Looking at Kyle Lohse, the rotation’s biggest question

Photo: J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

With the Cardinals rotation set going into spring training next week, the biggest question mark for the starters is Kyle Lohse. My question for the United Cardinal Bloggers February round-table discussion: What’s your honest assessment of how he’ll do in 2011? Your prediction of his record?

I’ll share my own thoughts at the end. Here are the responses from the group.

Erika Lynn, Cardinal Diamond Diaries

When Chris brought up a pitching question, I was sure we’d be talking about Carp! However Lohse is the obvious big question mark in the 2011 rotation right now. While most of Cardinal nation cringes at the mention of his name in the rotation, I am hopefully optimistic. Coming off a magical mystery surgery last season, Kyle pitched better than expected. In my opinion, after a winter of continued rehab and strengthening, Lohse will be much improved. I am among the Lohse faithful, looking forward to a strong season where he will prove the naysayers wrong. Predicting his 2011 numbers is a bigger issue for me (not being a true numbers gal, but more of a go-with-your-heart type fan), but I will hedge my bets and predict he has a winning record. Heck, I’ll even say he wins at least 14 games. How’s that for optimism?  😉

Dennis Lawson, Pitchers Hit Eighth

I’m fairly optimistic about Lohse, but I’m not expecting a repeat of 2008 (15-6). I’d be thrilled to see 12-10 with a 4.25 ERA and 190+ innings. If he doesn’t go out and try to “earn” $41M in one season, that would be just fine. Just keeping the team in games and taking the pressure off of the bullpen would do wonders for the Cardinals. He doesn’t have to hit a magical strikeout number to be effective, but a WHIP below 1.350 would probably be indicative of a fairly successful season in my opinion.


Aaron Wood, El Maquino

I wish that Lohse would be good like in 2008. If he was, our pitchers would be up there with the Phillies. But, I highly doubt he amounts to a whole lot in his last year with the team.

Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner

After the long off-season rest, I do believe Kyle Lohse will have a solid year in 2011. Fortunately for him, the lineup (on paper) looks like one that might put up a ferocious numbers of runs, which will benefit a guy like Lohse who carries a career ERA of nearly 5 runs a game. Let’s go with 12-8 and an ERA of 4.25. If he gets 190 innings and keeps his WHIP below 1.400, we should all be doing the happy dance.

Dustin McClure, Welcome to Baseball Heaven

If Kyle Lohse can finish with a record over .500 I’ll be doing back flips and cartwheels. The main thing for Kyle this season is to stay healthy and give the team innings. Other than the fact he’s going to make almost $12 mil this season I would assume expectations will still be pretty low. Hopefully run support is on his side. 8-10, 4.42 ERA, 135 IP

Joseph McBrayer, The McBrayer-Baseball Blog

I see Lohse being mediocre at best. I predict a 7-11 record with a ERA over 4.00.

Andy Beard, Gas House Graphs

Fun fact: Did you know that Kyle Lohse has only reached the 200 inning threshold twice in his 11-year MLB career spent entirely as a starting pitcher? He logged 201.0 IP in 2003 with the Twins and 200.0 IP with the Cardinals in 2008, yet he’s made at least 30 starts in all but three years (2001, 2009, & 2010). In comparison, Wainwright started 34 and 33 games in the past two seasons logging 233.0 IP and 230.1 IP respectively. Lohse has routinely had a pretty difficult time pitching deep into games, but his injury history is pretty solid, only having been placed on the 15-day DL twice and 60-day DL once throughout his entire career.

Assuming he’s healthy to start 2011, Lohse is capable of pitching between 170-200 innings with a 4.50-ish ERA. Though he was legitimately solid in 2008 with the Cardinals (even statistics that attempt to extrapolate luck support this claim), it would be foolish to expect such impressive stats in the future as Lohse had never posted numbers like that before … and hasn’t since.

