Quick Glance: Kyle Lohse | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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Despite a frustrating series in New York, one brightside was Kyle Lohse‘s return to quality start territory. The righty extended that streak by continuing his off-speed attack in Detroit. Suddenly the veteran righty is working on a stretch of 14 IP / 2 R baseball, by far his best stretch of the season in 2015. Lohse will look to continue his success against a surprisingly struggling San Francisco Giants offense; although the Giants once again used a no-pitching / all-hitting approach to win the World Series last year, their offense has yet to reach its potential in 2015. One can certainly look to the absence of Pablo Sandoval and Mike Morse — both lost to free agency, as well as the injury to Hunter Pence, to explain the club’s offensive woes. After DFA’ing Casey McGehee, the Giants may be closer to having 3B in order, while they also boast the return to Pence. Lohse has an excellent test against the Giants offense, for he will look to continue his hot streak at the same time the Giants look to return to form.

Lohse Continues the Slow Stuff
Early in the season, I noted that despite his terrible opening day outing against the Rockies, Lohse’s performance on off-speed pitches showed a silver lining for the veteran. Unfortunately, Lohse has shifted between his old sinker/slider self and his new “junkball” approach, with mixed results on his traditional approach (and great results when he throws his change). Thankfully, Lohse is sticking with his new approach lately, as his excellent roadtrip starts were defined by change up offerings (as opposed to a primary sinker / slider approach).

Lohse Pitch % 4/28 to 5/14 May 15 @ Mets May 20 @ Tigers
Sinker 42.3 34.6 33.7
Slider 36.8 26.2 30.4
Change 9.5 25.2 30.4
Curve 6.4 6.5 5.3
(Fastball) 4.9 7.5 0.0

In fact, pitching in Detroit, Lohse nearly entered “junkball” territory, as his change up (and slider) nearly received as many selections as his sinker. By focusing on his soft offerings, Lohse can truly vary his velocity throughout the strike zone. 
According to ESPN TruMedia, Lohse saves his hardest pitches for the upper corners of the zone, while he also has the confidence to throw slower pitches throughout the entire zone. Not only does Lohse average 84.0 MPH on the lowest corners of the strike zone, but he’s also averaging his change / slider velocity in the upper-middle area of the strike zone. By focusing equally on his change up and slider, Lohse can give batters various offspeed looks in the strike zone. He also expands the zone by throwing his hardest pitches off the upper corners, while his absolute slowest pitches work off the lower edges. This difficult location game pays dividends for Lohse: hitters have also done their best work on both the corners and the upper-middle zone, but their averages dip just outside of those areas. This suggests that Lohse’s ability to move his pitches slightly off those edges will be much more effective than focusing on those locations to retire batters.

Not surprisingly, TexasLeaguers shows that Lohse is avoiding the upper corners during his last two successful starts, only leaving some sinkers up there. On the other hand, he evenly scatters his change and slider together in the zone, ranging those pitches throughout middle and outside areas.

By avoiding previous hot spots, and evenly working his off-speed offerings, Lohse can keep batters off balance without giving them too many pitches to feast off of. Given the veteran’s stubbornness throughout the season, it remains to be seen if he will try (once again) to work simply with his sinker / slider approach, or if he will continue to follow the success of his last two outings. A junkball Lohse could not only increase the Brewers’ odds of playing competitive ball, but could increase his trade value after a rough start to the season. After all, an ability to morph, adjust, and succeed will be a valuable pitching trait for a contending team.

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