Lohse is a Big Question Mark

By Craig Phelps

St. Louis, Mo – Kyle Lohse is coming off the second best season of his career and his first truly healthy year since 2008.  Despite this, he remains one of the biggest concerns for the Cardinals heading out of Spring Training.

Now there is no doubt that Chris Carpenter’s injury should be, and is, at the forefront of every St. Louis fan’s mind during this off-season, but he is not an active pitcher.  To the Cardinals, Chris Carpenter does not exist at this time.  As for Lance Lynn, the temporary replacement for the former Cy Young Award winner,  he should be fine to fill the role that the Cardinals require of him at this point in time.

Lohse, on the other hand, is still trying to make a name for himself in the St. Louis record books.  The Chico, California native still needs to prove that a 4-year, $41 million contract was not a mistake.  Since signing that deal after a stellar 2008 season, Lohse has posted up winning percentages of .375 in 2009 with an ERA of 4.74 and .333 in 2010 with an ERA of 6.55.  He has greatly struggled with his command at times, having allowing 16 homeruns in 23 games in 2009 and a homerun in the equivalent of every other game in 2010 (9 homeruns in 18 games).

As difficult as it may be to admit for some fans, Kyle Lohse has proven that he was not worthy of that big time deal when one simply looks at the numbers.  However, there is one, not so miniscule detail that cannot be overlooked when judging Lohse during the first two years of his contract; he was not healthy.  In fact, this 33 year old pitcher was on record last year stating that this past season was the first time he’s been completely healthy since 2008.

The former 29th round pick of the Chicago Cubs (1996) posted up an ERA of 3.78 with a .714 winning percentage in 2008 and 3.39 ERA with a 6.36 winning percentage this past year; he let up 18 and 16 homeruns respectively in each of these seasons with 185 plus innings pitched.

The biggest concern for Lohse, coming off of such a fantastic season, is that this right hander seems to have ventured down the rabbit hole and discovered his old hardships.

Lohse has managed to allow a homerun ever game he has pitched this spring; the young Lance Lynn is the only other starting pitcher to allow a homerun (3) in the sunny skies of Florida.  He also has the highest ERA of any starter at 3.66 and the most hits allowed at 17 in his 19.2 innings pitched; those 17 hits is 6 more than Wainright, Garcia, or Lynn who have all allowed just 11 men to put bat on ball.  On a positive note, the Cardinal’s win leader last year has the second most strikeouts (13) on the team by a starter behind Garcia (16).  He is also tied for the second least walks with Westbrook at 4; Lynn has allowed just 3 walks in 15.2 innings.

This is about the time that the age old proverb, “It’s only Spring Training,” beings to rear its head for struggling veteran players.  The primary issue is that Lohse has a history of inconsistency even after the aforementioned 2009 and 2010 seasons are removed.

Prior to his exceptional 2008 year, Lohse only had two years win percentages of above .500 and has just four positive marks overall in his 11 year career.  He won 13 games in 2002 and 14 games in 2003 before going four straight years of posting double digit losses while keeping only one, lonely number in the wins column.

The fact of the matter is that Kyle Lohse is a bit of a wild card; on his best days he can be the ace of any staff in the league, but, when he struggles, he I s one of the more lackluster pitching options available in the MLB.

With that being said, it is, after all, still just Spring Training.

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