, a pair of RBI singles followed to put the Nationals in a 2-0 hole.
HBP #7: 9/27/10. Chase Utley. 1-0 count, one out, Phillies leading 1-0. Previous AB: GIDP
Aha! The first pitch of the at bat was a ball! That means he was definitely trying to throw at him! Sure, maybe. Except for the fact that it was only a one run game at that point, and that the Nationals were facing Roy Halladay, and any run they got would be crucial towards winning the game. Of course, after Utley got plunked, Howard struck out, Werth doubled in two runs, Ibanez singled, and Lannan got pulled. Another run would follow in the inning, and you could make the case that the HBP deep sixed the Nationals chances at winning the game (but it didn’t matter anyway, since Halladay threw a complete game shutout).
HBP #8: 4/13/11. Ryan Howard. 1-2 count, two outs, Phillies leading 2-0. Previous AB: groundout
This is the worst argument a Phillies fan would have for Lannan hitting Howard intentionally, considering that there were two outs and that…THE BASES WERE LOADED. I’m sure he was trying to hit Howard with two outs, two strikes on him, and nowhere to put him.
HBP #9: 5/15/11. Shane Victorino. 0-1 count, one out, no score. Previous AB: none
Another first inning plunking. Lannan was facing Halladay (again…seems like he had awful luck in facing him) and one run would be huge for the Phillies. And again, he threw a strike before hitting him. The game before against the Nationals, Victorino went 1/4 with two RBI. Shrug, nothing out of the ordinary there.
HBP #10: 6/1/11. John Mayberry. 1-2 count, one out, game tied 1-1. Previous AB: GIDP
Keep in mind that this HBP (again, with two strikes) came when Mayberry was batting second in the order…in front of both Utley and Howard. Just go ahead and put him on base in front of solid hitters and see what happens. Doesn’t seem too wise to me.
Now, what have we learned today? If Lannan really was going after Phillies hitters, he’s A) a dumbass for doing it in terrible spots and B) awful at it because he’s missing with balls in the strike zone on a majority of the attempts. This is John Lannan we’re talking about here. He’s hit 26 batters in 751 major league innings (0.31 per nine innings), and has a career 3.38 walk rate. This isn’t a guy who makes his living with fantastic control, painting the corners and keeping runners off of the basepaths. As a brief comparison, the major league average last season for starting pitchers was a 2.93 walk rate and a 0.27 hit batsman rate.
While the consequences of getting hit can suck, anyone worth their weight in salt will do what Hamels did last night: hit the batter in the back, or the ass. They don’t throw up and in at your head (or in Utley’s case, his hand, which Lannan broke in 2007). John Lannan isn’t some vicious headhunter who is targeting the Phillies. He’s just a mediocre pitcher who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.