Sunday was special for the Brewers in a few ways. Their 9-1 win secured both a series and season-series victory over the Phillies. The “W” also extended the Brewers’ winning streak to three. Their longest winning streak since their nine game surge that skidded to a stop in San Diego on April 24th. But the most important aspect of Sunday’s game was Kyle Lohse’s pitching performance – 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. It was the first time this season that a Brewers’ starting pitcher had made it through eight innings.
It’s no secret that starting pitching as been a major problem for the Crew. Kyle Lohse was signed to bring stability, and some guidance, to a young, and/or inexperienced, starting rotation. While I’m in no position to comment on how his locker room demeanor and leadership have affected the team, amongst pitcher who have started five games or more for the Brewers, Lohse’s ERA is the only one under 5.00.
And here’s how Lohse’s numbers, prior to Sunday’s strong performance, stack up against the rest of the team –
Though Lohse has the lowest ERA (by nearly a point) and WHIP, his FIP, xFIP, and WAR rank third best in the rotation. After Sunday’s game, Lohse’s two wins ranked second last in the rotation. Only Hiram Burgos has fewer with one. More important than individual pitcher wins are team wins. The Brewers’ winning percentage in games started by Lohse is a measly .333 (4-8), which ties Burgos for worst on the team.
The Brewers’ inability to win while Lohse is on the mound doesn’t fall all on his shoulders. So far this season, Lohse has received some of the worst run support in all of baseball. Prior to Sunday’s nine run outburst by the Brewers offense, Lohse received, on average, 2.6 runs per game from his teammates. That’s second worst in the league amongst starting pitchers with, at least, 50 IP. Only the Miami Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco gets less help from his teammates with an average of 2.3 RS/GS. The Brewers scoring nine runs during Lohse’s Sunday start should help pad this number. After Sunday, Lohse has now made 12 starts and received 38 runs in support. This will inflate Lohse’s RS/GS up to 3.2, and would just knock him out of the top ten in least amount of run support per game.
Now, the metric above measures how many runs a game an offense scored for their pitcher, whether those runs were scored while the SP was in the game or not. To get even more specific, Baseball-Reference also measures how much run support a pitcher gets during the innings he is on the mound – simply, runs scored per innings pitched. Prior to Sunday’s game, Lohse got slightly less support during the innings he pitched – 2.5 RS/IP, which is tied for third worst with Ervin Santana amongst SP with, at least, 50 IP. Miami’s Ricky Nolasco is tied with San Diego’s Eric Stults for second with only 2.2 RS/IP. And the Phillies’ Cole Hamels gets the least amount of help from his friends with a 2.0 RS/IP, which helps to explain his tough luck 2-9 record to start the season.
Bringing it back to Lohse, here’s how his run support stacks up against the rest of the Brewers’ rotation that has made, at least, five starts. Again, numbers from Baseball-Reference prior to Sunday’s start –
With league average for both RS/GS and RS/IP sitting at 4.1, Lohse has been the only Brewer pitcher consistently plagued by below league average run support.
After receiving a four run lead in the bottom of the second, on Sunday, Lohse hunkered down and didn’t allow the Phillies to get another hit until Humberto Quintero’s home run in the eighth inning. Watching Lohse work so quickly and efficiently, reminded me exactly why the Brewers had signed the veteran.
It also got me wondering. Though Lohse never received much run support, whenever he had a lead, I never remembered him losing the game. So I went through all of Lohse’s game logs for this season and discovered it was true. Once the Brewers have given Lohse a lead, he’s never lost.
Through 12 starts, the Brewers have staked Lohse a lead in only 4 games –
April 17 — Giants vs Brewers
In his third start of the season, Lohse finally gets his first lead after Yuniesky Betancourt hits a home run off Ryan Vogelsong in the bottom of the third. In the bottom of the fifth, Carlos Gomez triples home Alex Gonzalez. Gomez scores on a Betancourt sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
In the top of sixth, the Giants score three runs on five hits to tie the game. Lohse pitches through seven innings and never gets the lead back or gives it up. While Lohse get a no decision, the Brewers go on to win the game (4-3) on Blake Lalli’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.
4/22 — Brewers vs Padres
The Brewers drop five runs on Jason Marquis in the top of the first and add two more in the top of the fifth to make it 7-0. Lohse cruises through the game, only giving up one run in the bottom of the fifth, but gets pulled after dislocating his finger during a freak play while running to first base in the top of the sixth.
Lohse and the Brewers go on to get the win 7-1.
5/14 — Brewers vs Pirates
Jean Segura gives Lohse the lead in the top of the first with a home run. Lohse allows one run in the bottom of the first but no more damage. The game stays tied until Gomez doubles Ryan Braun home in the top of the fourth. In the top of the fifth, Segura gets his second RBI of the night when Norichika Aoki scores on a ground out. Lohse allows one run in the bottom of the sixth. He exits after 5.2 IP with the lead 3-2.
Eventually, John Axford blows the lead in the bottom of the eighth, which ties the game 3-3. Incredibly, this is the last game Axford has allowed a run to score. The Brewers lose the game in the bottom of the twelfth when Andrew McCutchen hits a walk-off home run off Mike Fiers.
Add Sunday’s mauling of the Phillies to the list and you have all of the games that the Brewers have given Lohse a lead. The team is 3-1 in those games – a .750 tmW-L%.
Though the Lohse signing may have been controversial due to the loss of a first-round draft pick, the organization has made its bed and now must sleep in it. While this season may not be pretty for the team, it’s also been extremely unkind to Lohse. To make both better, the Brewers need to muster a little more run support of their veteran. So far this season, all Lohse needs is a lead and he’ll take over from there.