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Looking Back

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I'm not going to lie. That one hurt.

Seven back from the Cubbies for the division. Four games behind the Brew Crew for the wild card.

The Cards are in trouble.

Once again, the offense comes out strong, then flat out disappears. I'm not sure exactly what in the hell is going on, but it has got to stop. Absolutely pathetic. They didn't even make it to the fourth inning this time before they went ghost on us. The Cards failed to get anything going at all against a young pitcher with some definite control problems after the first four batters of the game. Volstad's pitch count after the first inning was right around thirty pitches. After five innings, I believe it was 72. Sigh.

What I'm more interested in than the amazing vanishing offense at the moment, though, is Kyle Lohse.

We've all heard the whole deal on Lohse a hundred different times by now, of course, so I won't rehash the whole thing. I would, however, like to look at some numbers for Mr. Lohse and see what we can see.

I was thinking, actually, of revisiting the whole idea of a contract extension for Lohse, to be honest. I had looked at the situation a while back, and I wanted to go back and look at it again with some further perspective. I had thought that now we would see if everyone still wanted to give Lohse that big multi year deal that they were clamoring for back then. Unfortunately, I seem to remember the board being much more adamant about extending Kyle than was apparently actually the case, because we were pretty lukewarm on the idea back then, too. This, of course, presents a problem for me, as it essentially destroys the thesis of my whole post. I don't know where you people get off being sensible and levelheaded about player contracts, but damn you all for it.

So, I decided to go for it anyway. I'll just have to change the thrust of the thing to a self congratulatory tone of, "see how smart we are, guys? Crazy, reactionary fans were screaming for a deal for this guy like, yesterday, but not us! No, not us." As I believe I've pointed out before, I am not at all above pandering to a crowd.

So what's happened to Lohse? Well, I'm glad you asked. We look at his current line, and his ERA sits at 3.80. Now, that is an excellent ERA. Solidly in #2 starter territory. You look at his FIP, and it's 3.93, right in line with that ERA number. So this performance of Lohse's definitely isn't an illusion.

What you do have to worry about, though, is his more recent numbers. In August alone, Lohse has thrown 12.1 innings, with an ERA of 5.11. That's ugly, and guess what? The bad isn't an illusion, either.

In the first four months of the season, Lohse did two things unusually well that he had never done much in his career before. He limited walks, and he generated groundballs. In the first four months, Lohse's BB/PA percentages were 5.8%, 6.0,6.0, and an astounding 4.2% in July. In August? It's gone up to 7.5%. Now, that's not a huge difference, by any means. Less than a one and a half percent difference is barely enough to even notice.

However, when we look at the other side of the equation, the groundball side, that's when we start to see some dramatic differences. Over the first four months of the season, Kyle consistently had GB% numbers in the 48-50% range, among the highest of his career. Previously to this season, Lohse typically sat more in the low 40s. His lowest GB% in any month this season 'til now had July, when 46% of the balls put into play against Lohse were of the worm burning variety.

In August, though, Kyle's ground ball percentage is 28%. That's right, twenty eight. Not so good, eh? The odd thing about this month is that Lohse has seen his K rate go up, to slightly over 20%, compared to numbers consistently in the 12% range earlier in the season.

What's really worrisome about all of this is that Lohse's recent numbers look like his career numbers. The first four months of the season, Lohse looked like an entirely different pitcher than we had seen in previous years. So far in August, though, and even at the end of July, what he's doing is much more in line with the pitcher he's always been. His BABIP this month is .278, so he's not getting unlucky. What he's doing is turning back into the pitcher we thought he was.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think Lohse is still a better pitcher than a 5+ ERA. But I also have to concede that the way he's pitched his last three or four times out is very much in line with the way he's pitched the rest of his career. He's no longer generating as many grounders, his control has regressed, and his ERA is rising correspondingly.

Of course, the thing about all of this is that he's still likely going to receive a four year deal somewhere. The latest figures that I've heard floating around are in the neighbourhood of 4/$48 million. Personally, I don't want any part of that deal. I didn't particularly like it two months ago, and I certainly don't like it now.

It's entirely possible that Lohse and Duncan will be able to get it together and get Kyle back on track. But looking at the numbers, I have to think that at least some of this is just Lohse regressing back to his own personal mean. We all knew he was probably pitching a bit over his head early in the season, and it now looks as if he's coming back to his career a bit.

So my question is this: have the past couple of months since I last asked changed your mind any? We've seen Wainwright get hurt in the meantime, and we've seen what Carpenter appears to offer when he's healthy. We now know that Mark Mulder is truly toast, with no more doubts or questions. With all that in mind, and more time to assess some of the young pitchers that the Cardinals could potentially be looking at plugging in next season, do you guys have any interest in trying to extend Lohse now? To me, it looks as if we were right the first time in thinking that extending him was, at best, premature and, at worst, just a flat out bad idea. But, I'm interested in revisiting the question and seeing what you all think.

We've had two more months of seeing what Kyle Lohse offers. Should he be a part of the team's plans going forward?

On the flip side, do you guys think the Cards should try to push Lohse through waivers and see if they can find a taker for him now? I realise that we're still in the race, but the value Lohse could bring in return could still be very, very good. Personally, I'm not at all sure he's going to qualify for Type A free agent status, so he may not net the Cardinals the two draft picks we're all hoping for if he leaves. As of now, there's still a pretty good chance he does, I think, but if his numbers continue to tumble, he could fall short of Type A pretty easily. Would the talent haul you could get from a team needing to shore up the middle of their rotation to make a playoff run be worth more than the supplemental pick the Cards would get for Type B Lohse?

Or, of course, we could just hold tight. Keep Lohse, stay the course, let the cards fall where they may. That's basically been the MO so far, of course (I'm really proud of that pun, by the way), and it's the most likely course of action going forward , I'm sure. Myself, I was half hoping the Cardinals would flip Lohse at the trade deadline for some prospects, but, as some of you have been so kind to point out, I'm much too eager to wave the white flag.

Discuss amongst yourselves, folks. I'm in a hurry this morning, so I've got to be going. See you all later with a game thread.