Kyle Lohse Signs With Brewers
Our long national nightmare is over. Kyle Lohse finally has a team, and the winners are the Milwaukee Brewers. If you were worried that agent Scott Boras (who represents Lohse) had lost a step, consider that Lohse still somehow finagled a three-year deal despite the season being one week away, and despite the fact that any team that signed him had to give up their 2013 first round pick. In the Brewers' case, they forfeited their pick to the Cardinals, a direct division rival. Yowzas.
While three years may seem a bit extreme, what are the immediate fantasy ramifications of Lohse's move to the land of suds? Lohse was one of the more shockingly successful pitchers over the past two seasons, going through a sort of career renaissance after years of mediocrity. Going into the 2011 season, Lohse was one of those "do I have to?" pitchers who you only grabbed off the scrap heap if your rotation was decimated by injury or if you just royally screwed up your draft. His 2009 and 2010 years were injury-riddled messes, and you wouldn't have been blamed for thinking he was completely done back then.
Then the magic happened, and Lohse went 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA in 2011 and 2012, making him one of the most reliable fantasy starters in baseball in that span. Lohse's uninspiring strikeout rate didn't endear him to owners, but his ability to avoid walks and keep the ball in the ballpark did. His teammates did the rest, as the Cardinals' high-powered offense helped Lohse rack up wins, and their solid defense helped keep his BABIP well below league average.
There are storm clouds on the horizon, though, and his new home ballpark might be the worst possible place for him to land. Lohse's smoke-and-mirrors act looked like it was wearing thin during the playoffs, when he was battered out of his Game Seven NLCS start against the Giants in the third inning. He was similarly awful in three playoff starts in 2011. More ominous is his relocation to a home run-crazy environment. Lohse is a fly ball pitcher (by a fairly large margin) who has somehow kept the ball out of the stands over the past two seasons. He's now moving to Miller Park, which has been one of the two or three most tater-tastic ball parks in the National League over the past three years. I really doubt that this ends well.
As long as he stays healthy enough to throw 180-200 innings, Lohse will get his wins, as the Brewer offense projects to be one of the best in baseball. He's defied our low expectations before, so who knows? Maybe he'll crank out another year where he gets Cy Young votes. I, for one, ain't buying it, and if his ERA ends up below 4.00 in 2013, I'll eat this damn keyboard.
Mike Leake Avoids AAA, Is Named Reds' Fifth Starter.
About two seconds after I boldly predicted that Aroldis Chapman would end 2013 in the Cincinnati bullpen, the Reds all but announced, boldly, that Chapman would...remain as their closer. This perked up Mike Leake's keeper league owners, as Leake was ticketed for a bus back to AAA to start the season. Now, with the newly opened rotation spot all his, he's back trying to prove to us that he can be a feasible fantasy starter.
I admit that I own Leake in one keeper league, so I have a little more emotional investment. Whether that investment will pay off or go all Madoff on me remains to be seen, but man, was Leake awful last year. After a promising sophomore campaign, Leake suddenly started giving up home runs in mass quantities at home, and that inability to pitch at the GAP torpedoed his season. In 87.2 innings at home, Leake gave up an atrocious 17 home runs, and naturally his ERA there was awful. On the road, he was much more respectable, giving up just nine homers in 91 innings.
I'm happy that Leake is getting another shot in the rotation, if only for selfish means. He isn't dominating and pretty much has the upside of an innings-eating, back-end guy, but he's also the type who could luck into a Kyle Lohse 2012-type season or two when you aren't looking. All that stands in the way of him being a solid fantasy starter is rediscovering how to pitch at home. Since he's still just 25, I think he can still figure it out. There have been pitchers with worse stuff than Leake's who have had long and successful careers in the big leagues.
Scott Kazmir (Yes, Scott Kazmir) Is the Indians' Fifth Starter
No, this isn't an early April Fool's joke. Scott Kazmir, the former Rays strikeout artist whose arm went busto with the Angels two years ago, has won the Indians' fifth starter job out of Spring. I'm happy for the guy and I'll be on the front lines rooting for him to string some good years together and make his comeback complete. To say that I'm shocked, though, would be an understatement. Do you remember how bad he was when we last saw him?
When we last left Kazmir, the Rays had dumped him and his salary on the Angels for three prospects, and I was idiotically trading Mat Latos for him in keeper leagues. Kazmir was a fantasy delight with the Rays for a few years, leading the AL in strikeouts in 2007 and generally putting up ERAs in the low-threes. Also, he was the main cog in one of the most hilariously awful trades in baseball history. So there's that, too.
Once he got to Los Angeles, though, he became someone else entirely. His velocity declined, his already shaky control got untenable, and he was perhaps the worst pitcher in the AL in 2010, with the absolute low point coming in this game in July of that year. He made one awful start in 2011 and then was released. In short, he wasn't the same guy who had graced the dank surroundings of Tropicana Field for all those years. It looked, quite frankly, like his baseball career was over.
Now he's back in the majors, and his velocity has apparently returned. Well, some of it, anyway. He walked just one batter in thirteen Spring Training innings, while striking out thirteen as well. This will be interesting, to say the least, but I would stay far, far away until he strings a couple of good starts together. The Scott Kazmir of 2010 still haunts my nightmares, and he'll have to prove to us all that he can still get major league hitters out (his Spring success comes with the usual small sample and depleted talent pool caveats). He might end up as a great waiver wire pick up, but keep an eye on his first few starts before doing anything rash.