John Lannan once again spits on the faces of sound statistical analysis and tosses a good game. He's put up an 0.45 ERA in his last 3 games, pitching arguably his best three games of the year. Lannan Hatas, who think the guy should have been removed from the Nats organization in 2007 because his xFIP was so bad, are in a tizzy. (Yeah the Nats lost. If I was a bad analyst I would say something like "the Nats just mailed it in when they got the lead" or "they don't have the killer instinct to put teams away" But fortunately for me I didn't suffer a massive brain injury as a child so I don't believe such nonsense. They lost. That'll happen. Back to Lannan)
Well ok I'm exaggerating (slightly) and not being fair to the Lannan-haters. John's actually been pitching quite well. He's striking out more batters (18 Ks in past 4 games, 26 in first 9) and allowing less men on base (WHIP of 0.95 in past 3 games) Of course you could say that he's gotten lucky (.161 BABIP) and he has been, but it's also a product of how he's been pitching. He's giving up few hard hit balls. Batters have put 65 balls in play against Lannan in the last 3 games and 36 of them (55%) have been ground balls. Only 7 (11%) have been line drives. With the Nats defense (good against grounders, bad against fly balls) that translates into a BABIP closer to .260 than the "expected" .300. He still doesn't give up homers. His tendency for GBs leads to more DP chances. These all point to a decent ERA.
It's about the tipping point with John. For the most part he isn't going to give up homers, nor many line drives. The other team's righties just can't slug him very well (and this year he's keeping lefties down too). But guys are going to get hits against him. It just can't be that many that it's mambo line around the basepaths. Recently, that BABIP has helped him keep his WHIP down around 1. His K's during the same time are at about 5.5 per 9 innings. When you aren't prone to homers or any XBH, that's a recipe for dominating pitching, hence the below 1.00 ERA. Lannan can't keep that up but history tells us that a K/9 around 5 and a WHIP around 1.30 would be enough for John to give the Nats another 200 IP or so of 4.00 ERA ball. That's all the Nats need right now.
As for the draft - who knows? Looks good but then again so did the Detwiler, Geary, Smoker draft. Things happen. We'll see in 2 years where everything is. Given this view I don't look at the Rendon pick as anything more than grabbing the best available player. A lot could happen in the 2-3 years it could take the guy to get ready. In baseball it's less about planning than preparation. You're arms are getting older? You don't draft guy X because he specifically is going to make it. You draft a bunch of pitchers in preparation that some leave, some get hurt, some just can't do it anymore. Guy X is just one of those. Rendon is filling the minors with one of the best hitting players available. That's great preparation. Worry about how he fits into the plan when you need to worry about that.