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When did Kyle Lohse become Todd Wellemeyer?

I’m trying to figure out what the hell is wrong w/ Kyle Lohse. Anyone have any ideas? I can’t help but wonder if he’s (still?) hurt. Gathering my information from fangraphs, I noticed that his fastball has averaged 90.2 mph all season long but in July it only averaged 88.9 mph. It’s not a huge difference but losing 1.5 mph off one’s fastball, for someone who needs every mph he can get, could be significant. It could also be indicative of an injury. In April, he averaged 90.3 mph. In May he averaged 91.1 mph. He threw all of 2 innings in June before getting hurt and then his fastball has fallen to 88.9 mph in July. Not a huge difference, but…

So what does it mean that his fastball has fallen to 88.9 mph? I don’t know but it was never that slow for an entire month last season. His slowest month in 2008 was 89.9 mph and that was the only month it averaged less than 90 mph (obviously!). Maybe it’s a tired arm? But he was just off for a month b/c of the injury. I dunno. He was on the DL w/ a strain in his pitching arm. Could he still be injured? I’ll admit – I’d be more convinced if his velocity was in the 85-86 mph range.

Let’s look at the splits by month:

April 1.97 1 .216 .264 .302
May 6.85 4 .276 .357 .494
July 4.50 3 .256 .326 .430

It’s somewhat relieving to see that his struggles actually began in May. This tells me that he’s probably not injured, despite the drop in fastball velocity. There is a distinct increase in homers and slugging beginning in May. Let’s look at the peripherals and see what they tell us.

K/9 BB/9 HR/9 GB% FB% LD% Zone%
April 5.34 2.25 0.28 48.5 32.0 19.6 51.1
May 7.66 3.22 1.61 43.3 31.3 25.4 48.8
July 4.91 3.68 1.23 41.9 45.9 12.2 45.8
2008 5.36 2.21 0.81 45.8 32.1 22.1 52.4
Wednesday 0 6.75 3.38 37.5 31.3 31.3 n/a

Aha! I think we’ve found our culprit. It’s all about command, isn’t it? He hasn’t been throwing strikes and has been unable to keep the ball down since April. As a result, he’s been walking batters and been getting hit hard. It’s possible that the death of Lohse’s cousin had something to do w/ his poor performance yesterday but that doesn’t explain his struggles since early May. Command, baby! At least I feel comfortable that he’s probably not hurt. He’s just got to get back to throwing strikes and keeping the ball down and he’ll be back on track…I hope!

At the risk of getting DanUp too excited, isn’t it time for some love for Blake Hawksworth? He’s been tremendous and has only yielded runs in 2 of his 12 outings and one of those was his very first outing. It’d be difficult to believe that jitters had nothing to do w/ that 2 inning, 4 run outburst. Aside from that, he gave up 2 runs to the Phillies on July 26 and that’s it. 17.2 IP and 2 ER. 15 hits and 3 walks – 18 base runners in 17.2 IP. Blake had a 47.5 GB% coming into the game and yesterday recorded 3 ground balls among the 5 balls put in play against him. I’d been thinking that he’s been pitching a lot better since returning from Memphis but that isn’t really true. He was good before being optioned and has been good since his return. While I was pretty satisfied w/ Mitch Boggs’s start last Friday, I could definitely see Hawksworth taking those 5th starter’s starts the rest of the way if he continues to pitch well. In fact, I’ve been somewhat concerned about our right-handed relief and I wouldn’t mind seeing him get to pitch in some higher leverage situations if he continues pitching the way he has so far. While Miller and Reyes have been tremendous from the left side, only McClellan and Thompson have been decent (and only slightly at that!) in right handed relief – aside from Franklin, of course – so far this season. And that doesn’t count Thompson’s poor outing Wednesday that likely pushed him below 0 RAR.

Dan and Al yesterday expressed some concern for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation down the stretch. I think Lohse will be ok in the 4 hole and either Boggs or Hawksworth will be acceptable in the 5th spot. I’m more concerned about right handed relief, down the stretch and in the playoffs. To me, Kyle McClellan’s no better than a middle reliever and Motte is, at best, erratic. Perhaps Motte can be the setup man in the playoffs (God-willing!) but I’d feel more comfortable if we had 1 more arm we could turn to that would get people out consistently. Could Hawksworth be the guy?