5 Reasons Derek Lowe Could Pay Huge Dividends for the New York Yankees
What's old is new again in the Bronx. That's the way the New York Yankees are looking at their player acquisitions these days. On July 23, the Yankees traded for Ichiro Suzuki, and the move has already paid off; Ichiro is hitting .315 as a Yankee.
Eight days ago, Derek Lowe came on board to help the Yankees' bullpen. He was released by the Cleveland Indians on August 2. The Yankees signed him to a free-agent deal for the rest of the 2012 season.
Lowe is 39 years old and possibly in his last major league season. Lowe's 2012 season has been a tale of two halves. More specifically, Lowe enjoyed a sharp first two months and then suffered a dismal subsequent two months. Following a victory on June 1 against Minnesota, Lowe was 7-3 in 11 starts with a 3.06 ERA.
Then, everything went downhill. By the end of July, Lowe's ERA had ballooned to 5.52 and he was routinely getting smacked around the park in each start. In fact, he had a pitiful 8.80 ERA over his final 12 starts for the Indians. Lowe was shown the door.
Lowe dazzled in his Yankees debut, closing out a Monday-night victory over the Rangers on August 13 by firing four shutout innings and striking out four on 44 pitches. That's the Derek Lowe the Yankees hope they're getting for the stretch run.
Four innings in one appearance do not make for any solid conclusions, but it's reasonable to believe there's cause for optimism. The change of scenery has helped Ichiro. It may help Lowe, as well. Here are five reasons why Derek Lowe's addition to the 2012 Yankees could pay huge dividends for New York.
1. Lowe Knows Why He Struggled in Cleveland
Lowe candidly confessed that the biggest reason his struggles popped up and persisted with Cleveland was his inability to hide his pitches well. Not only were hitters seeing the ball out of his hand, they were seeing his grip before he even released the ball.
Lowe explained following last Monday night's victory:
"I had to get back to hiding the ball a little better," Lowe said. "I'm not going to do jumping jacks because you pitch one good game because you're in this for the long haul."
It's hard to know if it's really all that simple. Lowe did surrender two consecutive extra-base hits in Monday's loss to Chicago, including an opposite-field home run off the bat of Adam Dunn. Dunn does lead the majors in home runs, so this was certainly no major failure.
Still, Lowe looked more like the Cleveland Derek Lowe from earlier this season, even if for just one inning last night. We'll see if he's a changed man who is back on top of his nasty sinker grip and more crafty with his delivery.
Following his first game in pinstripes, Lowe said, "When you lose your deception, you're in for a world of hurt."
2. Lowe Serves as Insurance in Case Andy Pettitte Is Unable to Come Back Healthy
The Yankees hope that Andy Pettitte will be back pitching in the next several weeks. But what if he does not heal properly from his broken fibula injury? Lowe may find himself in a very important long-relief role—and he may even be used as a spot starter.
David Phelps has been great and Freddy Garcia has mostly done a solid job since early July. If either pitcher struggles, however, it won't be tough for Joe Girardi to look to a man that has 174 career victories and plenty of starts in the playoffs.
The key for Lowe, of course, is to prove his mettle over the coming weeks by showing that his sinker is back to its usual tricks.
3. Championship Pedigree and Postseason Experience
Lowe started 33 games for the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that won the World Series and, of course, defeated the Yankees in the ALCS. His regular season was nothing to write home about. He had a 5.42 ERA and many Red Sox fans were practically wishing him out of town.
Then came the postseason.
Lowe won three games during that magical run for Boston and, most importantly, pitched seven shutout innings to help the Red Sox close the Cardinals out in four games in the Fall Classic. Lowe has shined on the grandest of stages and has a career postseason ERA of 3.21 in 95.1 innings pitched.
Derek Lowe has been there in big spots and performed well. He certainly won't be afraid of the bright lights at Yankee Stadium if he has the opportunity to pitch in October.
4. Lowe Has Pitched in High-Pressure Situations in Big Cities
Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta and now New York—four of the biggest stages in baseball, all of which come with outsized expectations. Lowe hung in there for eight seasons in the pressure cooker that is Boston, working as both a reliever and starting pitcher.
Lowe actually led the American League in saves in 2000 with 42. Lowe has been a starter since the 2002 season, but he's no stranger to the bullpen. He understands his role coming in with the Yankees and he's a seasoned professional looking to contribute. He's also excited about the atmosphere in New York and the love from the fans.
“I think it’s pretty cool, because I hear a lot of people saying, ‘Derek, I love you.’ I don’t know if that’s for me, or for Jeter. I think it may be for me, so I think that’s kinda cool.”
Derek Lowe has led the National League in games started four times, twice with the Atlanta Braves (2009 and 2011) and twice with the Los Angeles Dodgers (2005 and 2008). The good news is that Lowe has been a workhorse recently, not in the distant past.
Lowe is going to take the mound when asked, and if his sinker, changeup and slider are all working, he's very tough to beat. Lowe's dominant pitch is the sinker, which he throws 63 percent of the time. While he doesn't strike many batters out, if he has the proper zip and sink on his pitches, his balls put in play are mostly grounders in the infield.
Sinker-ball pitchers can last a long time in the majors because they put less stress on their pitching arms. Lowe doesn't throw in the mid-90s any longer and has a smooth, repeatable delivery.
The Yankees' capable infield defense should do a nice job backing up Lowe, assuming he's on his game. Lowe will be able to take the mound with extreme confidence in the fielders behind him and the lineup getting him runs.