Cleveland Indians: Why Derek Lowe Is in the Hunt for a Cy Young Award

Richard Scheuermann@@RJSureCorrespondent IMay 19, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 09:  Starting pitcher Derek Lowe #26 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers during a spring training baseball game at Maryvale Baseball Park on March 9, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Indians' starter Derek Lowe may be the most unlikely story in all of Major League Baseball so far this season. The soon-to-be 39 year old right-hander is tied for the most wins in baseball with six, and is leading the American league with a 2.05 ERA.

Lowe's resurgence as a quality starting pitcher has been far from simple, though. 

After being charged with a DUI along with two other misdemeanors (all of which were eventually dropped), Lowe's pitching steadily declined through his 2011 campaign, and the 14-year veteran finished the season with a 9-17 record along with an ERA over five.

In his three seasons in Atlanta, Lowe mustered out a 40-39 record and a 4.57 ERA. The only real highlight Lowe had while with the Braves was an impressive month of September in 2010 in which Lowe was 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA followed by two solid playoff starts in the NLDS. Atlanta was out-matched in that series, and went on to lose in four games.

Ironically in the following September, Lowe had an 0-5 record with a downright ugly 8.75 ERA. Needless to say, Braves fans didn't lose any sleep upon the news of Lowe's departure.

Then, in as Cleveland-esque of a move that could be made, the Indians traded for the seasoned veteran, hoping to attain a starter that could bring some wisdom to a young, talented albeit inconsistent rotation; the deal had chaos written all over it.

What the Indians have received, instead, is the anchor of their roster.

In a season that has seen Justin Masterson struggle heavily in his role as the team's ace and Ubaldo Jimenez continue his control issues into 2012, Derek Lowe has remained steadfast. 

There is almost nothing spectacular about Lowe's pitching. There is no "flash" among Lowe's statistics: Just 13 strikeouts all season to 17 walks and a WHIP of 1.44, yet his win column and ERA (A.K.A. the stats that matter) have been outstanding.

Ever since Atlanta was so eager to get rid of the aging pitcher that they ate $10 million of his $15 million he was owed this year, Cleveland has looked like it has made one of the best deals of the year.

Perhaps the comfort of knowing he is not expected to be the pitcher he was in year's past when he won 21 games and a world series ring with the Boston Red Sox has allowed Lowe to settle into himself.

Lowe is forced to depend on outwitting batters rather than overpowering them, and if averaging just 2.22 K's per nine innings means being the best pitcher in the AL 40 games into the season, don't expect him to try to fill up the stat sheet anytime soon. 

Lowe has chosen to rely on keeping pitches out of hitters' sweet spots, and has cultivated his sinker ball into one of the most effective pitches in the game. 

In his latest start, Tribe manager Manny Acta rode the 15-year veteran pitcher all the way to a complete game shutout with zero strikeouts against the Minnesota Twins; the first pitcher to accomplish such a feat since 2002.

It's difficult to project whether Lowe can keep up his elite pace this season, but it's certainly safe to say that he's been one of the biggest reasons for Cleveland's current position atop the AL Central.