February 4, 2008
Kyle Lohse: Will Throw Baseball for Food
by: Jeff Mathews on Feb 4, 2008 1:44 AM | Filed under: Articles

Last week, while everyone was on SantanaWatch, Jayson Stark gave us this little tidbit of news:

In the meantime, there are signs that the Mets continue to express interest in free-agent pitcher Kyle Lohse. Lohse was viewed, essentially, as the Mets’ backup plan in case they weren’t able to trade for Santana. But when one baseball man who had spoken with Mets GM Omar Minaya was asked if the club could end up with both Santana and Lohse, the reply was: “Absolutely.”

Meaning the Mets, despite landing the best pitcher on the planet, might still be in the market for more pitching. So, just for laffs, I decided to take a look at Lohse, who’s clearly the best remaining free agent pitcher and see if he’s any good. I’m not sure how serious Minaya is, but I’ve got all these pretty graphs just the same.

Lohse’s strikeout rate is about 15% worse than league average, but his walk rate is about 15% better; his K/BB ratio is about league average.

Kyle’s basically been a starter for his entire career. He came up with the Twins in 2001, where he pitched adequately up until 2006, when he stunk and got himself demoted to Triple-A. A month later he was back in the bigs, but pitching out of the bullpen; a month after that he was traded to the Reds for Zach Ward and a bag of magic beans. One year later, he was shipped at the deadline to the pitching-starved Phillies just in time to help them pick up a division championship that the Mets apparently didn’t want anymore and give up a granny to Kaz Matsui in the playoffs. Anyway, he’s a free agent now, and he wants to get paid.

I expect he wants to get paid at least as much as Carlos Silva, whose four-year, $48 million deal with the M’s this year still has me scratching my head. In some ways, Silva and Lohse are similar pitchers. They both have low strikeout rates, though Silva’s is a bit lower. They both also have low walk rates, and again Silva’s is a bit lower. In the end, though, they’re both league-average pitchers. Lohse, particularly, has adequatulence written all over him—Silva’s got the freakishly low strikeout and walk rates, which is at least interesting. That’s not to say that they don’t have value, but if I were Lohse I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a team to offer four years and $48 million.

Rather than just looking at Lohse’s homerun, walk, and strikeout rates for the millionth time, I decided to go ahead and work out how those rates would translate over the course of a season. For example, Kyle’s got a slightly below-average 5.7 K/9 rate; how many fewer strikeouts would he ring up over the course of a season than a league-average pitcher? Let’s assume that Lohse starts 32 games, and maintains his career average of facing 25 batters per start for a nice, even 800 plate appearances

Green good, red bad.

Well, there you go. Over a season’s worth of starts, Kyle Lohse would likely strike out about 24 fewer batters than league average. He’d also walk probably 13 fewer, while allowing a couple more homers than average. With few strikeouts and walks, a lot of balls would get put into play, which would translate into 14 more hits, assuming he maintains his .308 BABIP as a starter. I don’t know. Not a lot to get excited about here, either good or bad. It’d translate out to about 182 innings.

Compare that with—oh, I don’t know—the 2004 and 2006 AL Cy Young Award winner and newest Met, Johan Santana.

This gives me a very special feeling. Over the same 800 plate appearances, Johan would strike out 75 more, walk 21 fewer; allow one extra homer, and 34 fewer hits than league-average. Amazing. Not only is Johan a strikeout pitcher with great control, but, like John Maine, he seems to be able to limit the number of hits he allows on balls in play—as a starter, he’s only allowed a .269 BABIP. Facing the same 800 batters, Johan would actually pitch 18 more innings. And that’s even before we factor in the switch to the less competitive, DH-less NL.

With the addition of Johan Santana, the Mets don’t need to stay in the market for Plan-B pitchers like Kyle Lohse, but it might not be a bad idea to keep up some interest in him anyway. Indulge yourself in some schadenfreude, and take a look at the reactions of some Phillies fans to this trade.


Anyway, if there’s a silver lining for the Phils here, it’s that taking the Mets out of the market for Lohse makes it more likely that the Phillies will get him for a reasonable price, both in terms of dollars and years. So, I say that the Mets should be interested enough in Lohse to guarantee that the Phillies don’t get him for a reasonable price. The more resources the Phillies have to expend to shore up their pitching staff with an unremarkable free agent, the fewer dollars they’ll have to spend on other weapons to use against the Mets.

Special thanks to Baseball-Reference and Tom Tippett of Diamond Mind, whose idea for pitcher profiles I continue to rip off in bastardized form every other week.

7 Responses to “Kyle Lohse: Will Throw Baseball for Food”

  1. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on February 4, 2008 at 1:54 am (#604752)

    Meh. I’d rather stick with El Duque until Pelfrey’s ready and Sosa as a back-up.

    No point in throwing millions at something that is probably equal or less than the above scenario… no point in even risking that and having the Phillies call a bluff on.

  2. Comment posted by rfloh on February 4, 2008 at 6:32 am (#604760)

    For me, this really depends on what the market is willing to give Lohse. If it’s no more than $25M, I’d take him, as injury insurance for Pedro and Duque, and to crush the NL East.

    He isn’t going to cost a pick, and since the Mets have traded away most of their prospects this offseason, to win now, might as well go all the way.

    I’d rather not have to overpay in terms of young talent for the likes of Noah Lowry during the season.

  3. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester 2.0 on February 4, 2008 at 6:55 am (#604762)

    Nice post. Loved the Santana comp.

  4. Comment posted by Eli on February 4, 2008 at 8:43 am (#604769)

    I kind of figured that getting Santana actually INCREASED the likelihood that Omar would try to sign someone like Livan or Lohse. Since he would be trading away two pitchers that could have potentially pitched in the majors in 08 as a sixth starter (Humber and Mulvey), getting Santana would mean he would want more insurance at the lower end of the rotation.

    But I’m with LFM. I think that Sosa or Pelfrey are as least as good options as Lohse, probably better, and certainly much much cheaper.

    Count on Omar signing at least one more Lawrence/Gonzalez/Lima! type for AAA as insurance. Sorry guys, but I am afraid that Lima is not out of the question here. Where is he these days? Korea? I hear Omar still has his number on the memory card of his cell phone.

    I suppose that some minor league players will pleasantly surprise us, but all in all, following the minor leagues this year will be rather boring.

  5. Comment posted by JamesSC on February 4, 2008 at 9:53 am (#604798)

    Well, my guess is Smith and Pelfrey start the year in AAA, Smith because he won’t make the team, and Pelfrey so they can keep him starting until he is needed on the big league team for a spot start or 10. So we will have something to watch in the minors.

    And then again, there is always F-Mart :)

  6. Comment posted by Brian on February 4, 2008 at 10:44 am (#604848)

    I loved that photo of Santana about to body slam the Phanatic

  7. Comment posted by Metswin2008 on February 4, 2008 at 1:06 pm (#604926)

    Kyle Loshe will win 20 games…..over the next 4 years…..