The 4-year deal Mozeliak awarded Lohse prior to the 2009 season was unfortunate as the Cardinals will be paying him to meet his peak level performance. That’s not going to happen, but Lohse could still ease the burden of an inflated contract by contributing league average innings at the back of the rotation. Honestly, though, replacing Lohse’s innings with one of the triple-A guys (Walters, Lynn, etc.) probably wouldn’t be a catastrophic development for the team as it’s conceivable that they could approximate his contributions from the mound.

J.D. Norton, Bleed Cardinal Red With Me

My take all has to do with Dave Duncan. I heard Duncan on the Bernie Show a couple of months back, and he raved about Lohse. He said he was as tough mentally as they come. He could of stopped at that, but he didn’t. I don’t think Dunc makes strong comments about his pitchers unless he feels there’s a little something special about them. I also don’t think the Cards would have signed Lohse to the contract he received without high praises from Dunc. Let’s not forget that Lohse started well in 2009 before the injury to his forearm started in. With all that being said, I don’t think an ERA of around 3.80-4.20 is out of the question. A WHIP of 1.30-1.35. Starting in the 5th spot, I could see him winning 15 games again, as long as the offense stays healthy. The question is, will his rare surgery for pitchers be something he can come back from? If healthy, I expect nothing but the best.

Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At the Bat

I’m fairly surprised with all the optimistic responses to this question. Across the Internet, Lohse seems to be one that engenders a lot of disdain.

With that said, I’m also in the optimistic camp. I know we won’t see 2008 again, but remember that Lohse was off to a fairly strong start in 2009 as well before the injury bug hit. I don’t know that he’s ever recovered from that baseball-to-the-forearm he suffered.

With the surgery to clear that up in the past, I think that he might be able to at least be a serviceable #5 starter. His last outing in ’10 carried some hope for the future, so if he’s around 10-10, 4.40 ERA, I think we have to be glad for it.

Mike Metzger, Stan Musial’s Stance

Ah, Kyle Lohse. The Albatross around Dave Duncan’s neck.

Lohse’s season bests: WHIP=1.274, K=130, ERA=3.78, IP=201.0, xFIP=4.16. His WHIP, K, and Innings happened in 2003, the rest in 2008. IMHO this is the best Lohse can pitch. If he turns in a season like 2003 or 2008 the Cardinals win 100+ games and probably the NL. Wouldn’t that be nice.

But, he’s the No. 5 on this staff, with reason. As others have said, should the Cardinal offense be as good as it is projected to be Lohse will probably finish slightly north of .500. Let’s say 12-10, 5.05 ERA, 185 IP, 105K, 1.375 WHIP.

Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba

If Kyle Lohse can bounce back – and that’s a big if – this has to be the season.

He was so bad last season – he reminded me so much of Danny Jackson in 1995 – it’s difficult to be optimistic.

But I’m going to lean toward the bright side, hope he’s healthy, and predict a 13-9 record for Lohse. If he accomplished that, it would be like finding gold.

My thoughts

February is all about optimism, especially two days before pitchers and catchers officially report. But, even with that, Lohse is the fifth starter for a reason. Looking back at his final start of 2010, it was encouraging – wasn’t that when he was using Chris Carpenter’s glove? (Yes, of course such a detail would stick with me. I also remember that CC used Lohse’s glove for his final start and threw his only complete game of the season.) So if Lohse needs to use CC’s glove throughout 2011 to continue to pitch well, then he should do it. It’s encouraging to read J.D.’s comments that Duncan made, as I also agree that he wouldn’t be giving that kind of praise if it wasn’t warranted. However, I still think Lohse will frustrate us at times this season. But I also believe he will stay healthy, which is obviously key. Results-wise, he will win more than he loses. I’ll say an 11-9 record, with a 4.20 ERA.

6 thoughts on “Looking at Kyle Lohse, the rotation’s biggest question

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Aaron Miles' Fastball » Looking at Kyle Lohse, the rotation’s biggest question -- Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: UCB February Project: Pre-Season Roundtable — United Cardinal Bloggers

    • You never know — that’s why they play the games. Besides, even Jason “Original Guaranteed Loss Night Guy” Marquis didn’t lose every single game. (Although I think Kip Wells did.)

  3. Pingback: UCB Roundtable Week 1 | The Outfield Ivy

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