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Did the Market Fail Kyle Lohse?

Kyle Lohse will earn $33 million over the next three seasons, but did the Brewers end up paying less than his market value to sign him?

Dilip Vishwanat

As Lee Trocinski noted yesterday, former Cardinals SP Kyle Lohse, 34, agreed to a three-year deal worth $33 million to join St. Louis' division rival, the Milwaukee Brewers. $11 million is quite a bit more than most of us can expect to receive for a year of work, but Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wonders if the free agent market failed Kyle Lohse:

"Ryan Dempster, 35, got more than $2.25 million more per season than Lohse in his two-year, $26.5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, a team that shunned free agents who were subject to draft-pick compensation.

Lohse, who cost the Brewers the 17th overall pick, was significantly better than Dempster the past two seasons..."

Rosenthal's assertion that Kyle Lohse was "significantly better" than Ryan Dempster over the last two seasons struck me as off-base. I took a closer look and found that while Lohse's ERA (3.11) was lower than Dempster's (4.15) over the last two seasons, Dempster's xFIP (3.73) was far better than Lohse's (4.00). The difference in xFIP can possibly be attributed to Lohse making his home starts in a more pitcher friendly ballpark, Busch Stadium. Additionally, both pitchers contributed about 6 WAR over the same period. Based on those observations, I don't believe that Kyle Lohse was "significantly better" than Ryan Dempster over the past two seasons, and might not have been much better at all.

Inspired by Ken Rosenthal's comment about the free agent market failing Lohse, I decided to dig a little deeper to find out how Kyle Lohse's performance compared to the other starting pitchers over the age of 30 who signed big money contracts this off-season. I compiled each pitcher's stats for the last three seasons and created a handy chart (Lohse highlighted in red) to get a better feel of how Kyle Lohse stacks up.

2009-2012 Performance Aggregates

Pitcher Team Age GS IP ERA xFIP WAR Contract
Hiroki Kuroda Yankees 38 96 618 3.26 3.56 10.1 1 year/$15 million
Jake Peavy White Sox 32 67 437⅔ 4.11 3.88 9.2 2 years/$29 million
Ryan Dempster Red Sox 36 96 590⅔ 4.04 3.74 9.2 2 years/$26.5 million
Dan Haren Nationals 32 99 649 3.76 3.56 12.2 1 year/$13 million
Kyle Lohse Brewers 34 81 491 3.76 4.14 6.8 3 years/$33 million

As you can see above, the average annual value of Kyle Lohse's new contract is just bit lower than the other players listed, but so was the quality of his performance for the most part. It doesn't seem unreasonable that he makes a little less money annually. Lohse's 4.14 xFIP indicates that he will struggle to make the transition to far less pitcher friendly Miller Park this season.

The average annual value of the 15 major league contracts signed by starting pitchers over the age of 30 this off-season was just under $7.7 million. Over last three seasons those 15 pitchers averaged a little over 6.2 WAR. If the market failed Kyle Lohse, who contributed 6.8 WAR during the same period, it didn't hurt him much. In fact, it seems more likely that the market overvalued Lohse this off-season.

Stats compiled using data courtesy of our friends at FanGraphs

All contract information courtesy of CBS Sports