Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A look back at Kyle Lohse

In last night's do-or-die Game 7 of the NLCS, former Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse was given the ball to take the mound for the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. After one of the best seasons of his career, Lohse will most be remembered for what happened in the last pitching performance of the year. It's been six years since Lohse last pitched in the uniform of the Minnesota Twins and he has played in three different cities since that point. The 34-year old right-handed pitcher will be a free agent at the conclusion of the season and he could be set to make a pretty penny on the open market.

Unfortunately for him, last night's Game 7 was a debacle for him on the mound. He surrendered five runs in only two innings worth of work and the Cardinals went down in flames. For Lohse, he continued to fall behind in the count and this allowed the Giants to string together some good at-bats. So far in the 2012 Postseason, Lohse had yet to give up more than two earned runs in any of his appearances and he made it into the sixth or later in all three starts. But for how good he had been in his last few starts, he was equally as bad on Monday night.

The 2012 regular season was by far the best of Kyle Lohse. He set career highs in wins, innings pitched, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, and the list goes on and on. It was the first time in his career where he ended the season with an ERA of less than 3.00 and he tied for the National League lead in games started. His 211 innings pitched marked the third time he had reached the 200 IP mark and it was the first time he had reached this plateau since 2008. After two injury shortened seasons in 2009 and 2010, Lohse has looked very good over the last two seasons. He has averaged 200 IP and he has a 3.11 ERA with a 1.127 WHIP during this stretch.

When the Twins had Lohse back in the early 2000's, this was the type of player they dreamed he could be for their club. There were some rough times for Lohse in a Twins uniform as he never had an ERA of under 4.18 and he struggled with his control for multiple seasons. Most fans will remember the story of him going after the door of Manager Ron Gardenhire's office with a baseball bat. Lohse was unhappy about the way he was taken out of the game and he found himself in the uniform of the Cincinnati Reds by the conclusion of that campaign.

Lohse was originally a 29th round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 1996 draft and he would stay with that organization for a couple seasons before being traded to the Twins. In the early part of 1999, the Twins sent Rick Aguilera and Scott Downs to the Cubs for the services of Lohse. Since he was a late round pick, there weren't many scouts singing his praises on his road to the big leagues. He slowly moved through the system for the Twins but there were some bumps along the way. His first taste of Fort Myers and New Britain resulted in ERAs of over 5.00 and he lost 18 games for the 2000 version of the Rock Cats. By age 22 at the Double-A and Triple-A level, he seemed to have figured out the minor leagues as he moved seamlessly through both of these levels. By June, he would be in the Twin Cities making his MLB debut with the Twins.

With the end of the season for the Cardinals, it will be time for Lohse to reexamine what he would like to do for next season. He has put together some successful seasons in St. Louis including a World Series title in 2011. It could be time for him to move on from the Cardinals and find a different organization. St. Louis could decide they want him back but there is always the question of how much a team is willing to pay for a free agent. Fans of the Cardinals might not want Lohse back on the mound after he tossed a stinker in their final game of the 2012 season.

As Lohse approaches free agency, he has to be hoping that the GMs of other team's were busy watching the final Presidential Debate or they might of had the outcome of the fantasy football team riding on the Monday Night Football Game. He doesn't want the memory of Game 7 of the NLCS attached to him for the rest of his career. With Gardenhire still at the helm for the Twins, it seems highly unlikely for Lohse to be making a return trip to the Twins. Minnesota is desperate for pitching help but it will have to come in a different form than Lohse.

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