In 2012, Kyle Lohse had an unbelievable season for the St. Louis Cardinals, going 18-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 33 starts and 211 IP. It was perfect timing too as he pulled off a career year in his contract season and his free agent stock could never have been higher. Lohse had an incredible season. But now teams are going to pursue him thinking he’s truly a topflight pitcher. He is not.
Buster Olney reported (Insider-only) that some MLB agents and general manager believe that Lohse could command a contract in the range of 60-75 million dollars. How in the world is that possible? First off, Lohse is 34 years old. Do you really want to give a four or five years contract to a pitcher who is already 34 years old? But that’s only the start. Despite his great record and ERA, there were several problems with Lohse’ performance in 2012. Lohse posted struck out 6.1 batters per 9 innings, walked just 1.6 per 9, and posted a 0.8 HR/9. His groundball rate was also just 40.4%. His FIP was noticeably higher than his ERA at 3.51, and his xFIP was all the way up at 3.96, right around league average. Kyle Lohse doesn’t strike anybody out, and although he doesn’t walk many batters, it’s not like he’s a pitcher with great command like say Tim Hudson who is able to compensate by forcing a ton of groundballs. Lohse’s stuff is mediocre- he throws a low-90’s fastball with a little sink, a very good changeup, but then just a decent breaking ball. Why would you commit long-term to a pitcher like Lohse?
The perfect comp to Lohse is another pitcher who was in a very similar situation: Joel Pineiro. Pineiro had a great year with the Cardinals in 2009, going 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA, a 4.4 K/9, a 1.1 BB/9, and a 0.5 HR/9 in 32 games and 214 innings pitched and then signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as a free agent for 2 years and 8 million dollars. He posted a 4.47 ERA and a 4.30 FIP in two seasons for the Angels and did not pitch in the major leagues this season. Pineiro and Lohse have a lot in common. Other than the obvious Cardinals connection, Pineiro is 104-93 in his career with a 4.41 ERA, a 5.4 K/9, a 2.5 BB/9, and a 1.0 HR/9 in 1754.1 IP. Lohse is 118-109 with a 4.45 ERA, a 5.6 K/9, a 2.6 BB/9, and a 1.1 HR/9 in 1973 IP. Lohse is actually a tick worse than Pineiro! Even in their breakout seasons, Pineiro beats Lohse in both FIP and xFIP, registering 3.27 and 3.64 marks versus 3.51 and 3.96. Both pitchers don’t miss too many bats, but at least Pineiro was three years younger when he was a free agent and he actually forced groundballs. How is it possible that Pineiro only got 2 years and 16 millions dollars when Lohse looks primed to get a major multi-year contract?
Good luck to whichever teams signs Kyle Lohse. The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Nationals, and Diamondbacks are the his rumored destinations and one of them is going to give him a ludicrous contract given his abilities. The Rays would love to see the Yankees or Red Sox sign Lohse and watch him completely fall apart. Kyle Lohse is a solid pitcher. But thinking that he deserves the money he’s about to get is simply setting yourself up to fail.