The Brewers made a lot of noise yesterday by outrighting five players. But that wasn't the only roster news. Kyle Lohse is now officially a free agent. His contract was up so this obviously comes as no surprise. The Brewers will have exclusive rights to negotiate with him until Friday but it's highly unlikely they decide to bring the veteran pitcher back for next year.
It's unfortunate that Kyle Lohse's tenure with the Brewers ended the way it did. His final season with the Crew was one of if not the worst of his career. His strike out and walk rates were actually close to normal for him. But his .291 BAA and 1.46 WHIP were among the worst of his career. He ended the season with a 5.85 ERA and 5.12 FIP after being removed from the rotation.
I think one of the biggest issues Lohse had this year was pitching in the strike zone. According to PITCHf/x his 45.4 Zone% (pitches seen within the strike zone) was a career low. This is something we might have been able to predict. That number has been going down since his career high--52.0%--in 2011. This is not a trend that was made obvious until at least a year into his contract with the Brewers though so we can't fault them for not seeing it when they signed him.
If you're missing the zone then hitters can sit on their pitch or wait for you to throw them a meatball. I'm sure this is related to Lohse's obscene home run numbers. He allowed 29 home runs this season. That's how many Marco Estrada allowed in his final season with the Brewers and we all remember how unfortunate that year was for him. Lohse's 1.71 HR/9 was by far a career worst.
Lohse was better out of the bullpen but he still wasn't very good. He made 15 appearances out of the pen tossing 28 innings. As a reliever he had a 3.81 ERA and a 4.79 FIP. Home runs were still an issue. He allowed 1.27 HR/9. For comparison, last year Marco Estrada completely transformed himself into a force to be reckoned with as a reliever: 21 appearances, 43.2 IP, 2.89 ERA, and 2.81 FIP.
At 37 years old Kyle Lohse enters the free agent market with little to offer but hope. Hope that he can return to form. Maybe a team thinks their pitching coach can fix whatever when wrong. His velocity remained at career norms. So perhaps it is possible.
On a personal note let's not forget the first two seasons Lohse gave the Brewers. He was arguably their best pitcher in those two seasons. Yeah it stings the Brewers gave up a first round draft pick to sign him. But that's on ownership and the front office, not him. Here's wishing him luck in free agency or in life after baseball if he decides to retire.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs