I wanted to ‘close the loop,’ as it were, about Kyle Lohse (and yes this will turn into a post about the Padres). Yesterday Lohse signed a three-year deal to become a Milwaukee Brewer. According to Cot’s, he’s making $11M a year with a possible $350K bonus if he throws 190 innings. Last year was the first since 2008 he met that threshold.
My first reaction to this was derision. Ken Rosenthal reported back on March 4 that Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, was holding out for a ‘high’ AAV. Turns out his yearly salary on this contract is less than what the St Louis Cardinals paid him the last two years, and $2M less than that team submitted as a qualifying offer last fall, even with the performance bonuses thrown in. That’s some SLICK negotiating for the services of a player Boras called “The best pitcher in the NL Central the last two years.”
Derision turned into frustration. Lohse’s final numbers meant he ended up cheaper than Dan Haren, who’s $13.2M price tag was widely reported as too rich for the Padres blood. And, Lohse signed for 3 years, which was also widely reported as the max deal San Diego was willing to offer for a free-agent pitcher. We couldn’t get in on this action?
Frustration soon changed to puzzlement. Lohse is a pitch-to-contact guy. Busch Stadium is a hitter-neutral place that actually slightly favors the pitchers. Miller Park does not favor the pitchers at all, and Kyle has been lit up there. The Brewer lineup is very good, assisted by a park that was the seventh easiest in which to score runs last season, and the easiest park in which to hit a home run. Lohse has made 9 appearances (8 career starts) there, averaged just a shade over 5 innings pitched in those 8 starts, allowed 7 home runs, and posted a 6.95 ERA.
By contrast, in 4 career starts at Petco he’s averaged 6 innings a start and has an ERA of 3.70. Wouldn’t it make more sense for a pitch-to-contact guy to work in a pitcher’s park, where most mistakes don’t end up as souvenirs?
So, what – Milwaukee’s a better fit than San Diego? Why?
Must be their better odds of making the playoffs this season, right? Actually Milwaukee’s odds are virtually identical to San Diego’s. Baseball Prospectus currently projects Milwaukee with a 14.5% chance of making the playoffs. San Diego has a 13.5% shot. I guess Lohse believes in the 1%. He must, otherwise why sign to pitch for a team that calls a hitter’s paradise home and sports a suspect defense…
Well, check that. Milwaukee’s defense isn’t that suspect anymore. I took a look at the NL Runs Saved in 2012 and it turns out the Brewers were pretty good with the glove. Milwaukee’s defense ranked 4th in the NL by this metric, despite the fact Rickie Weeks was the worst defensive second baseman in baseball last year. Where did San Diego fall out? Tenth, just in front of Pittsburgh.
This didn’t square with my memory so I checked the 2011 numbers. The Padres were the second best defensive team in the NL two years ago, third best in baseball (Milwaukee was 5th best in the NL). San Diego was above average defensively all over the diamond except for two spots: second base and shortstop. Don’t remember who played there? @AvengingJM sure does. #Mowmylawn
In 2012 Padres defense regressed in a big way from 2011. Second base and shortstop were again gigantic holes of suck, but Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson can’t take all the credit for that. Bartlett played his last game for the Padres on 14 May, Hudson two days later. Equal (dis)credit belongs to Everth Cabrera, Logan Forsythe, and the rest of the Padres middle infielders. San Diego also took a turn for the worse defensively at third (very surprising), left (the Carlos Quentin Experience), and on the mound. In fact, by this metric, only the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff was more inept with the glove than our Padres.
Should we expect similar hi-jinks defensively this year? Chase Headley should remain at least average defensively at third, and hopefully improve slightly over a down 2012. With Quentin on the shelf for who knows how long, one hopes a combination of Chris Denorfia and others (Mark Kotsay? Alexi Amarista?) play passable defense in left. Cabrera is a better defensive shortstop than Bartlett was in 2011-12, and Jedd Gyorko has to be at least as good as O-Dawg was right? That’s a lot of wishing on a star, but the Padres defense this season should be improved from the 2012 version. Maybe not as good as Milwaukee’s, but certainly not as bad as Miami’s will be.
Sometimes perception gets in the way of reality. Milwaukee’s better offense and perceived better shot at a playoff spot definitely colored his decision. I think his talents would have been a much better fit here.
You can find other topics tenuously related to the Padres in my @Padres_Trail Twitter feed. Thanks for reading.