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Au Revoir, Kyle

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In a move long expected, Kyle Lohse was moved this morning.  He was traded to none other than the Cincinnati Reds.

With Kyle Lohse traded, only Brad Radke remains as a holdover from the promising starting rotation of 2001.  Looking at it from our perspective there wasn't much to be too giddy about, but considering what kind of pitching we'd had in years prior, these guys looked golden.

Starting Pitchers, 2001

Name        Age  GS
Brad Radke   28  33
Eric Milton  25  35
Joe Mays     25  34
Kyle Lohse   22  16
J.C. Romero  25  11
Mark Redman  27   9

Rick Reed (36 years old, 12 games started) was acquired at the end of the year, but these six pitchers were the best collection of arms the Twins had seen in 10 years.  With the departure of Kyle Lohse, Brad Radke is all that remains.

The Sordid History of Kyle Lohse

Lohse broke onto the Twins scene in 2001, starting 16 games.  He was only 22, which made his 5.68 ERA and 1.45 WHIP readily forgettable.  He threw 93-94 mph, and combining him with Eric Milton who threw 95-96 mph, we thought we were watching two emerging studs.  Milton was always expected to turn Ace at some point, as between the fastball and his curve, something good was bound to happen.  Lohse was supposed to be a solid middle-of-the-rotaion guy with even better stuff than Milton.  Of course it turns out both were underachievers.

2002 and 2003 saw Lohse improve marginally, winning 13 and 14 games respectively.  He remained inconsistent, but at the back-end of the rotation and with youth as an excuse, he escaped a lot of criticism.  In 2004 however, something happened.  What it could be, I'm not sure, but he became much more hittable.  His WHIP jumped to an amazing 1.63, his K/9 fell to a career low 5.15, and batters were hitting .305 against him.  Perhaps he lost confidence, perhaps he was tipping pitches; he could have stopped caring or he could have reached his ceiling (a la Luis Rivas).  Whatever happened, Lohse wasn't able to hide behind the front of the rotation any longer.  Eric Milton was hurt, Joe Mays was exposed as a fraud, and Rick Reed was showing his age.  In a season where the Twins needed Lohse to prove what he could do, he fell short.

Even though 2005 registered a rebound for Kyle in terms of ERA (4.18), his peripherals continued to be unimpressive.  His K/9 dropped again, this time to a dangerous 4.33, and he was still walking too many people.  This season saw ups and downs for the former rotation mainstay, but in the end he was too ineffective.  A 1.65 WHIP, a 7.07 ERA, a .308 opponent batting average and more than 17 pitches to get through a standard inning.  His strikeout rate jumped to 6.50 K/9, but he still had trouble avoiding walks.

Beyond the statistical problems, there were issues with Lohse's character, and ongoing matters between him and the organization didn't help anything.  Wayne Krivisky, GM of the Cincinnati Reds and former assistant to Terry Ryan, decided Lohse still had value, and has completed the second trade of the year with Ryan that has been addition through subtraction for the Twins.

Au revoir, Kyle.  You were a favorite player of mine up until you decided to smash the door of your manager.  I wish you success with the Reds that you could not achieve with the Twins.

Zach Ward

Ward is the young right-handed pitcher the Twins received in exchange for Kyle Lohse.  This season he has been playing in the Reds' Class A affiliate, where he'd been pitching very well.  Only 22, Ward was posting good if not impressive numbers for the Dayton Dragons.

Games GS     IP   H   K  BB  HR  WHIP  ERA
  20  18  114.0  74  95  37   2  0.97 2.29

With the way he's been pitching, expect Ward to jump to at least AA by season's end.  Even though there's more pitching talent in the Minnesota system than you'll find almost anywhere, he's been throwing too well to remain in A-ball as a 22-year old.  Ward's 2006 success may still propell him higher than New Britain if this trend continues, but this could be too much of a jump in a new system stuffed with promising arms.

The Deadline

It looms before us.  Is there a hitter in our future?  If not Alfonso Soriano, who?  Will the Twins take a chance on Livan Hernandez, who may be only marginally better than Carlos Silva at this point?  There's no doubt the Twins could use those two pieces:  a stick and a starter.  Does a trade make more sense, or are there solutions in-house that won't force the Twins' hands in mortgaging a bit of their future?

To Be Continued...