After the Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn signings, a lot of people wanted the Indians to continue their splurge and go for Kyle Lohse. I thought that was a bad idea, and I still think that’s bad idea. Since he’s still on the free agent market, the threat remains. Each day that goes by, it seems less and less likely that he would come to Cleveland; however, I’m not sure if I’ll breathe a sigh of relief until he ends up somewhere else. You may think I’m crazy for these sentiments, but let me explain to you why I think this would be a bad signing for the Indians.
Last year in St. Louis, Lohse went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA. Those are very good numbers; excellent numbers, in fact. Compared to the 2012 Indians’ pitching staff, those numbers would have qualified as “staff ace,” hands down. His walks per nine innings rate (1.6) was one of the lowest of his career, while his strikeout per nine innings rate (6.1) was one of the highest of his career. I know that I’m supposed to be convincing you that this is a bad idea, yet I keep providing more and more points on why he looks fantastic. One thing you should keep in mind with these stats – typically the National League has been kinder to pitchers than the American League, particularly in Lohse’s case. When he was with Minnesota from 2001-2006, his average ERA was 4.88, his walk and strikeout rates were also worse. In the NL Central, he also faced teams like the Cubs and the Astros quite often, two teams that both lost over 100 games in 2012.
There’s another reason that I think Lohse’s 2012 numbers are kind of a mirage, and he’s unlikely to duplicate them (or improve upon them) this season. Lohse had a low BABIP (batting average for balls in play) last season. That means that he was relatively lucky when it came to balls in play; with more average luck, his ERA would have been significantly higher (probably closer to 4.00). He’s likely to regress closer to the mean in 2013, which means that his ERA is likely to take a jump. Couple that with a return to the American League, and the possibility that the AL Central may not have two different teams lose 100+ games, he will look significantly less stellar. There’s a reason that teams seem hesitant to sign him; I don’t think it’s completely due to the fact that his signing is connected to draft pick compensation.
You may be thinking “after last year, that still doesn’t sound that bad to me.” The thing is, even if the Indians were able to talk Lohse and agent Scott Boras down a lot in price (quite likely at this point), they’d still lose a draft pick. Granted, it’s only a fourth round pick at this point, but they’re still out more than just money. You may also think “he can’t be worse than Ubaldo Jimenez was last year.” This could also be true, but I think if given the opportunity most Indians fans would hop in their time machines and try to put a stop to that deal before it started to blow up in our face. Pretend this is future me, coming back to tell you that signing Kyle Lohse would be a bad idea. He’s bound to regress this year, and I’m not sure I fully trust him in the American League to begin with. With Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, and Zach McAllister locked into the rotation, there’s only one spot left anyway. Between Scott Kazmir, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Carrasco, they should have enough options to fill the rotation and create enough “Option Bs” in case someone needs to be replaced due to injury or prolonged struggles.
I know we all got a bit excited to see the Indians finally spend money, and you just wanted to see them keep spending. This isn’t like me when I was a kid, trying to collect all of the Garbage Pail Kids – we don’t need to collect all of the free agents still available. Let this one become someone else’s problem during the 2013 season.