Lowe Down

There’s no doubt about the fact that CC Sabathia is the prize of the free agent pitching crop this winter. With his dominance since moving to the Brewers, and that Cy Young award he picked up last year, Sabathia is at the top of nearly every teams list, with the question simply being who will pony up the most to secure his services.

The 29 teams who don’t sign Sabathia, however, will have to decide who the next best guy is. Right now, the general consensus seems to be his Milwaukee teammate Ben Sheets. The talent for Sheets has never been in question, and with his 2008 season being his healthiest in four years, he looks poised to cash in as Plan B for the teams who can’t get Sabathia. However, I’d like to suggest that perhaps there’s a better second option for the teams who don’t go after CC, and that man is Derek Lowe.

After a complete game gem last night that the Dodgers still managed to lose, Lowe’s brilliance this year continued to go under the radar. It’s time to shine the light on him and make sure people realize just how good he’s been this year.

At 35 years old, Lowe isn’t aging – he might be getting better. His 1.96 BB/9 is the best of his career. His 6.50 K/9 sustains the gains he made in missing bats last year, the two highest strikeout rates he’s posted as a full time starting pitcher. His improving dominance of the strike zone hasn’t shown up in his home run rate, either – his 0.7 HR/9 is right in line with his career averages.

A 3.00 K/BB rate and a 60% GB% are a powerful combination, and it shouldn’t be surprising that Lowe’s posting the best FIP of his career as a starting pitcher. His WPA/LI is higher than that of Sheets’, and he doesn’t come up with any of the same injury concerns. Yes, he’s 35, but if you can find any signs of decline, you’ve got better eyes than I do.

Derek Lowe is a legitimate frontline starting pitcher, and for a team looking for an impact arm this winter, they shouldn’t overlook the groundball machine hanging out in LA. He’s going to get a big paycheck, but there’s also a good chance that it won’t be as big as it should be.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

5 Responses to “Lowe Down”

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  1. Red Sox Talk says:

    Lowe a frontline starter? I’m not going to go that far.. I think he is a decent quality starter, maybe a #2 or #3 in the NL. He’s benefited from a low (for him) hit rate the past few years, and spacious Dodgers Stadium allows him to attack the strike zone with impunity, which I believe is partly responsible for his lower walk rates.

    In 64 career starts at Dodger Stadium, Lowe is 32-23 with a 3.32 ERA, a good half-run better than his career numbers. So I’d add about a quarter run to his ERA the past 4 years. He’s also had a 1.80 BB/9 rate there in those 64 starts, while he’s walked 2.82 hitters every nine on the road in 65 starts over that period.

    I still think he’s worth a pretty fat 3-year deal for a team like Colorado. I think they need to target him with whatever money they have. San Diego or San Francisco might also make sense for Lowe.

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  2. ericinboston says:

    anywhere with a bar makes sense for lowe

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  3. NickP says:

    The reason his ERA is lower than his career average is the first 3/4 of his career were spent in the AL.

    As long as he stays in the NL, the last 4 years are pretty representative of what you should expect, at least in the near term.

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  4. Tom Au says:

    Paul dePodesta knew what he was doing when he signed Lowe in 2005 after a “bad” 2004 (that featured a mid-5 ERA, a run and half worse than his FIP).

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  5. Isaac says:

    Sheets and Lowe are all worthy plan B’s, but unless he gets resigned by his current team, could it be Ryan Dempster who is the second best option in FA? Sure, he doesn’t have the track record of Sheets and Lowe, but that could be a good thing. For one, he is a “young” veteran in that he hasn’t thrown many innings as he has been in the pen most of his career. He also doesn’t come with the injury concerns that Sheets does. I hope the Cubs resign him, but if they don’t, he’ll make a great number 1 or 2 starter for some other team.

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