The Lohse-Suppan tandem

Why not pair up a couple of St. Louis Cardinals’ five-inning starters every fifth day?

Ever since Kyle Lohse joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008, I have thought of him and now-teammate Jeff Suppan in a similar way along the following basic formula.

  1. Starting pitcher who was below average elsewhere.
  2. Pitched very well for St. Louis.
  3. Received four-year contract in excess of $40 million.
  4. Returned to previous form.

Of course, the major difference is that Suppan received his mega-deal from Milwaukee while Lohse remained a Cardinal. In terms of contract time-frames, Suppan is two years ahead of Lohse.

In the table below, note the similarity of their pre-Cardinals histories. They then each lowered their ERAs by a full run under Dave Duncan before reaching new lows following their big contracts.

Pre-StL Initial StL Post-$
Record Pct. ERA Record Pct. ERA Record Pct. ERA
Lohse 63-74 0.460 4.82 15-6 0.714 3.78 8-17 0.320 5.60
Suppan 62-75 0.453 4.90 44-26 0.629 3.95 30-41 0.423 5.04

This season as Cardinals starters, the two have combined to go 3-12 while averaging just five innings per start. In their 22 starts, the team is just 8-14.

Lohse has been named the defacto fifth starter for the remainder of the season and gets the ball Sunday night against Atlanta.

Pitcher Starts QS W-L Tm W-L Avg IP K/9 IP
Lohse 13 4 2-7 5-8 5.0 5.3
Suppan 9 1 1-5 3-6 5.0 3.7
Team 139 84 57-48 73-66 6.0 6.9

Though it would likely be no better than applying salve on a gaping wound, I’ve wondered why the Cardinals don’t just pair the two up as they do with minor leaguers in a piggyback or tandem arrangement.

I suggest this only half-jokingly, considering they are five-inning pitchers at best and like many pitchers, fare poorer the more looks opposing hitters get at them. Here are the opposing hitters’ OPS by times through the batting order this season.

OPS vs. 1st PA 2nd PA 3rd PA 4th+ PA
Lohse .774 .969 .919 1.167
Suppan .816 .955 1.092 1.200

Consider matchups to determine which of the two should start, likely Lohse in most cases. Then plan to get Suppan up in the fourth or fifth inning and have him take over in relief so later than the sixth.

Of course, it would be unrealistic to reverse that 3-12 record, but still, a nine-game swing would have cured much of what ails the Cardinals’ bottom line.

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