Fantasy Baseball Hot Starts: Kyle Lohse


Kyle Lohse is off to a nice start. But will he be an asset to your fantasy team going forth? Photo Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Writer’s Note: One year ago today, we got a harsh reminder about how trivial sports can be as we all saw the tragedy at the Boston Marathon unfold. Personally, I have some of my very best friends living in Boston and while I didn’t know it at the time, my uncle was in Boston with now ex-wife, who was running. Fortunately, all of them escaped unharmed. Unfortunately, as we all know, many didn’t.

In the subsequent days, weeks, and months, the Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox gave us an uplifting reminder about how unifying sports can be, and how much they can help in the healing process after tragedies like that. 

I know that you clicked on this to read about Kyle Lohse and I promise we’ll get to him in a moment. But before we do, I would like to direct your attention to a first-hand account of the 2013 Boston Marathon, written by Charlie Spencer Davis at Sodo Mojo

Thank you. 

Even when he’s coming off of a few strong seasons, it’s understandable when fantasy owners overlook a 35-year-old pitcher. Judging by his last three seasons, that’s exactly what fantasy players did with Kyle Lohse this year.

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To be fair, Lohse isn’t exactly a high strikeout guy. But even with the modest K totals, I’m guessing that any fantasy owners would have taken those average numbers from an end of the draft guy.

Three starts in to his 2014 season and once again, Lohse is looking like a steady pitcher.

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So, is it time to go pick him up?

The Positives

You’re looking mostly at the overall consistency and especially control here.

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He’s actually better in those areas than Mark Buehrle was during most of his prime years.

If you can conservatively expect a BB/9 rate of 2.0, and a H/9 rate of 8.9, then you’re looking at a worst case scenario WHIP of 1.21. Unless Kyle Lohse pitchers forever, those trends will obviously eventually change but the way the early starts have gone, you’d have to be very pessimistic to expect that in 2014.

Now, he’s not quite Buehrle in terms of innings pitched, but Lohse has brought some incredible consistency in that regard over the last three years. In each of the past three seasons, Lohse had made at least 30 starts. That means that the WHIP’s he has generated have gone a long way in helping the fantasy teams he’s been on.

Also remember that the Milwaukee Brewers do have a tremendously deep offense. This hot start may or may not prove to be a false positive, but I do expect them to supply their pitchers with plenty of run support over the season, which will obviously bolster Lohse’s W-L record.

So, we’re looking at a guy who can win 15 games and produce an ERA under 3.50 with a WHIP under 1.20 over 200 innings. That will go a long will towards helping your team’s pitching staff put up championship level numbers.

The Negatives

I could point out how strong the offenses are in the NL Central and how when the weather gets hard, most of those parks will become harder to pitch in. That’s true, but all of the consistently strong numbers over the last three years have come in the NL Central, so that’s not a big concern.

The primary concern is this. Over the last three years and his entire career, Lohse has generated a rather pedestrian K/9 of 5.7, so I feel pretty good expecting that again. If he throws 200 innings in 2014 at this rate, you’re looking at 126 or 127 strikeouts. I’ll let you guys choose which one.

If that is indeed right, it means that he’s only likely to record 105-106 more strikeouts for the rest of the year, which is a regression, given that he’s currently striking guys out at more than one an inning. Now, since he’s only made a few starts, the regression rate is not a huge (expect about 5.3 K/9 for the rest of the year if this is true), but it’s definitely something to consider.

He’s never been a big strikeout guy, so fantasy owners already realize they need to work around that when they roster Kyle Lohse. Now, they may need to do a little more of that. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, buy you do need to get strikeouts from someone.

Since Lohse’s strikeout rates will likely be fairly low, you may need to bring on a pitcher who’s more of a threat to your ratio stats.

Final Verdict

Lohse has been too consistent over the last few years to ignore. Overreacting to three starts is not a good idea but when those starts show similar numbers to what we’ve seen over three years, it makes significantly more sense.

He can provide a great aid to your ERA and WHIP. When he does that, you can do things like stream in other pitchers to make up for the lack of K’s. With the help he’ll give your ERA and WHIP and the number of innings he’ll generate, you can afford to take on the gambles that come with streaming and reap the rewards.

That makes Kyle Lohse a valuable asset not only to the Milwaukee Brewers, but to your fantasy teams.