I hope Kameron Loe is getting a nice break this winter because, after a tumultuous 2011, he deserves it.
With LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito unavailable to start the season, Loe was thrust by necessity into an "eighth inning guy" role, which really turned into more of an "every single day" role. Loe pitched in eight of the Brewers' first 12 games, 15 of their 26 in April and entered the All Star break on pace to make 81 appearances. Unfortunately, Loe didn't handle this usage pattern well, and had these three outings which will likely be his most memorable of 2011:
- On April 17, Loe was called in to pitch the seventh of a 1-1 game in Washington. He faced five batters and retired just one, allowing three runs in what went on to become a 5-1 loss.
- On May 11 the Brewers had come back from a 5-0 deficit to take a 6-5 lead on the Padres but Mitch Stetter, Loe and Mike McClendon combined to allow eight runs in the eighth as the Padres ran away with a 13-6 win.
- On June 8 the Brewers took a 2-1 lead to the eighth inning against the Mets, but Loe allowed five runs in just .2 innings to turn the advantage into a 6-2 deficit. The Brewers rallied to win that game 7-6.
With outings like those sticking out like sore thumbs, it's easy to forget that the rest of Loe's season was actually very good. When the Brewers acquired Francisco Rodriguez in July it removed some of the need to use Loe so often, and he performed admirably the rest of the way. Loe posted a 1.93 ERA in 26 appearances after the All Star break, striking out 25 and walking just four over 28 innings.
Several of Loe's worst moments this season came against left-handed hitters, leading many to make the case that he shouldn't face them anymore. It's worth noting, though, that Loe held opposing lefties to a .250/.306/.384 line in 2011, which isn't terrible. That's actually better than he was in 2010, when they hit .274/.311/.429.
Loe draws a fair share of criticism because his failures have been dramatic and have come at very inopportune times, but he's been very valuable as a Brewer. He's posted a 3.18 ERA in 125 relief appearances for Milwaukee and a 1.151 WHIP. Among pitchers who have appeared in at least 100 games as a Brewer, only two have allowed fewer baserunners:
John Axford, by the way, is sixth on that list at 1.177.
Loe was arbitration eligible for the first time in 2011 and received a base salary of $1.25 million plus $90,000 in incentives for appearing in 72 games. MLB Trade Rumors predicts he'll receive $2.8 million if the Brewers offer him arbitration for 2012.
On July 26, Loe was called into a game that was teetering on the edge of disaster. The Brewers had taken a 3-2 lead in the first inning, but the Cubs loaded the bases with none out against Chris Narveson in the sixth and chased him from the game. Despite having no margin for error, Loe got Alfonso Soriano to ground into a force out at home and Darwin Barney to ground into a double play to end the threat. The Brewers went on to win the game 3-2.
Here is that double play: