Why Don’t Folks Like Derek Lowe?


Good day from beautiful Phoenix. As I prepared to trek downtown to the All Star game I visited some other Braves blogs and found the usual crowd calling for Derek Lowe to be traded, given away or otherwise exiled from the starting rotation. Perhaps it’s his appearance, his perceived attitude on the mound, his recent bad publicity or just that fans have to have someone to blame when their team loses and the stoic Lowe is an easy target. If you read the posts you’ll see him called an awful pitcher who is always in trouble and can’t be depended on. None of those feelings are however supported by fact . It’s true that Lowe’s record  (5-7), ERA (4.30) and WHIP (1.381) aren’t league leading numbers and probably less than a guy might be expected to have  based on his salary. All those numbers – including salary – obscure the truth. Derek Lowe has done exactly what the Braves hired him to do; take the ball every 5th day, go deep into games and keep them in with a chance while throwing 200 or so innings a year. Anyone who expected more just didn’t know much about Derek Lowe.
Derek Lowe was never going to be the Ace of any staff. He pitches to contact and – in spite of the odd big strikeout game – depends on his defense to get the outs. That profile means he is going to give up hits and pitch with men on base most of the time. particularly when his out pitch – that nasty slider  that returned last September – isn’t as sharp as it could be. Since coming to the NL his ERA has been in the high 3 to low 4 range close to where it currently resides. He’s always made 32 or more starts and leads the staff now with 20. Lowe is what he has been since he stopped being the Red Sox closer, a classic number four or five starter.  Paying him $15 million a year doesn’t change that any more than paying the neighbor kid $100 a week to mow your lawn makes him a landscape gardener. What about  his 5-7 record, surely he’s not very good if he can’t be good with that record? Lowe’s record is due more to a weak offense than bad pitching.
In Lowe’s 20 starts the Braves have scored 37 runs while he was in the game; 1.85 runs an appearance. Brandon Beachy who has12 starts is next with about 2.27 per game. Everyone else is at 3.0 or better. Lowe averages about 5 2/3 innings a game so his based on his ERA he’s going to allow 2 .6 runs in that time. If the Braves are only scoring 1.85 behind him Lowe would have to have an ERA at or near 3.00 to win. He hasn’t been below 3.25 since 2002. Much is made of Tim Hudson’s record when the Braves score four runs. When the Braves scored four or more runs this year while Derek Lowe was in the game, he’s never lost.
Lowe will have his bad days like every pitcher does but over the long haul he’s dependable and given a little run support successful. Those who criticize him should take note.