Monday, July 05, 2004

Over and out is right

It pains me to no end to have to agree with anything that Dan Shaughnessy writes, but in this case I think he hits the nail on the head. Here is what he scribbled about Derek Lowe in today's Boston Globe:
Lowe's Fourth of July meltdown yesterday was exactly what the Red Sox did not need at the end of their road trip from hell. He was cruising along with a 4-1 lead in the fifth when he came apart like a cardboard box in a monsoon. Before the inning was over, Lowe was in the showers and the Sox trailed by the appropriate (and final) score of 10-4. As in over and out.
Shaughnessy almost always takes the "glass is half empty" perspective, but in recent weeks, it's hard to look at it any other way. D. Lowe is supposed to be a leader on this team and right now the only thing he's shown he's capable of leading are sideline cheers.

No one expects much from the cartoon-like antics of huckleberry Kevin Millar. He's hard to take seriously (especially after the whole "Born in the USA" video) and consequently, no one does. It's almost seems like Millar is the coach's chubby son who is in right filed solely because of nepotism -- and fans have accepted that.

Lowe on the other hand, has won 20 games, thrown a no-hitter and got one of the biggest outs in recent Red Sox history last post season against the A's. So it's harder to figure out exactly why he's gone in the crapper so quickly. Or maybe he's always been an average pitcher who just had two really good years in 2002 and 2003.

Here's a look at Lowes stats from 1997 to 2001 (when he was used primarily as a reliever), 2002 to 2003 (when he won 21 and 17 games, respectively, as a starter) and this season.
97-01 AVG 4.0 6.4 4.62 1.19 0.55 0.34 0.45
02-03 AVG 19.0 7.5 3.53 0.91 0.43 0.29 0.52
2004 6.0 8.0 6.02 1.28 0.85 0.44 0.93
What sticks out immediately is the fact that in 2004, Lowe's numbers are markedly worse across the board than the six years prior. And although this is a really small sample size, Lowe's R/ER, BB/IP and BB/SO are all significantly worse in 2004 when compared to his previous seven seasons.

So maybe it's the case that Lowe has always been an above-average pitcher, but in the last two seasons, fans have mistaken him for a great pitcher because of his numbers. Either way, he's performing horribly this season. Even if he were having an 'average' year, his numbers wouldn't be this bad. Across the board, all of his numbers are up (and I mean 'up' in a bad way): ERA, H/IP, R/ER, BB/IP and BB/SO (and they're up by a lot in most cases).

So the good news is that based on past performance, Lowe should improve during the second half of the season. But if he's indeed just an above-average pitcher, his numbers shouldn't improve that much (but at this point, anything positive would be considered progress). And at the end of the season, Lowe would be wise to sign the first contract put in front of him, because I have a feeling he'll be in no position to negotiate for more money.