It feels like not long ago that bloggers across the Natosphere were writing off John Lannan. As a matter of fact, it was this season. Actually, it was just 3 months ago that Lannan was demoted to AA Harrisburg and struggled there for about a month. But Lannan came back in August, and since then, he's been staggeringly impressive.
In June and July, the Nats stopper was Stephen Strasburg. Unfortunately, his fate is yet to be determined following Tommy John surgery, but he will certainly not don a Nationals jersey for at least another 12 months, and probably not until 2012.
Livan Hernandez had also filled that role early in the season, but since August 2nd, Livo is just 3-5. In that same time period, he's given up 7 or more runs on 3 occasions.
Jason Marquis has been... well... we'll go with inconsistent. I feel like I'm understating it a bit here, but he's either given up nothing or given away the whole kit and kaboodle. Twice this year he hasn't made it from the 1st inning.... Not the stuff of a stopper.
And then there's post All-Star Break John Lannan. That version of Lannan is 6-2 since his return to the Nats on August 1st. He's struck out out 3 or more batters in all of his outings in the second half. His 2nd half ERA is just 3.07, and he's thrown 6.6 strikeouts every 9 innings. Not to mention he's pitched well enough and deep enough into games to earn a decision in all but one start since his return.
This, my friends, is the stuff of the Nationals best pitcher. It's going to certainly generate an interesting debate in the offseason if Lannan can finish his last 3 starts of the season as strong as he's been lately. The Nats have no clear Opening Day 2011 starter with Strasburg done. Jordan Zimmermann has certainly not made a particularly strong case for himself. Livan Hernandez's first half makes a case, but his second half may show that it was a fluke.
Like it or not, John Lannan has been the Nats strongest second half starter. If he can finish strong, we'll see if the Nats decide to ride that into Opening Day 2011 for the third straight season.