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The untradeable: Part 1

Yes, I'm talking about Kyle Lohse. 

Hi, I'm vivaelpujols.  You may remember me from such classic FanPosts as "Pitch f/x Thread", "A Look Back at the 2004 Cardinals", and "Can we please stop trashing Khalil?".  Due to the fact the chuckb actually has a life, there was an opening for the VEB Sunday spot, and I emailed Dan asking if I could fill that hole.  He consented, with the consideration that I did lots of Pitch f/x stuff.

So back to Lohse.  After the 2008 season, in which he reached career highs in ERA, FIP and tRA, he signed a monster 4 year 41 million dollar deal.  Surprisingly, VEB was somewhat sanguine about the deal, mainly due to the rather slim pickings for free agent starters, and the fact that Lohse really did have a very good 2008. 

However, Lohse got injured and struggled this year... a lot.  It prompted some discussion in which chuckb, among others, argued that Lohse had regressed to his career numbers, and I, among others, who argued that his injury had to be taken into account when discussing his future performance.  In than FanPost, I took a breif look at his Pitch f/x data from before and after the injury this year, but I didn't get into much detail.  Some other guys in the comments section requested more info, but I hadn't had time to do so. 

Now, I do, so I though I would take a much more in depth look at Kyle Lohse, so we can see what to expect from him going forward.  

Today, let's take a look at the PItch f/x data from 2008, so we can see a little bit more granually how he was able to do so well.  First, let's check out his stuff, organized by vertical v. horizontal movement:


For those unfamiliar with this presentation of Pitch f/x data, each dot is being compared to a pitch without spin.  That's why some pitches have positive vertical movement.  They don't actually rise, they just have less drop than a pitch without spin.  This is from the catchers point of view, so fastballs will tail to the third base side of the plate from a RHP, and breaking balls will break to the first base side.  

In case it isn't clear, FA refers to fastballs, FC refers to cutters, CH refers to changeups, CU refers to curveballs and SL refers to sliders.  As you can see, there is some blending; however, the clusters for each pitch are generally pretty clear.  

In 08, Lohse threw roughly 58% fastballs, 4% cutters, 11% changeups, 7% curveballs and 20% sliders.  His fastball averaged 91.2 MPH with a standard deviation (the average distance of each datapoint from the average) of 1.3, his cutter averaged 88.6 with a SD of 2.2, his changeup averaged 82.6 with a SD of 1.5, his curveball averaged 75.2 with a SD of 1.1 and his slider averaged 83.8 with a SD of 1.4.

Now let's take a look at how he located each pitch.  For this, I split the strikezone up into 9 different zones, and measured the percentage of all pitches that were thrown in those zones.  Here is the data for each pitch in 08 (given the small sample size of cutters, I simply combined them with sliders for this excersize):

Pitch Type

Zone In down In middle In up Center down Center middle Center up Away down Away middle Away up
FA 60% 5% 7% 5% 6% 9% 5% 7% 10% 6%
CH 54% 10% 9% 3% 9% 9% 3% 7% 3% <1%
CU 63% 5% 9% 6% 11% 7% 4% 11% 8% 3%
SL/FC 44% <1% 1% <1% 4% 7% 3% 13% 10% 5%


This is how it would be to a RHH, so "In" is to the third base side.  For reference, the league average 'Zone', or pitches thrown inside the strike zone, is about 53%.  As you can see, threw his fastball in the zone a lot, and dispersed it pretty much eventy throughout the strike zone, favoring the 1st base side of the plate a little bit.  He threw changeup in the strike zone a little bit less than the fastball, and mainly threw it in the center and inner thirds of the plate, and in the middle and down parts of those.  He used his curveball to pound the strike zone, and rarely elevated it.  His slider/cutter, on the other hand, was most often thrown to the first base side, and he rarely threw it in the strike zone.

Now, let's take a look at what batters did with his pitches, definitions of fields to follow:

Pitch type Z-Swing O-Swing Whiff% GB% SlugCon
Lg Avg 62% 25% 19% 45% .509
FA 54% 18% 7% 42% .568
CH 74% 40% 24% 64% .387
CU 50% 17% 17% 53% .327
SL 64% 26% 25% 55% .372


Z-Swing: percentage of pitches inside the strike zone swung at

O-Swing: percentage of pitches outside the strike zone swung at

Whiff%: percentage of pitches swung at that were swinging strikes

GB%: percentage of balls in play hit on the ground

SlugCon: slugging percentage on balls in play (including home runs)


There are a couple of things to notice from this.  His changuep was amazing.  He got a ton of swings on it, both in zone and out of zone, with a ton of ground balls and swinging strikes.  In fact, all of his offspeed pitches were very good, all generating above average GB rates and slugging on contact, while generating respectable whiff and O-Swing rates.  His fastball, on the other hand, was below average in all categories.   

Today, was just to take a preliminary look at what we can expect from "good Lohse".  Next week, we'll compare that his pre and post injury 2009, to see if we can make any conclusions about what to expect from him going forward.