Kyle Lohse

In yesterday's main post, chuck showed us a rather frightening table which outlined Lohse's numbers in each season in his career.  Looking at that just that alone would lead you to believe that Lohse's season in 2008 was an outlier, and he should be expected to pitch like his career numbers for the rest of the season and his tenure with the Cardinals.  

However, I think that table, and the subsequent conclusions that it invoked, are misleading a couple of ways:

1) You can't just discount Lohse's 2008 season.  Yes, it was probably a fluke, but it also represents a significant sample of his recent pitching history, and one that we should definitely consider towards projecting future performance.  Before the year, the 4 major projection systems featured on FanGraphs projected him to have an FIP ranging from 3.99 to 4.39, with a mean of 4.17.  That is not as good as his 2008 season, but it is also better than his previous career numbers. 

2) Lohse has clearly been affected by his injury this year.  Here is an informative table:

K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP* GB/FB
Career 5.63 2.75 1.15 4.53 1.11
2008 5.4 2.2 0.81 3.91 1.43
Pre injury 2009 6.3 2.6 0.96 4.06 1.44
Post injury 2009 5.1 3.5 1.42 5.3 0.99


*The FIP's are all normalized to a league specific factor of 3.2.  On FanGraphs, they are reported based on the actual league factor, which can vary from year to year. 

You can call this table cherry picking, but the trend seems pretty obvious to me.  He's pitched poorly in his career, then pitched very well in 2008.  Before the injury this year, he pitched basically in between his 2008 and career numbers which was what he was statistically projected to do.  However, since the injury, he has pitched far worse than ever before, with all of his numbers worse than his career averages.  

Of course, we all know that correlation does not equal causation, so let's take a look at his Pitch f/x data before and after the injury to see if there are any obvious signs that something is wrong.  First, his stuff:



You can click on the link for a larger image.

It's clear that his stuff has gotten worse after his injury.  His fastball velocity has declined by over 1 MPH, and all of his pitches are blending more.

Here is what I think this storyline shows us: Lohse had legitimately improved before or during the 08 season.  His projections before the year expected him to be about halfway between his 08 season and his career numbers.  During the first couple of months of the season, before his injury, he pitched almost exactly to his projections.  After the injury, he lost velocity and separation on his pitches, and his performance was a lot worse than his career numbers likely due to that fact. 

The question is whether or not we can expect him to regain his stuff next year.  Truthfully, I have no idea; however, I believe that if he does, he can be an above average starter and may provide enough value not to make his contract an albatross.

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