Should the Phils Call Lohse? – Phillies Nation
2013 Spring Training

Should the Phils Call Lohse?

How likely are the Phillies to recreate this photo in 2007? Not very.

Flashback to 2007: the Phils, on the outskirts of the playoff race, trade one of their Top 10 prospects, Matt Maloney, to Cincinnati to acquire right handed starter Kyle Lohse. Lohse goes 3-0 with a 4.72 ERA in 13 games, 11 starts, en route to making one of the most improbably comebacks of all-time and capturing the NL East outright on the final day of the season. Lohse is last seen as a Phillie coming in against the Rockies in the 2007 NLDS inexplicably as a reliever despite likely being among their most consistent starters to finish the season.

Fast foward to 2013: the Phils, likely on the outskirts of the playoff race, sit behind the Nationals and Braves on paper for the upcoming season. Lohse, coming off a career year, is now 34 and very available as Spring Training starts. The Phillies are relying on Kyle Kendrick to replicate his strong 2012 second half and John Lannan to pitch as well as he does against everyone not named the Phillies. Neither are huge stretches but neither are slam dunks either in a year where the Phillies seem to have everything but certainty. The question that nobody is asking is: with Lohse still available, should the Phillies pick up the phone and call?

The Positives

Lohse seemed to make a giant leap in 2012, going from above average to very good, building on what was an excellent 2011. For Lohse, command of his 88-90 MPH fastball is key and that’s where most of his improvements came. Lohse is more of a contact pitcher but saw real improvement in missing bats (-1.6% drop in contact on pitches in the strike zone, -1.3% drop in contact on pitches outside of the strikezone). For the second straight year, over 50% of his pitches were in the strikezone.

The pitch that has hurt Lohse the most is his curveball, which sits between 74-76 MPH. In 2010, Lohse threw a curve 9.6% of the time and had a 6.55 ERA; in 2012, Lohse threw it just 4.4% of the time and had a 2.86 ERA. The drop in ERA is not completely related to his reduction of the use of the curve, but mixed with his improvement of locating his fastball and his reliable slider, Lohse was able to find the strikezone more effectively which absolutely did help his ERA. His skillsets are improving in ways you’d expect pitchers over 30 to do and there has not been a precipitous decline in his velocity. His risks associated to aging are smaller than most and isn’t a large threat to injury.

The Negatives

Can the Phillies even afford Lohse? Highly unlikely. There are not a whole lot of rumored numbers for Lohse but his last contract was around five years, $34 million, ~$7 million a year. After the career year he just had, he’s likely looking to settle for nothing short of $10-14 million a year. At this point in free agency, Lohse may look to settle for something for less years but a bigger annual value, which would actually decrease the Phillies’ chances of signing him even more.

Secondly, the fan perception of adding someone for big bucks who is 34 to a team who already among the oldest in the Majors is not likely a road the front office wants to go down. The Phillies can do a lot worse than Kendrick and Lannan was on my radar since day one when the Nats non-tendered him.

Third, will Lohse even be that much of an improvement over Kendrick or Lannan? Based on projections, Lohse would net the Phillies a net gain of about one win replacing either of those pitchers. The Steamer projections at FanGraphs have Lannan worth 1.3 fWAR and Kendrick worth 1.4 WAR in 2013 while they have Lohse at 2.2 WAR. Is the gap between those pitchers worth adding $10-14 million plus the extra $5-7 million in luxury tax payments? Probably not.

Finally, despite the Mets best efforts to dance around the compensation rules when talking to Michael Bourn, Lohse, as a Type-A Free Agent, is still tied to the Phillies draft choice in 2013. If Lohse is still around after the 2013 Draft, then any team can sign him without compensation penalty, but that possibility is best very, very slim and at worst non-existent.

Lohse is absolutely a fine middle of the rotation starter and it is puzzling why he is available into Spring Training but the Phillies should not make a call to him: he’s too expensive and he’s not much better than what they already have.



  1. Don M

    February 16, 2013 at 9:48 am

    “If the price is right” is definitely the kicker… I almost think he’d be wise to wait until a team loses a starter to Tommy John surgery in Spring Training and then sign a big one-year deal

  2. Lefty

    February 16, 2013 at 10:30 am

    If they wouldn’t give up the pick (and associated MLB funding allowance) for any of the other FA’s that received QO’s, why in the world would they do it for Lohse? They really could have used some of the available hitters that were out there. I guess I just feel that if they managed to hold onto the pick this long, it would be a waste to give it up now.

    In June after the draft if he’s still kicking around, depending on our health and situation, maybe then.

    I appreciate your creativity and interesting topics Ian, it’s good to keep everything in play, but I would hope they don’t make this move. And I agree that Lannan was a good pick up and may help this team.

