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How Does that Kyle Lohse Signing Look with One Season of Hindsight?

(Image: AP/John Bazemore)

As you may have heard, yesterday was Kyle Lohse’s last start of the 2013 season, and it turned out to be his best.  Now that Lohse’s first year with the Brewers is behind us, it’s worth reflecting on the contributions he made to the team during a disappointing season.

When Lohse was signed, your humble bloggers of The Brewers Bar shared our reactions.  I seem to recall I was more enthusiastic about the signing than my colleagues Jess and Nick…and re-reading it now I was definitely was looking on the bright side when I wrote about Lohse’s potential impact: “Short term: the Brewers contend for the division this year.  Long term: the Brewers contend for the division for the next two years.  My optimism this time of year is plentiful.”  What can I say – I was younger and more naïve back then.

One of Nick’s observations seems be bitterly amusing in hindsight: “It’s a thin line between confidently going with a young unproven rotation and having a miserable losing season.”  Too bad the Brewers crossed that “miserable losing season” line so early.

There was plenty of reason to be skeptical about signing a pitcher in his mid-30’s to a three-year contract.  To be sure, no one knows what the future holds (“the Brewers contend for the division this year”), but after one season Lohse ended up being the most effective starter in Milwaukee’s rotation.  After last night’s shutout, he lowered his ERA from 3.51 to 3.35.  His 2013 WHIP of 1.168 was the second best of his career.  By Baseball Reference’s calculation, his WAR was 3.2 – also the second-best of his 13 big league seasons.

Although it’s hard to know what goes on behind the scenes, one imagines Lohse has provided a valuable veteran presence in the Brewers’ clubhouse.  Tyler Thornburg has mentioned Lohse on more than one occasion (including yesterday’s broadcast) as a guy that has been a helpful influence.  Esteemed Brewer beat writer Tom Haudricourt has described Lohse as a “real prankster” and many of us assume he’s behind the “silent treatments” various Brewers have gotten following home runs this year.  (Take a moment to re-live the hilarious silent treatment Jeff Bianchi got on Tuesday – and note Lohse nonchalantly giving him a drink at 0:58.)  In addition to pitching well, Lohse seems to be a cool dude.

My now-refuted optimism notwithstanding, another thing I wrote in March may be interesting to reconsider in hindsight: “If [Lohse] at least gives the Brewers one great year like [Randy] Wolf, then what more could we ask for?”  Looking back on Wolf’s 2011 numbers, Lohse’s 2013 was even better.  It would be a shame if the one great year Lohse has as a Brewer was wasted on this 2013 season.  Is it too much to ask for one more great year?