With the start of free agency now official the rumors are flying fast and furious and one such rumor is the Nationals will pursue starting pitcher Kyle Lohse. There are a lot of questions about Kyle Lohse. The main one being, who is he. Is he the Kyle Lohse who over the last two seasons has ERAs of 3.39 and 2.86 with FIPs of 3.67 and 3.51 or is he the Kyle Lohse of the 12 year career with an EAR of 4.45 and FIP of 4.34 with a K/9 of 5.6 and BB/9 of 2.6.
There is some evidence that Lohse has changed over the last two seasons. He was never a strikeout pitching and his last two season’s K/9 of 5.3 and 6.1 are in line with his career numbers, but his BB/9 of 2.0 and 1.6 are lower. Kyle Lohse has become less afraid of pitching in the strikezone and has become a better pitcher because of it, but does leaving St. Louis alter that. Pitchers like Joel Pineiro, Jeff Weaver, and Jeff Suppan all saw career resurgence in St. Louis and then flopped when they went elsewhere. Kyle Lohse could do much the same.
Or he could continue down his current path and pitch like a pitcher with a mid-3.00 ERA as opposed to one with a mid-4.00 ERA. He could continue to limit the walks and pound the strikezone unafraid of if the batter put the ball in play or not. Kyle Lohse is an unknown and therefore isn’t worth big money, but he did make close to $12 million last season and will want a long term deal.
Edwin Jackson wanted a long term deal last off-season and didn’t get one. Often want a free agent wants matters very little as their price is going to be determined by what the market will bear. One reason the Nationals may be interested in Kyle Lohse is that they do not believe there is a strong market out there for him. His overall numbers are that different from Edwin Jackson and Lohse gives a bit of consistency that Jackson lacks.
Lohse in 2012 was worth 3.6 fWAR while Jackson was worth 2.7. That is a one win improvement if Lohse can pitch like he did in 2012. That however was a career year as Lohse’s 2.86 2012 ERA was the lowest of his career by half a run over his 2011 ERA of 3.39. Lohse cannot be counted on to continue being the pitcher he has been for the Cardinals over the last two seasons, but no GM should count on that. If Lohse can be had for a one or two year deal close to what Edwin Jackson made in 2012 then he is worth it. If it starts to sneak above that amount then Mike Rizzo and the Nationals should be happy to let him become someone else’s problem.
Finding Kyle Lohse as the pitcher the Nats end up with for the 2013 season and perhaps beyond is like waking up on Christmas morning, tearing into a present, and discovering socks. Sure you need them, but they are in no way as shiny or as nice as what you had asked for and while they will be useful they won’t be nearly as fun as the remote control car the kid down the street got.