  3. Bob in Bucks

    February 16, 2013 at 11:10 am

    We all know that Amaro is tapped out – he has no room to maneuver except perhaps a reserve for a mid-year pickup. Lohse is a good pitcher but he will wait it out until someone really needs him.

  4. George

    February 16, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Ian summed it up perfectly in his last paragraph. I’m not even sure why he wrote the first several when he makes not signing Loshe such a no-brainer.

    That said, it does appear sometimes that Amaro has no brains, and nothing ever really surprises me.

  5. DadsInKeyLargo

    February 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    The Phillies have the 16th pick. Seems to me they (Ruben) have avoided losing it. Why now would they cave and give it up. While Kyle is a decent pitcher, he is not that significant an upgrade to warrant that kind of move.
    I say nay to getting Kyle.

  6. Jay Floyd

    February 16, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    This is good food for thought. He’s definitely worthy of a look, but I feel like the starting 5 is set and the Phils have a potentially stacked bullpen already, so why bump someone into that role?

    I feel like if the Phils do have any spare budget, it’ll be better spent saved for an offensive acquisition.

    I don’t really look at pitchers the same way when it comes to age, or perceived team age, anyway. Loads of pitchers peak at age 29+/in their 30’s…look at Schilling and Maddux, look at Cliff Lee, look at Randy Johnson, Blyleven…so many examples. Andy Pettitte’s career best ERA came at age 33, he then went on to lead the AL in starts the following 2 yrs. It’s more rare to find examples of hitters whose production improves after 30. Age just applies differently to offense & pitching.

    Also, with that in mind, Hamels just turned 29 this off-season. The best of him is yet to come…!…?

  7. Manny

    February 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    It’s an interesting idea but the marginal upgrade over KK or Lannan isn’t enough. We’re better off having a little wiggle room in the budget and make a move near the trade deadline if we need it (it’ll be clearer what kind of help we’ll need then… might be pitching if one of the big 3 goes down, or offense otherwise).

  8. brooks

    February 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    For the majority of Loshe’s career he has been giving up more hits than innings pitched, his career WHIP before 2011 was 1.43. Due to his success these last 2 years, his contract will swell to a ripe size and he never has been anything special. Sure, the last 2 years he has a 30-11 record but he is also now 34 years old.

    Too much to spend, high risk, low reward, no go.

    • hk

      February 16, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      I agree. The #16 pick is not worth losing for a pitcher who was mediocre through 2010 and lucky (BABIP of .265) over the past 2 years.

  9. lucas

    February 16, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    The only question for me is does Lohse make the Phillies a better team. I don’t see how anyone could answer no. I guess the fans have a very short memory. it seems that most of the time when Kendrick is on the mound he is always one swing away from disaster even when he wins. Ditto for John Lannan. Lhse went 16-3 last year and has been solid for several seasons. the same can’t be said for KK or Lannan. Both are major risks in the rotation. Lose the 16th pick? Big deal, have you seen the last few years Phils #1 draft picks? Pretty forgettable. I would love to have Lohse, the other two scare the heck out of me. Get ready for a lot of frustrating games when they are pitching. Believe me i hope I am wrong, but history doesn’t look kindly on KK and Lannan as starters. Absolutely Iwould rather have the addition of lohse. As for the money, it is my understanding the Phils are only at about 154 mil which is over 20 mil below last year so where is money a problem?

    • George

      February 16, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      The #16 pick is actually a lot higjher than the Phils have drafted for the past several years. Even when they’ve been able to get a pick in the first round, it’s usually been down around # 28-29.

      The Phils haven’t been the only team not wishing to give up a pick for a decent, but not great player.

      Say what you might about KK and Lannan; Lohse is only a marginal upgrade, and if Kendrick pitches like he did the final weeks of 2012, Lohse would actually be a downgrade.

  10. Ken Bland

    February 16, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    These are the facts, and they are indisputable.

    The same writer who posed the question should the Phils go after Fool Rod has now asked if the Phils should go after Kyle Lohse. Jusdt the favcts, maam, not an editorial comment.

    Nut, for the sake of presentation of 1 side of the arguement, these, as David Letterman mighty dsay are the top 10 reasons not to sign Kyle Lohse.

    10/Dude, or 1 of his ancestors cain’t pronounce his name

    9/ If he can pronounce his name, he4 cain’t spell his name. Take your pick.

    8/ I got a problem with inflation. I just paid an aggrivating 3.52 per gtallon a la punp. HGow you think I’d feel paying 10 mil to a number 4 starter?

    7/ History shows that no MLB team has ever won the World Series with 2 pitchers in the rotation named Kyle. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s a safe bet.

    6/ Vegas odds on the home run king 2013 edition are out. One needs to lay a c note down to win 2 grand on The Maybe Still Big Piece. That particular piece owns Lohse, He’s got 2 dingers in 19 Abs, but with 9 hits total, chances are he has a few homers coming. Lohse as a teammate would, should and could decrease Howard’s chances. They’re already at 0 according to the sabermetramorons, and negative numbers would be criminal.

