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What a Lohse-er
2007-07-31 09:21
by Mike Carminati

What ever happened to Stand Pat Gillick!?!

Kyle Lohse? For who? For what?

Lohse is at best a tail-end starter who can hold a spot in a major-league rotation. He has a 60-74 career record with a 4.83 ERA (or 95 ERA+). That means his ERA is 5% worse than the park-adjusted league average.

That's at his best. At his worst, he's… Adam Eaton! I wonder what that guy is doing now.

Overall, he is an upgrade over Paul Abbott, their midseason pickup from three seasons ago (1-6 with a 6.24 ERA with the Phils in 2004). He's better than his 6-12 record so far this year in Cincy but probably worse than his league average 4.58 ERA.

Where does he fit into this dysfunctional staff? God only knows. Ostensibly, he replaces rookie J.D. Durbin in the rotation, but he is by no means an upgrade over Durbin. Durbin has done a yeoman's job after being recalled from the minors to plug the gaps when Jon Lieber and Freddy Garcia went down. He is 3-1 with a 4.38 ERA in four starts and 3-2, 4.30 overall in seven appearances.

Those are not spectacular numbers especially when one considers that he has walked 17 and struck out only 18 in 29.1 innings. In fact overall Durbin and Lohse have similar numbers. Durbin's park-adjusted ERA is 104; Lohse's is 101. Both strike out about five and one half men per nine innings pitched (Lohse, 5.47 and Durbin, 5.52). The biggest difference is in the walk ratio, but I prefer to give Durbin the benefit of the doubt given the small sample size.

All that said, let's say that Lohse is a slight upgrade over Durbin given his experience—7 major-league years plus four postseason series—, the walks, and the established (though slightly sub-par) track record. But why bother? Especially, when a good-looking young arm (Matt Maloney) is sacrificed in the process.

This is hardly Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz. Lohse is no Alexander and then again, Maloney may not be a Smoltz, but he looks pretty good so far. He was 16-9 with a 2.08 ERA in High Single A last year when he was picked as the most outstanding (or some other senior superlative) pitcher in the Sally league. He was promoted to Double-A Reading this season and had been unspectacular (9-7, 3.94 ERA), but has struck out 115 in 125.2. He has been bitten by the homer bug (13 in 125.2 innings), but that might be a Reading aberration given that he never displayed a tendency to give up the long ball in his previous two seasons. I would bet on any 23-year-old pitcher who strikes out a man an inning any day (he has a 9.00 strikeouts per 9 inning ratio in his pro career).

Given that Hamels and possibly Kendrick are the only men who project to be in the Phils' rotation next season, the Phils need decent young arms. I would expect Maolney to be ready for the rotation by mid-2008.

The argument for trading Maloney is that the Phils are in a playoff chase now and can worry about 2008 in December. That's valid to a certain degree, but I would prefer trading a decent prospect to fill a need.

Lohse fills none of the Phils immediate needs. Their biggest need may be to replace Ryan Madson as an innings eater in mid relief. The rest of the bullpen is, as always, a concern. The lack of a starting third baseman has been a sore spot all year. And with Voctorino and Bourne out for a few days, they need a right fielder (though Roberson will probably be recalled).

Yes, the rotation is a concern given that it contained two inexperienced arms (Kendrick and Durbin), an aging star (Moyer), an under-achieving perennial number five starter (Eaton), and a staff ace with just a year and one half under his belt (Hamels). But Lohse is not the answer.

So the Phils have traded two young arms who strike out almost a man an inning and potentially could be ready for the majors with a year or two to rent Tad Iguchi for a month while Chase Utley rehabilitates and for Lohse. Iguchi was traded for pitching coach Rich Dubee's son Michael earlier this month. He was 4-4 with a 3.88 ERA and has a 8.73 K per 9IP ratio (7.57 overall in his pro career). The best thing that can be said for him is that maybe his father may follow him to Chicago next year.

So the Phils have addressed just one need this season and it was short-term one (the immediate need to replace Utley for one month). Their problems were apparent ever before camp opened, and yet somehow this team continues to win. They have won nine of ten, and will probably start Greg Dobbs, who has played five games there (and twenty in total in the outfield) in his career, in right field.

I just keep telling myself that this team is no worse than the Cardinals were last year, and eh, who knows? It's not much to look forward to, but that's all you get as a Phils fan.

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