Back in February, I took a look at Kyle Lohse‘s changeup usage in individual games and attempted to figure out whether it, in some way, correlated with success. I discovered that since 2013, whenever Lohse threw his changeup 20 or more times, his Earned Run Average was significantly lower than when he didn’t. Here’s the chart that illustrates what I’m talking about.
Like I said back then, two years of data is still a somewhat small sample size, but from what I gathered, the more changeups Lohse throws, the more success he will have.
Still, I was curious to see if that holds true so far in 2015. Lohse is having a horrific and catastrophic season, so much so that at least one MLB executive thinks there’s no way the Milwaukee Brewers will be able to trade him. He has the worst ERA among qualified starters, has the 12th-highest home-run-to-fly-ball ratio and is inducing the fewest amount of ground balls since 2007. By those numbers, it’s probably easy to guess that even if Lohse has used his changeup more this season (he’s actually thrown it at the highest rate of his career), the results won’t be pretty.
Let’s take a look, anyway. First, however, we need to understand how hitters are faring against his change. There’s no place better than Brooks Baseball to find that out.
Lohse’s changeup isn’t nearly as effective as it was a year ago. In 2014, hitters batted .143 with an isolated power of .095. He threw it at just a 12.7% clip then, which has since risen to 19.5% this season. Is it possible he’s throwing it too much now?
I broke down each of Lohse’s starts in 2015 the same way I did from 2013-14 in the first table I showed you, and here’s what I found:
Once again, Lohse has had the most success when he throws his slow pitch 20 or more times. It’s nowhere near the same kind of success he’s had in the past, but nonetheless, it’s still something. What’s interesting is how much he’s getting crushed when he throws it 11-19 times. His ERA has ballooned from what it was in 2013-14, so maybe Lohse’s change can only be dominant when he uses it on a somewhat rare basis. Maybe throwing it 19% of the time is too much. Maybe it’s about pitch location.
Nope, it’s not pitch location.
You know what it probably is? Lohse is just not a good pitcher anymore. His age is catching up to him and his time as an effective pitcher is over. His changeup is still his best pitch in terms of changeup runs above average, but because his other pitches have become so hittable, the value of his change has dropped dramatically (even though it has had the most vertical movement in 2015 of Lohse’s career).