Anibal Sanchez has been the bigger breakout story of 2011 than Kyle Lohse has. Perhaps rightfully so, as Sanchez has been pretty dominant, racked up strikeouts, and is a key piece to the Marlins only being 1 game back of the Phillies.
However, Sanchez was pretty good last season too. He wasn't just a pitcher who had a no-hitter, then sucked forever, then got great all of a sudden. He was mildly disappointing for a prospect involved in the Josh Beckett deal (Yes, Hanley Ramirez came with friends!) and then was good last year, and is now great.
Kyle Lohse on the other hand is pitching beyond his own wildest dreams, and there is a lot of statistical evidence (over 1600 major league innings worth) that Kyle Lohse was never anything more than a #5 starter. Just last season he was 4-8 with a 6.55 ERA for the Cardinals.
I'm often surprised when I look at a player page and see when they were drafted. It's funny that with minor leagues, and most players not peaking until their mid-to-late 20's, that they can really go unnoticed for the first 10 years after they are signed by a major league club. That's no exception for Kyle Lohse, who made my jaw drop when I saw that he was drafted in 1996 by the Chicago Cubs in the 29th round.
Kyle Lohse was playing in the minor leagues well before the boy band craze.
He's been in the league so long that he was once traded for Rick Aguilera and Scott Downs. Aguilera is currently 49 years old and was drafted in 1983.
Lohse came into this season with a career ERA of 4.79. His ERA this season of 2.06 has dropped his career number by .13 points!
I never doubt Dave Duncan's ability to transform a AAAA pitcher into a major league pitcher. The evidence speaks for itself on some degree for all of these guys: Jaime Garcia, Ryan Franklin, Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver, Joel Pineiro, Todd Wellemeyer, and so on.
But Lohse is in his 4th season with the Cards, which makes the breakout all that much more interesting. His 2.94 FIP and 3.61 xFIP suggest that what he's doing is somewhat sustainable, with a little regression necessary. He's walking a career low 1.70 batters per nine innings, but he does have a .222 BABIP against and a 3.8% HR/FB rate.
If you are in a league that highly emphasizes strikeouts, than Lohse is going to kill you. But strictly speaking in ERA, WHIP and wins, he's finally become a worthwhile start. Some things just take time.