Being Great & Being Underrated

The thing about being underrated is that people’s expectations of your performance level is generally wrong. This could be for a variety of reasons:

  • Unreasonable expectations
  • Bias (ridiculous or not)
  • Misinformed/uneducated opinion
  • Pre-conceived notions about the player or team
  • Not playing in huge television/media markets on the East Coast
  • …etc.

It’s been my opinion for the last couple of years that the number one most underrated pitcher in all of baseball is Jered Weaver, of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. More on him later. The guy I want to talk about is Kyle Lohse, a guy who is having an outstanding year.

Kyle Lohse is having a career year with the Cardinals in 2011.

Kyle Lohse reported to spring training in mid-February, as he always does. But in a ridiculous display of control, he waited until April 4th to walk a batter. So all he did was pitch for a straight month before missing the plate 4 times to one batter. That’s control. He walked one batter in 7 innings in his 2011 season debut (April 4th). Did not walk a single batter in 8 innings on April 10th, he walked one batter in 7 ⅓ on April 15th, and on April 21st he walked 2 in his first complete game shutout of the year. On the 27th of April, he walked one Houston batter in 7 strong innings. April totals: 5 walks surrendered over 38 ⅓ innings pitched.

I realize that April is distant memory, but this is a sample of the Kyle Lohse (a finally healthy Kyle Lohse) that we’ve seen this season–clearly his best since the ‘08 campaign with the Cardinals.

Most players, managers, and others in baseball will tell you that they’d “rather be lucky than good”. I submit to you that Lohse has been rather unlucky at times this year, yet much much better than just “good”.

Consider his masterful performance on the 7th of May: 8 innings, scattering 6 hits, and surrendering only one run. Unfortunately, he took a tough loss in that game. (That was during a stretch where the Cardinals were spending 14 straight innings going hitless) So, no run support for him, and Lohse takes a hard luck loss after pitching his guts out! Then, take this week’s game versus the Philadelphia Phillies, when he faced off against Cliff Lee. (Who walked a career-high six batters his last time against the Cards, if I recall*) That game actually had some very incredible undertones, in terms of unusual pitching performances on both sides. Primarily, a second unlucky loss for Lohse. I spoke of his control earlier–in this game he pitched 8 innings without a walk or a strikeout (think he knows where the plate is?) You have to go back more than 12 years to find 3 similar occurrences, that’s only the 4th time it’s happened since May of 1999. What’s more amazing is that you have to go back another decade to May of 1989 to find the last time the same thing that happened to Lohse happened to someone else–throwing 8 innings without walking or striking out a batter, yet taking a loss (Mike Witt).

So, the 7-4 record is a bit misleading, 9-2 could easily be in its place at this point. What’s not misleading?

  • His career-high 2.95 K/BB ratio
  • Career-low 1.6 BB/9
  • Career-low 7.6 H/9
  • Career-low 1.029 WHIP
  • Sub-3.00 ERA
  • Wiith already 105 innings (on pace to set a new career high), his walk total for the season is still in the teens.

Toss in a complete game, and look at a few of the other things he’s accomplished, and it’s hard not to put Kyle Lohse near the top of the list, when it comes to underrated players. Heck, I’ll bet as a Cardinals fan, you weren’t even aware he’s had this good of a season**!

*Running late for deadline, feeling a bit lazy to fact-check, but that “sounded right”.
** Does not apply if your name is Bob Netherton

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