Jed Lowrie On Injuries and The Real Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie has played for three organizations already, despite having accrued little more than two full seasons worth of Major League plate appearances. That might be because the oft-injured 29-year-old has never had so much as 400 plate appearances in a given season since his major league debut in 2008. Through it all, he’s been trying to shake off those injuries and prove himself as a young veteran in the league. Maybe we’re just getting to know the real Jed Lowrie now.

Lowrie himself doesn’t look at a lot of his own stats. “I dictate my stats, my stats don’t dictate me,” he says. No matter what stadium he calls home, he thinks the goal has been the same — it’s just been about how well he’s executed the plan. He’s been focusing on hitting line drives and hard ground balls all along but he’s just had varying degrees of success.

He’s always trying to level his swing plane and hit line drives. Oakland “isn’t the easiest park to hit home runs in,” so that approach fits well, but it’s not like Boston is the best park in the world: certain spots are easy, but otherwise that park can get “enormous.” He didn’t try to pull the ball more just because Houston was conducive to power, but maybe the balls he did pull were home runs more often, he explained.

Just so we can see how similar his approaches have been, here are his ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratios and pull and opposite percentages over his career (with his short-sample 2009 taken out):

GB/FB Pull% Oppo% Pull HR/FB
2008 BOS 0.73 42% 27% 14%
2010 BOS 0.54 45% 22% 20%
2011 BOS 0.67 44% 29% 19%
2012 HOU 0.57 43% 27% 37%
2013 OAK 0.79 40% 26% 29%

Huh. Looks like he was right about Houston… and he might have (subconsciously?) put a few more balls in the air to take advantage? It also looks like he has his most level swing plane going right now, maybe. But you could also say — if you zoom out on his career — he’s hit just under one ground ball for every fly ball and been a slight pull hitter most of the time (40% pull would have ranked 127th of 278 hitters with at least 200 balls in play last year). Even if he doesn’t consult these stats, they’re reasonably stable and follow his explanation.

He’ll admit to checking out his batting average on balls in play in the past. He finds the stat interesting. “Last year, I had one of those years where I hit a lot of balls at people, and my BABIP was well below average,” he pointed out. And it’s true, not only was his .257 BABIP in Houston below his own average (.290), and the league average (.295), but also under his own, personal expected BABIP (.293) given his mix of batted balls and speed.

But that’s not the only way he’s been unlucky. Lowrie points out that “a lot of my stats have been based on my playing injured.” That kept him off the field while he was injured, and also affected his projected career arc. Jeff Zimmerman has found that players who play through injury often outperform their projections in future seasons (FG+). The Oakland shortstop is well on his way to duplicating that finding this season.

Predicting injury is almost impossible, but recently Russell Carlton — though he was looking at pitchers — found that past disabled list visits predicted future disabled list visits better than any other peripheral. Others have posited that health is a skill. Is it one that Lowrie doesn’t own?

“I’ve had these injuries that you can’t combat — they’re not wear and tear injuries,” said Lowrie, adding that the “really frustrating about the injury thing is that I know that I’ve done the training and everything that I can to stay healthy.” And the electronic patches that were rigorously pulsing on his neck while we were talking? “This is just an aberration, I just woke up and my neck hurt, just an old-fashioned kink in my neck.”

Lowrie is right that his injuries haven’t been torn hamstrings or ankles rolled on the bag at first. They’ve been more violent as he tells them. There was the broken wrist from a guy sliding into second base into his glove. Then he had surgery the next year on that same wrist. In 2011, a collision with his left fielder left him with a subluxed shoulder. Last year, someone slid into second base and hurt his leg.

“Collision-type impact injuries that don’t happen a lot in baseball, but for some reason happen to me,” said Lowrie, and he’s right, with an asterisk. Because middle infielders have to complete the turn, an inherently dangerous activity. You’d think shortstops would go down all the time. And yet, Jeff Zimmerman recently updated his disabled list graphs, and shortstops miss the least time in baseball, relatively:

Sarris_fantasy_TOTAL_DAYS_600_rf546vzk_yj6hvfiu

So maybe Lowrie is right to say that he has had little control and his injuries have been freak. “I think if you were to ask any of my strength training coaches that I’m one of the hardest — and smartest — workers that they’ve had in there,” Lowrie said, adding “I can’t control everything.” If he were suffering hamstring injury after hamstring injury, we might be more skeptical.

“I’m not breaking down, I’m just in the wrong place and the wrong time,” said Lowrie. But that won’t stop him from making the hard play at the turn — “I’m going to play the game.”



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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


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scotman144
Member
Member
scotman144
3 years 3 months ago

Keep up the great work Eno! Thank you.

wily mo
Member
3 years 3 months ago

this has always been my argument about lowrie – he broke his wrist once and the effects lingered for like two years, so everyone kept talking about it. then he got mono and missed most of a year. and from then on he was “injury-prone” and “made of glass” and so on. but anybody would be injury-prone if people kept coming up and slugging them with a germy rock

Steve
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Steve
3 years 3 months ago

The 2013 Lowrie is legitimate. His babip will come down, yes, but he is hitting the ball well and his LD rate proves it. He will give you top production at SS, given he stays healthy. Oakland stole this guy. He’s gotta stay healthy.

Jay Stevens
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Jay Stevens
3 years 3 months ago

Gotta say, I’ve always been curious what Lowrie could do with an entire year worth of PAs. Let’s hope that the injuries aren’t a result of his style of play, and we’ll get the chance to see him play a full year.

On a related note, I feel the same way about Ellsbury that wily mo feels about Lowrie. Ellsbury has gotten a bad rap about his health ability based on a couple of freak incidents – and he’s been extremely capable of playing out full seasons otherwise.

And following that thought, I’ve always felt that extreme base stealers like Ellsbury — guys who steal more than, say, 40 SB/year — tend to get hurt more often. Not sure where I picked up that bias, but it feels true. Love to see a study on that.

nv
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Ellsbury and Lowrie are close friends, reportedly. Maybe this misunderstanding is something they’ve bonded over.

Mr Punch
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Mr Punch
3 years 3 months ago

Some players do collide with teammates more than others – and if they’re strong, like Adrian Beltre, it’s the other guy who gets hurt.

Tom B
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Tom B
3 years 3 months ago

Good point about Beltre, he took out a few Red Sox players during his 2011 stint.

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