As spring trainging rapidly apporoaches, there are still some ballplayers looking for a place to call home this upcoming summer. The most prominent of which are probably Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse (Austin Kearns just misses landing in this tier of free agents, but only by a hair). Well Bourn may find his new identity in Flushing very shortly if those Metropolitans can skirt that pesky rule about giving up draft picks. Let’s take a look at that for a hot minute.
Goodness knows, we would not want the Mets to miss out on a first round draft pick. They could very well miss out on drafting the next Lastings Milledge, for crying out loud! Heaven forbid! I mean really, truthfully, Mets, what are you really gonna get with your 1st round pick? Hmmm? Your recent track record is not, well, sepctacular in that department. Okay, I am being a bit harsh on the Mets 1st round picks, because their recent picks, with the exception of Matt Harvey, have yet to get to the majors. So, sure, a bit harsh, maybe? But the last Mets first rounder to consistently produce at a high level would be David Wright. Wright was drafted in 2001. The best 1st rounder before him? Arguably Preston Wilson in 1992 or maybe Jay Payton in ’94. So, really Mets, do you really need this pick, when you can get a known commodity in Michael Bourn? Just some food for thought there. But, alas, I digress, let’s get back to the other remaining prominent free agent, Kyle Lohse.
I am positive that plenty of teams could use and possibly have interest in Kyle Lohse and why wouldn’t they? Did you see what he did in 2012?! The surface statistics are eye-popping! 16-3, with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Wow! I’m sure many were/are thinking the same thing is me. “What?! Really?! Kyle Lohse?!” Mind boggling would be a way that I would describe these numbers. But I’ll dig a little deeper into the numbers in just a bit, cause an advanced stat nerd like myself does not hold much stock in these superficial statistics. So, if you said there was a starting pitcher on the market who posted those numbers last season for a playoff team, you would think the offers would be pouring in, right? Pouring in, folks! What team out there would not want that in their rotation, right? If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, for Lohsey, and agent Scott Boras, it is not. Instead of Kyle’s celly ringing off the non-existent hook (cause it’s a cell phone and thus has no hook) all he has been hearing is a cricket chorus.
First, and foremost, do not feel the need to shed any tears for Kyle Lohse. He did turn down $13.3 million to return to the Cardinals, so he is certainly not someone who needs our pity. Second of all, aside from having to beat that offer, Lohse also has that whole draft pick compensation thing attached to signing him as well. So, that will drive some prospective suitors away, for sure, especially of they are on the fence about this asking price. Still though, 16-3 with a sub-3 ERA? That has got to be worth a good chunk of change you would think. Edwin Jackson is making $13 million in 2013. Jackson was 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA in 2012 and he got paid, so why no love for Lohse? Even if the numbers are way above what Lohse should be tossing up there ( and they are), he has still got to be worth a decent offer, no? It appears that Major League teams are increasingly more savvy when it comes to looking deeper into a pitcher’s stats and many, like yours truly, see Lohse’s 2012 season as mostly smoke and mirrors and you are about to kind of see why.
Although Lohse had an ERA under three in 2012, his xFIP was just south of four at 3.96 and his BABIP of .262, which made him an extremely lucky pitcher. So you can see there is a regression a comin’ friends. Using Edwin Jackson as a comparison once more, E-Jax had an xFIP of 3.79 and a BABIP of .278 in 2012, so this is a fair comparison for Lohse. So that $13.3 million should look pretty good for Kyle. But the problem with getting Lohse the contract he wants does not stop there. Not only do many people doubt the legitimacy of Lohse’s 2012 numbers overall, but they doubt how well he can pitch outside of Busch Stadium or even not as a Cardinal. Kyle’s ERA was over a full run higher on the road than at home. While the difference in xFIP is not as significant, it was still a third of a run higher on the road. So all else being equal, not only should that $13.3 million look pretty darned good, but it may be the best bet for Lohse at this point, even though he wants a multi-year contract. Well Kyle, (may I call you Kyle?)that multi-year contract is probably not showing up at your doorstep anytime soon, so you may need to start thinking about just pitching in 2013. Expecting last year’s numbers from Lohse would be downright silly, to say the least, so the best best bet for him would be to sign whatever one year deal he can grab and prove he can be solid once again and look for more dough in 2014.
As I mentioned, a good amount of ballclubs could certainly use Lohse’s services even if, as expected, he regresses closer to his xFIP. Early projections have an ERA around 3.70 for the upcoming season, which is still not terrible, but it is no 2.86. Kyle is unlikely to put up ace numbers in 2013 and he can’t be playing the market as if he is going to, because no one else seems to be doing that. I think it is quite safe to say no one is buying into last season’s numbers from Lohse. The early projected numbers for 2013 peg Lohse as a third or fourth starter in a rotation. The good news though is although his ERA is looking to regress, his xFIP has been improving each of the last three seasons. In 2010 it was 4.79, down to 4.04 in ’11 and slightly lower 3.96 last season. On the other side of that coin, that minor improvement in xFIP, will still, most likely, not translate into an ERA below 3.50 in 2013. Or will it? Hey, ya never know, right? After all his 2012 xFIP should not have translated to anything remotely close to a 2.86 ERA, but somehow that’s the number that will appear in the ERA column on the back of Kyle Lohse’s baseball cards next to 2012. The bottom line here, Kyle, is you need come down off your pedestal and know your actual worth and if you think you’re worth more, you’re gonna have to go out and prove it. Until that day comes, sir, you keep your ear to the grindstone.