Was Letting Derek Lowe Go the Right Move for the New York Mets?

Joseph DelGrippoAnalyst IApril 6, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 05:  Derek Lowe #32 of the Atlanta Braves pitches to the Philadelphia Phillies on April 5, 2009 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Today's game is the opening of the 2009 major league baseball season.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

It was the end of the seventh inning of last night’s Atlanta Braves-Philadelphia Phillies game and Derek Lowe had just set down the Phillies in order once again in the bottom half of that inning. 

In fact, Lowe set down the Phillies in order six times in his eight innings of work last night.

He allowed only two hits, walked none, and only one ball was hit hard—and it wasn’t even one of the two hits, but was Jimmy Rollins’ leadoff hot shot grounder, which was gobbled up by first baseman Casey Kotchman.

At the end of the inning, I thought the Braves were on their way to an opening-day victory since Lowe was absolutely on his game. He was not getting hit hard and only went to a three ball count twice!

Lowe, who was 0-3 with an 8.44 ERA in his only three previous Opening Day starts, looked like the $60 million ace the Atlanta Braves were seeking. He recorded a total of 13 ground-ball outs while striking out four and tossing only 94 pitches in his eight innings. 

It was at the end of the seventh that I wondered who would be the first person among the many to say the Mets might have made a mistake in not signing Lowe (it was Mike Silva of www.nybaseballdigest.com) and re-signing Oliver Perez instead.

Scott Boras was the agent for both those 2008 free-agent pitchers, and he played the game wonderfully for both his players. Boras knew the Braves needed to compete this season and would pay dearly for Lowe, and that the Mets would then be desperate for a starter and Perez would land once again in Queens.

The great thing about baseball is that it is a marathon, not a sprint, and taking the season game-by-game is the wrong way of looking at a team. A team (or player for that matter) are not as good as they look on their best days nor are they as bad as they are on their worst days. Just because Lowe threw a gem last night doesn’t mean he will dominate the entire season.

Interestingly, Lowe’s last three starts have been against the Phillies, including the two he pitched for the Dodgers in last year’s NLCS.

Lowe definitely looked good last night—but believe it or not, he will actually lose some games this season! Both pitchers and players, while putting up fantasy baseball stats for a certain team over the course of a season, will not put up those same stats for another team even if in the same league. If Lowe goes 21-5, with a 2.89 ERA for Atlanta this season doesn’t mean he will do the same if he played for the Mets in 2009.

It could be better or worse, depending on several factors.

While both the Braves and Mets pretty much play the same teams, they will play those teams at different times, when other teams lineups are hot or cold and pitchers (even if the opening day starter) will face different starters over the course of a season. Rainouts, off days AND TRADES change things around pretty quickly.

The Mets will likely face San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy on April 16th, but the Phillies will miss him. Then the Mets do not go out to San Diego until August, when Peavy will likely be out of San Diego. Depending on which National League team gets Peavy in a trade and the Cubs still a big possibility, the Mets face the Cubs twice in August and September and could face Peavy twice more late in a tight divisional race. 

Also, the Yankees might benefit this season by only facing the Toronto Blue Jays six times by the trading deadline, and by that time if the Jays are mired in last place, Roy Halladay could be traded and then the Yanks won’t face him much, if at all. But, the Red Sox or Rays both play the Jays nine times before the deadline.

It doesn’t matter who you play, but WHEN YOU PLAY THEM. Teams get hot and cold, and hitters go into slumps. For example, if the Mets catch a Phillies team slumping badly, even Oliver Perez might look good on the mound.

It would have been great for the Mets to go after Lowe and he is a better pitcher than Perez, but one game is just that, one game, and it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of the 2009 season.

Unless, of course, the Mets lose the division again down the stretch, by a single game—this time to the Braves.