Kameron Loe essentially forced the Brewers to call him and his 3.16 AAA ERA up in early June, as his contract contained an out clause for the 5th of the month. However, this sparkly ERA was in spite of a 4.55 FIP and a paltry, Tim Dillard-esque 5.46 K/9. Those aren’t numbers that suggest Major League success, as his Major League Equivalency (MLE) called for a 5.16 FIP. It’s not like he was great in Japan, either, as he posted a 6.33 ERA in 27 innings with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in 2009.
Of course, given this poor performance in lesser leagues, Loe has posted one of the best lines of anybody in the Milwaukee bullpen this year in his eight appearances. It’s only been 11 innings, but Loe’s line is impressive: only two runs (one earned) allowed, 10 strikeouts, two walks, no home runs allowed, and 15 ground balls in 28 balls in play (53.6%). The ground balls aren’t particularly surprising, but Loe has never been a strikeout pitcher. Prior to this season, Loe had never eclipsed 6 K/9, and now he sits at 8.18 early in his stint in Milwaukee.
Perhaps the most impressive number for Kameron Loe thus far is his 11.5% swinging strike rate, by far the best he’s ever posted. The key has been his nasty two-seam fastball, which has drawn swings and misses a whopping 20% of the time, just over four times the Major League average. That’s an absolutely massive jump from the 5.2% whiff rate that his fastball posted with the Rangers in 2008. The key appears to be drastically increased horizontal movement. Loe’s two-seamer always had less vertical break than the average two seam fastball – 2.3 inches of vertical break vs. 5.7 for the average MLB two seamer. However, in the past that had came at the expense of horizontal movement, as Loe’s pitch only broke about 7 inches against the 9.7 inches of the MLB average. This season, though, Loe’s pitch has retained that sink that draws all the ground balls while gaining enough about 2.7 inches of horizontal break, making it a much more difficult pitch for hitters to even make contact with.
It’s likely that this success is largely due to a move to the bullpen, allowing Loe to really gas it in shorter appearances, or maybe simply not allowing hitters to get a beat on him in the second and third time through the order. He simply wasn’t showing this kind of dominance ever before, but it certainly appears that his two seamer is for real. It certainly passes the eye test. With this kind of killer pitch, Kameron Loe should be a key piece of the Brewers bullpen this season and in the foreseeable future.