I admit it. I am among the many who have consistently under-appreciated St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse.
The right-hander again delivered on an important stage on Monday night. In the big series opener at Pittsburgh, he picked up his 14th win of the season. Lohse was artificially limited to five innings by a 34-minute rain delay followed by manager Mike Matheny‘s decision not to bring him back out. Lohse was scored upon only in the fourth inning, when the Pirates plated two runs on four singles and a sacrifice fly.
Because of the shortened outing, Lohse missed a chance for his 21st quality start in 27 outings this season. His rate of going at least six innings while allowing three or fewer runs is still best on a staff that includes ace Adam Wainwright.
Lohse’s 14 wins tie him for sixth in the National League. Three pitchers have 16. His .875 winning percentage, based on his 14-2 record, is far better than the next-best NL hurler. (The Mets’ R.A. Dickey is second at .800.)
With an ERA of 2.64, Lohse is definitely in the hunt for the NL ERA title. His mark is third-lowest among qualifiers, just 0.17 behind leader Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati. It is a balanced performance, too, as Lohse ranks in the NL top 10 in both home ERA (2.23, third) and road ERA (3.06, ninth).
It remains to be seen how the Cardinals and Lohse finish the season, but for the first time in his 12-year career, he should receive serious consideration in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Lohse has never received a vote for the award in the past. ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor currently has Lohse ranked fourth, behind Cueto, Dickey and Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman.
Then again, the same type of apathy could prevail that left Lohse off the 2012 National League All-Star roster. A far less experienced teammate with only slightly flashier numbers at the time, Lance Lynn, was chosen. Just 45 days later, Lynn is in the bullpen while Lohse keeps on ticking.
In fact, speaking of consistency, consider Lohse’s current winning streak. His mark of eight games, going back to June 26, is the longest active run in Major League Baseball.
Further, Lohse does his magic with the lowest run support of any of the six starters used by the Cardinals this season, at just 4.2 runs. Lynn is tops at 5.9.
Going against prevailing thinking that his time in St. Louis has been overshadowed by injury is this nugget from researcher Tom Orf. Lohse is just the 10th Cardinals pitcher since 1960 to amass three 14-win seasons. He is tied for fifth in that mark. In his case, it was accomplished over five years.
In other words, 2012 isn’t just a flash in the pan for the 33-year-old free agent-to-be. Despite Lohse’s future with the Cardinals beyond this season being cloudy, no one should continue to take him for granted.
One last area remains for Lohse to put an exclamation point on the Cardinals segment of his career – the post-season. Last year, Lohse struggled throughout the playoffs. He made one start in each of the three series – NLDS, NLCS and World Series. Lohse went 0-2, allowing 11 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings for an ERA of 7.82.
Perhaps a shorter outing like Monday, along with September bullpen reinforcements, will help Lohse remain fresher for what he and his teammates surely want to be another run deep into October.
Either way, let’s not forget that if there is a post-season for the 2012 Cardinals, Lohse’s generally-unheralded regular-season contributions will prove to have been a big reason why.