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The Numbers Game: Will Kyle Lohse fulfill his contract?


On March 14, 2008, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Kyle Lohse to a unsuspecting one-year deal worth $4.5 million. He and his agent Scott Boras parlayed his 15-6 record with a 3.78 ERA and a 3.1 WAR into a four-year, $41 million deal which included a full no-trade clause. Has Lohse done enough to fulfill the terms of the contract? Let’s run the numbers and find out.

Here are Lohse’s stats from 2009 to 2011.

Injuries derailed his 2009 and 2010 seasons. He was only able to make 40 starts during the two years and when he was on the mound he was anything but effective. But, Lohse came back strong in 2011, reminding fans why he was given such a large contract prior to the ’09 season. Never a strikeout pitcher, his walk rate went down considerably in 2011. But looking at this as a collection, it is not difficult to see that Lohse has come up short of expectations based on his salary.

Below is a break even analysis for the contract. It will help us determine what Lohse needs to do to make this deal economically sound for the Cardinals.

Lohse, through his first three seasons of this contract, accumulated a 3.9 WAR value. In order for his production to match the contract value, Lohse needs to reach just under 8.4 WAR. With one season left on the deal he is about 4.5 WAR from reaching the break even number. His highest WAR for any season was in 2003 when he produced a 3.3 WAR. The chances of Lohse reaching 4.5 WAR is remote at best. Frankly, the Cardinals would be happy with a duplication of his 2011 efforts, and there isn’t anything to suggest he can’t.

Some of you may feel that Lohse being a part of the 2011 World Series run should be sufficient. He was a big contributor to the team and during a four-year contract one World Series championship makes his signing worth it. Well, we are simply equating his regular season efforts to his contract value. How much extra value do you think Lohse or any player should be granted because they were a part of a World Series winner? While the extra revenues represent a substantial amount of money, the proportion of Lohse’s contribution would not be nearly enough to offset the current deficiency.

There may be an argument if the initial one-year contract is combined with the four-year contract. Where does he sit when he add in the season in which he outperformed his deal?

In 2008 Lohse had a 3.1 WAR. If we add that to his last three seasons he’s at 7 WAR. This leaves him just over 2.5 WAR short of meeting the salary figure for the five years he has been with the Cardinals based on the combined contracts. I’ve already suggested that he should be able to equal last season’s results and if he does he is almost exactly equal in terms of performance value.

Now, I’m not of the belief that when general manager John Mozeliak and Scott Boras were in the room negotiating the extension, the considerable value the Cardinals received out of Lohse in 2008 was part of Mozeliak’s line of thinking. I highly doubt Mozeliak figured he could pay more to secure Lohse for four years due to the discount he received in ’08. What happened is, Scott Boras performed one of his magic acts and convinced the Cardinals there was a lot more of the 2008 season ahead for Lohse. Boras is a genius when it comes to portraying the picture of his players in the greatest light.

I look at this as two separate deals because simply put they are. Lohse used the one-year deal in St. Louis as his stepping stone to a multi-year contract. This is another way Boras gets his players top dollar. If the market is soft and the player has potential and his age is not a concern, he’ll gladly take the one-year deal and hope the player outperforms it which then creates a huge market for the player. Lohse is a classic example of this.

So, you can look at it any way you’d like. Lump it all together or take it separately. If all five years in St. Louis are viewed, he has a chance to return full value on the total salary he received. However, if we look at the contracts separately we see that he outperformed one deal and he’ll most likely come up short of the mark on the second.

Lohse has no doubt been an effective pitcher in his time in St. Louis. When he was healthy he was exactly what the Cardinals were hoping for. Unfortunately, when he was hurt it affected his performance and decreased his value. If he is able to put together a 2.0 or 2.5 WAR season in 2012, I would say his time in St. Louis was an overall success. The Cardinals may come up short in receiving full value for this contract, but three out of five solid seasons and at least one World Series victory during his time as a Cardinal is something to be happy about.

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