Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
When the Milwaukee Brewers signed Kyle Lohse to a three-year, $33 million contract, I disliked the move. Even after he boasted great numbers, I still hated it. It was a dumb move by a team that didn’t have a chance to compete; literally throwing money down a drain. Plus, he’s old. However, none of this is Lohse’s fault and I’m not grading the Brewers offseason moves; I’m grading Lohse’s performance.
Coming off a season in which he went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals, Lohse seemed to be a hot commodity in the free agent market. While many teams were interested, he wasn’t signed until a week before the regular season kicked off. Teams shied away from the right-hander because not only was he asking for a lot of dough, he came with baggage. Whoever signed him would be forced to surrender a first round pick in the 2013 draft. Obviously, the Brewers had no problem with that.
Lohse slid behind Yovani Gallardo in the starting rotation but outpitched the long time Brewer. In 32 starts, the 35-year-old posted a 11-10 record with a strong 3.35 ERA. He held opponents to .256 batting average which was second-best among Brewers starters who pitched over 100 innings. He also threw two complete games. After the season was over, Lohse was unanimously named the team’s most valuable pitcher.
Even though he impressively struck out the first three batters he faced as a member of the Brewers, Lohse is not a blow-it-by-you type of pitcher. His fastball only averaged 89.8 MPH while his offspeed stuff flirted in the mid-70’s and 80’s. Like former Brewer Shaun Marcum, location was key for Lohse. When he hit his spots, he was almost unhittable, but when he missed, he became victim of the round-tripper. Lohse gave up 26 home runs – only Ian Kennedy, Dan Haren, and Bronson Arroyo allowed more in the National League. Because he’s not a strikeout pitcher, Lohse had his share of base runners. But that was no problem for him as he compiled a career-best left-on base percentage (79.1%).
The former Cardinal racked up an ERA under 3.00 in three separate months – April, June ,and July. His only blip on the radar was in May where he had an abysmal earned run average of 6.51. He allowed 20 runs in just over 27 innings.
Lohse had a very strong season but unfortunately he wasn’t the missing puzzle piece for the Brewers. Sure, without Lohse the team would have stunk more but either way, they didn’t make the playoffs and that is all that counts.
With the possibility of Gallardo being traded at some point this winter or during next season, Lohse could assume the No. 1 role; a role he should have no trouble with. If I were a betting man, he would be my pick to have the lowest ERA among Brewers in 2014.