by on July 18, 2008 · 0 comments

Can we get Kyle Lohse All-Star recognition retroactively? What else does he have to do?

Lohse outdueled San Diego ace Jake Peavy last night by going seven innings on 107 pitches. He gave up two runs, one with a rocky start in the first inning and one on former Cardinal farm hand Edgar Gonzalez‘ home run in the third inning. Lohse scattered seven hits while striking out four and walking two.

There are still plenty of folks skeptical of Lohse’s performance this season, and rightly so. Kyle’s career record of 63-74 coming into this season didn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence in Cardinal fans that they were getting ready to see an ace in action, but we collectively hoped he would eat up a bunch of innings and try to keep the other arms on the staff better rested. After all, the one thing he has been is durable, averaging 192 innings pitched over his career.

Lohse has far exceeded all expectations. Why? Dumb luck? Dave Duncan voodoo? Unusually high run support?

All those are great arguments. But I have another one.

Lohse is throwing strikes. Call that the Dave Duncan voodoo if you will, the pitch-to-contact theory of Duncan’s pitching teaching and techniques. Now, before I get too deep – I should clarify that when I say he’s “throwing strikes” – I don’t mean to say he’s throwing any more strikes than he has in previous years. In fact, he’s throwing strikes on 63% of his pitches this season, dead even with his career average.

Where he is much improved is in throwing first pitch strikes. Lohse is throwing strikes on 65% of his first pitches this season. Compared to a career total of 60% first pitch strikes, this is clearly a huge improvement. In last night’s game versus San Diego, Lohse threw first pitch strikes to 18 of the 28 hitters he faced, good for a 64% clip.

These numbers aren’t the only ones dramatically improved.  Hitters are watching more Lohse pitches sail through the strike zone, 33% of his strikes are looking this season versus a 27% career total.  Ultimately, the increase in this number can be somewhat associated with the increased percentage of first pitch strikes thrown overall.

But the number that stands out the most?  44% of Lohse’s strikeouts this season are on called third strikes.  Now admittedly, Kyle’s overall strikeout numbers are far down from previous seasons, but this is still a huge increase over his career average of 27% called third strike strikeouts.  Is Lohse fooling hitters that much more?  Do they just really not expect him to pitch this well?  Is Molina calling a better game than Lohse’s previous battery mates?

I’m not sure – and I don’t have the brainpower to dig too much deeper into these numbers, but if you ask me, there has to be a correlation between Lohse’s improved performance this year and his seemingly improved control.

Who knows, maybe the Cardinals have just found a way to get the guy to concentrate while he’s on the mound.

Whatever it is, he continues to impress.  Tonight was just another ho-hum performance for Kyle on his way to (hopefully) 20 wins, leaving opposing aces in his wake.

And even Ryan Franklin couldn’t take that away from him.

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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