John Lannan isn’t having a great season, and most of that can be specifically pointed to how many ground balls he induces in each game. Before we get into those numbers, let’s get into the history of the young pitcher.
When he was a rookie, he came up and surprised the fans by actually looking good, even though most people hadn’t heard of him. His first two years in the minors were unimpressive, but in 2002, he amassed a 2.31 ERA in high-A, AA and AAA, earning 6 starts in the majors by the end of the season. He had a 4.15 ERA, went 2-2, but only struck out 10 in 34 2/3 innings. Most assumed that luck was on his side, and things would even out in the end.
Instead, he pitched another 2 seasons as a better than league average pitcher. A 3.91 ERA in 2008, at the age of 23, and a 3.88 ERA in 2009 gave hope that he was a little different. His sinker allowed him to pitch effectively without striking people out. Over those two seasons, he had and ERA+ of 109, pitched 388 1/3 innings and walked 140 while only striking out 206. That ERA came from his ability to induce ground balls, and allowed him to let guys on without turning the innings into messes. He induced 47 double plays, ranking 9th in all the majors, tied for 4th in the NL. His GB/FB ratio was 1.17 over that time, and his Ground Out/Air Out ratio was 1.73, better in 2008 and 2009.