Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Don't Swing Lowe

It seems like every web site and every guru on the planet wants and expects the Yankees to offer Derek Lowe a huge contract to come pitch in the Bronx. Just ask Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, who wrote succinctly enough: "Lowe is simply the way to go for the Yankees."

Allow me to differ. Lowe is a huge gamble, one the Yankees may regret.

To prove my point, I'll use the words of a Boston Red Sox blogger:

In 4 years in LA, Lowe averaged: 3.59 ERA 1.23 WHIP 5.96 K/9 2.27 BB/9. Those numbers are slightly better than what he did in his final three years as a starter with the Sox: 4.07 ERA 1.32 WHIP 5.08 BB/9 2.84 BB/9. Lowe’s Boston numbers include one great year and two bad ones (his final regular season was truly awful).

Assuming Lowe’s success in LA came from pitching in the weak NL West, one should expect his numbers to look more like his Sox stats if he comes back to the AL East. $15 million is a lot to pay for a pitcher who only figures to be marginally better than Tim Wakefield—in the regular season.

Exactly. Derek Lowe's great numbers came from a weak division in a DH-less league—in a pitcher's park, I might add. What makes anyone thinks, that when he goes back to the pitcher-smashing division of the AL East, he won't revert to his horrible last year in Boston? Consider that, Lowe's last two seasons in Boston, when his ERA was about 5.00 and his WHIP about 1.5, where his prime pitching years of 30 and 31. He'll return to the AL East 5 years older and over 800 innings later.

Add to that, Lowe is slow to the plate—he allowed a major league high 34 steals last season. With Posada coming of a shoulder injury, he will not be Jorge's best friend. Especially in a division with Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, B. J. Upton and Brian Roberts.

Also with the fact that Lowe, being a groundball pitcher will require a top-notch defense behind him, something the Yankees don't have (Derek Jeter was just called the worst SS in baseball by Bill James, and Robinson Cano will never be mistaken for Ryne Sandberg.)

Here's another juicy little tidbit; in interleague play this year against the AL, Lowe had an ERA of 5.13, giving up 32 hits (3 HRs) in 26.1 innings pitched. Hmmmmm.

Also this: and this is a little more speculative; scouts feel Lowe doesn't have the makeup of tough mental pitcher. They question the fact that, after an error made by Lowe's team, Lowe usually fell apart and allowed a big inning. Also, the fact that his ERA away from home was 2 full points higher than his ERA at home (which also brings up the fact that he is only comfortable in pitcher's parks) and that opposing BA against Lowe in "Late and Close games" was .396. Yankee Stadium has never been kind to pitchers of fragile psyches—ask Ed Whitson or Steve Trout.

Add to that the fact that Lowe will be 36 on June 1st, and with Scott Boras saying he wants a "Zito-type contract" for Lowe—which translates into 6 years at 18 million per year, it seems pretty clear that Derek Lowe will be overpriced for the talent he brings to a team.

This is not to say Lowe wont be a good pitcher in the AL next year, or that he’s a guaranteed disaster. No, Lowe has a lot to like about him. He’s a pound-the-ball-into-the-dirt pitcher with can throw deep into games. He's gotten better and can be a good innings eater—he's pitched between 32 and 35 starts in each of the last seven seasons. However, when you consider his last three years in Boston, his innings per "games started" dropped each of those seasons, while both his "hits" and "runs" surrendered rose dramatically (his WHIP was a ghastly 1.615 his last year at Fenway), there's something to be said for proceeding with caution on this one. Maybe there's more to Boras saying, "Zito-type" when talking about Lowe. So I say to the Yankees; Don't Swing Lowe.

1 comment:

Travis said...

You are right, as far as I am concerned you should always be wary for Dodger pitchers.