When the Cardinals signed Jeff Suppan after the 2003 season, he was just about to turn 29. When the Cards signed Kyle Lohse, he had turned 29 just a couple of months prior. It’s amazing how similar they were. Though Suppan had recently been Dfa’d by the Sox after a bad couple of months following the trade from Pitttsburgh, he had a fairly decent pedigree. He had thrown more than 200 innings in 5 straight seasons w/ ERA+s of 111, 103, 111, 93, and 106. He was never a standout – his career K/9 is 5.04 and he had given up an average of 29 homers per year in those 5 years before being signed by the Cards.
Still, he was a steady hand when the Cards needed one. He had worked more than 1000 innings in those 5 years and had made at least 31 starts in every one of those 5 seasons. There’s something to be said for a guy who can take the ball and pitch a decent, though probably not outstanding, game every 5 days – and Suppan filled that role admirably for 3 seasons. He didn’t rack up the innings as a Cardinal – partly due to being in the NL and having to be pinch-hit for at times, and partly b/c Tony LaRussa was his manager. Nevertheless, he made 31, 32, and 32 starts in his 3 seasons w/ the birds on the bat.
This offseason the Cards signed Kyle Lohse to, in some degree, play the same role that Jeff Suppan played while a Cardinal. Entering this season, Lohse had pitched more than 178 innings in 5 of the last 6 years. The only season he made fewer than 30 starts was in 2006 – ironically, the season Jeff Suppan helped the Cardinals to a World Championship. Now, Lohse wasn’t quite as effective in his pre-Cardinal days as Suppan was but he was, decidedly, league-average. After becoming a free agent, Lohse never received the multi-year offer he sought and, in fact, was a free agent until March. John Mozeliak signed him to team-friendly, 1 year, $4.25 million contract.
Lohse is now 12-2 w/ a 3.35 ERA. His FIP is 3.85. Though his K rate is pretty low, his GB % and BB/9 are as good as they’ve been in his career. There might be a little luck involved as he’s giving up just 1 HR for every 13.3 flyballs he gets but maybe that has as much to do w/ his pitching in a relative pitcher’s park rather than the homerun bandboxes he’s pitched in for the bulk of his career. Lohse has been absolutely outstanding and, while he was wanted by nobody this offseason, he seems to be making himself a lot of money w/ this year’s performance. Oh yeah – his #1 comp for pitchers through age 28 – Jeff Suppan. Here’s hoping that Lohse can have the postseason impact that Suppan had while he was here.
BTW, in what has to qualify for the bizarre acquisition so far this season, the Astros today traded for Randy Wolf. They couldn’t possibly get anybody better than Wolf b/c they’ve decimated their farm system w/ a series of bad drafts, free agent signings, failures to sign players they did draft, and trades for Miguel Tejada and Jose Valverde. They’re going to go for it this year despite their 46-53 record and 5th place in the NL Central standings. They’re 12 games behind the Cubs and 10 behind both the Cards and Brewers. In 2 years, the franchise that, until recently was the Cards’ equal in the division and the league, will likely be the worst in baseball.
I’ll get overflow threads programmed to go up at 8:15 and 9:30. There was a lot of traffic last night and I hope the same is true tonight. Hopefully it’ll be all cheers as the home team gives Suppan a rude return from the DL. The fans, I know, will treat him well.