There have been a lot of things the Brewers have been unsure about this season. Just who should hit behind Prince Fielder? Who should bat second? Who should be the starting centerfielder? However, those issues have seemed to take a backseat of late. Sure, the Brewers don't have a viable protector behind Prince, but when Braun returns, it should sort itself out.
The more troubling thing from my point of view has been what has been occurring in the eight inning. Since he grabbed control of setup duties last season, Kameron Loe has seemed to cement himself in that role. Despite some terrible struggles of late, Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke has stuck with Loe. Problem with that is he is just not pitching that well.
As of now, Loe is sporting a very lofty 4.87 ERA. Despite being a reliever, Loe has a team-leading seven loses. Granted loses are a very misleading stat, but if a reliever leads your team in them, it's probably not a good sign. So what exactly has been the issue with Loe this season?
In 2011, Loe has seen his ERA jump more than two runs. Obviously, that sounds like trouble. However, he has also seen both his FIP and xFIP decrease this season. That would be a sign of an unlucky pitcher. In fact, Loe's strikeout rate has actually increased to 7.3 K/9 this season. Also on the increase is his already stellar groundball rate, which currently sits at 62.6% (up 3% from last year).
While those are all good numbers for Loe, he is running into problems in other areas. His LOB% (percent of his runners that don't score) currently stands at 64.1%, which is 9% lower than the league average. Easily put, when a runner reaches on Loe, he is touching the plate more than 1/3 of the time. While that may be something very difficult to control, especially for a reliever, it also can lead people to believe you're not very good. It's just another day in the life of a reliever. Even starters have full seasons where luck is just not on their side. For a starter, they have 200+ innings to even out their fortune. For a reliever, they get maybe 1/3 of that same time.
Takashi Saito was signed this offseason to assume the eight inning duties. With Saito returning from injury last week, that is something he will likely regain after getting some work under his belt. However, that's not to say he is incapable of throwing quality, high leverage innings for the Brewers. Loe is throwing very good baseball right now. The stats just don't lead fans to think that's the case. Over time, hopefully things will level out for Kameron and the Brewers bullpen.