    5/ Lohse was 16-3 last year. This is more classic buy at the top than JDSU Uniphase was once upon a bull turned bear.

    4/ If you can sign a guy to put you in the lux tax neighborhood, can it at least be a perennial all-star?

    Trois/ Now be nice. Tony LaRussa and Charlie Manual handle pitching staffs differently.

    2/ The recently announced all two tim Phillies team already is booked, and there’s no need for another right handed pitcher.

    And the number one reason the Phils should not sign Kyle Lohse is……………………

    Chris Carpenter goes dowm. And the Cardinal reaction to the question of are you interested in Lohse now was NEGLIGIBLE. Hmmmmmm.

  11. Ken Bland

    February 16, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Last year, perhaps for comedic purposes, the Veagas boys had the Phils o/u total at 95. I’ve slept since then, but maybe that wasn’t QUITE the laughing matter it is in arrears. Course with the Howard and Utley situations, I guess it was at the time.

    I’d like to think, I’m hopeful anyway we have another comdeic approach this year at 81.5. There’s good and bad news on the Phils supposed Opening Day roster, so who knows, but you’d like to think the over is achievable.

    A recent column somewhere, by somebody if you’d like to look it up speculated on the chances of the NL East offering up 2 100 plus win teams. I’m a subscriber to things don’t go according to plan, a follow up from my worthy education at The University ofExpect the Unexpected. Naturally, the 2 teams mentioned did not include the Phils or Mets. If you wonder if the Marlins might have been 1, please return to the football portion of the internet. I just don’t allign with the expected Nats amd Braves greatness parlay. To be sure, the Nats have a chance to be uncommonly good, but that’s an annual baseball occurence, often associated with the Hpt Stove winner.

    The downplay on the Phils number carries through to the supposed juggernauts. The Nats carry a 90 line, the Bravos 88. To me, that’s good news, with some ridiculously creative thinking. Being as I anticipate the Braves and Nats NOT fulfilling expectations, I’m guessing 94 wins cops the East. The negatives on the Phils, or question marks, if you are an optimist
    can indeed make you laugh at the Phils chances. Despite those, spring in springing mode that it is, I could see the Phils scrambling to 94 wins in who’d a thunk it mode, but it actually happened. That at least Vegas is out there acting sane on Nat and Brave win totals is indeed a small part of a multitude of reasons we continue to watch the sport, and keep applying present developments to historic layers.

    90 being the highest expectation, the Vegas boys are predicting a whole lot of parity, and no doubt wild 2 card races as well as division comp. Somebody’s gonna do what Oakland did last year, and play marvelous baseball over a long stretch. If that team can avoid too bad an opposite stretch, we still could see a dominant team, but good luck picking that in advance.
    Not that it’s impossible But withf the widespread parity prediction tone underlying the industry, at this point, there’s no reason not to HOPE positively about the Phils. Regretfully, that can change on a single pitch.

    I think I’d rather root for a winning year than an interesting one. but at a minimum, that’s what looks to be expected through the game. On that one, I find little flaw with excpecting the expected.

  12. James

    February 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Why should it matter if they lose the 16th pick? When was the last time they made a good draft pick? Utley?

    • schmenkman

      February 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      Last time they drafted as high as 17: 2002 (Hamels)
      Last time they drafted as high as 15: 2000 (Utley)
      Last time they drafted as high as 12: 1999 (Bret Myers)

    • James

      February 17, 2013 at 10:09 am

      Exactly. Nothing in the last ten years.

      • schmenkman

        February 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm

        They haven’t drafted that high in ten years, and historically a #16 pick is MUCH more likely to pan out than a 25-30 pick.

  13. lucas

    February 16, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Okay so let’s compare the past two seasons.

    Lohse 30-11 eras 3.39 and 2.86

    Kendrick 19-18 eras 3.22 and 3.90

    Lannan 14-14 eras 3.70 and 4.01

    How is Lohse a marginal upgrade? His era last season was a full run less than Kendrick and Lannan. That is a pretty large number. And what if one of them is injured? do you feel more comfortable with say Lohse and Lannan over say Lannan and Pettibone or Tyler Clyod? If so then there isn’t much else to talk about. And how many seasons have they been able to go with the same five all year, so odds say you will need Pettibone or Cloyd as a starter at some point this year. Wouldn’t you like to insure against that or are you guys major gamblers and risk takers?

    • hk

      February 17, 2013 at 7:36 am

      1. I am less than confident to go into the season with Kendrick as the #4 starter and Lannan as #5. All off-season, I hoped (and commented) that the Phillies should sign Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson or another free agent SP who was an upgrade over Kendrick or Lannan, but who would not cost them the #16 pick.

      2. As much as I dislike having both Kendrick and Lannan in the rotation, I don’t see Lohse being an upgrade worthy of parting with the 1st round pick, nor the money he will most likely require. I see Lohse’s last 2 seasons as being luck-driven outliers for a pitcher with a career ERA of 4.45. I’d be willing to bet that Lohse’s ERA is closer to 4.45 this year than to 2.86.

      3. The main reason that I’d be willing to make that bet is that defense independent pitching stats have proven to be more predictive a pitcher’s following year ERA than his ERA in the prior year has been. While Lohse’s ERA was 2.86, his SIERA was 4.06 and his xFIP was 3.96.

      4. You are right that the Phillies recent #1 picks have not produced much of late, but as others have pointed out, they have not picked as high as #16 in many years. In addition, they haven’t had that many 1st round picks of late as this GM spent them luck a drunken sailor while signing free agents under the old CBA or rushing to sign a free agent when MLB was in between CBA’s. I applaud RAJ’s restraint in refraining from squandering #16 on a mediocre player like Lohse.

    • George

      February 17, 2013 at 11:42 am

      When comparing, you should also look at Lohse’s years when he was the same ages as Kendrick/Lannan. He started with the Twins, and I happen to know a Twins fan who absolutely dreaded a Lohse appearance. I’m sure that Loshe won’t look like such a great improvement when his lifetime stats are figured in (both Lannan and KK beat him out in career ERA) and he’s also a lot older than Kendrick and Lannan. Also, those two year totals are bound to be way different because Kendrick wasn’t a regular starter and Lannan was sent down in 2012 because the Nats had a pitching surplus. Lohse started full time.

      KK showed marked improvement last season and might just improve more, seeing that he’s now approaching the years when pitchers many times do.

      Loshe has had two fine seasons in a slightly above average career. He may have another one in him, but his luck might also run out (he’s had plenty of it the past two seasons). I see him as just as big a risk, andI don’t consider an aging and costly fourth starter to be a risk I’d take, with or without he draft rules.

      It also, to me, isn’t worth losing a #16 draft pick “just in case” someone gets injured. The Phils can address that if and when it happens.

  14. Brooks

    February 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Kyle Kendrick is an enigma to me. I don’t quite get him but I think I’m starting to appreciate him.
    Last year, he pitched 12 games in relief and the one that sticks out in my mind is the disaster in May when he gave up 5 runs in 1 inning. But actually, in the other 11 games he threw he only gave up 2 runs in 12.2 innings (ERA a miniscule 1.47).
    As a starter he really pissed me off. In April he started 2 games and got crushed in both yet in May he had 4 starts, all quality starts (yes, the standby of 3 or less runs in 6 or more innings). To go along with the CG shutout of the Cards (who saw that coming?) Point is as a starter in May his ERA was under 2.
    So he starts the entire month of June, 6 starts, 1 quality start, a whip of 1.80 – he’s right back into the dirty hopper.
    July comes and he has 1 start, gives up 0 runs, has BP action 8 IP with 0 runs – he looks like Superman but we still are trembling when he comes to the mound.
    August could have been the best single month production of his career. He didn’t start out well but won 4 games, lost 1, started 6 with 4 quality starts. Still not over the shakes but getting there.
    September he starts to come back down to earth some as he starts 5 games with 3 QS and in October 1 start with 0 runs.
    Point is, from July on he had 13 starts, 9 QS with an ERA of 2.92. His relief appearances (other than the May-melt) were everything that could be asked of –
    I believe I have talked myself into appreciating KK. Last year was won of his better years and as a 4th starter, he seems to do everything asked of a number 4 starter.

  15. Jeff of Nova

    February 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    KK is an enigma, but so is how the Phillies have used him since day one.

    He came up and was a great addition to the rotation, missing bats, not dominating, but missing bats and winning games.

    Then the Phillies put him in the bullpen, then the rotation, then bullpen.

    Last year he was put in the bullpen through spring training and then asked to jump and start then back to the bullpen then back to the rotation.

    I feel he is going to have a break out year in the rotation as a solid number 4.

    He is not dominate but has learned a lot of from guys like Doc and Cliff on how to be a great pitcher without amazing stuff all the time

  16. Ken Bland

    February 19, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    “I feel he is going to have a break out year in the rotation as a solid number 4.”


    So what kind of numbers might you use to define breakout season?

    Just looking at his career combined pen and starting. the following might be good to shoot for, and pretty much represent career bests….

    Innings 170

    WHIP 1.15

    H/9 7

    If he does that, some good things should result. Now will that happen? Maybe I’m too pragmatic, but it’s hard to get fired up about the chances.

    Anyway, I asked how you’d define his breakout and offered some criteria I’d set as goals.

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