Defending the Reputation: A Pitching Analysis of Derek Lowe
I am very tired of hearing about the snap judgment about Derek Lowe; an ace pitcher that Atlanta Braves signed him for a four-year, $60 million deal.
They signed him to act as an ace and win games and he did lead the rotation with 15 wins but just because he had mediocre ERA (consequently, some other bad stats as well), a lot of fans shout out he had a disappointing season and his contract is among the worst in recent Braves’ history.
He whined about the trade in the beginning of the season and claimed that he did not ask for getting paid and just because two bad months, he loses all the attention he earned one year ago.
I thought his statement was uncharacteristic, even more so, he remained quiet after the Vazquez trade. However, I do agree with his point.
I always think that wins is the most important baseball statistics because it is the first data you see. I believe you win games because you did something right, mainly because you can hold opposition better than the opposing pitchers. That is, how you get wins.
I am not saying other numbers are not important but come back to the basic, it is a competition and you win because you are better on that day. The different games cannot take place in the same moment and any comparison with data contributed from other games cannot change the result with the particular game.
I don’t mean not to do the comparison. Talk about "what if" and predict the unpredictable is a fun thing in life but it is somewhat pointless making a statement saying "If Lowe faces better pitching; he would have lost the wins he earned."
It might be true if you can change the past but the fact is that you cannot and he did win 15 games. For that, I say he had a good season.
I think every other stats is only to help explaining how he gets his record but unless you really do an analysis on greater detail, you cannot rely on looking at the surface of his stats only. Please look at his in depth stats:
2. W-L split
In the games he won, he posted a 3.32 ERA, which is not brilliant. However, in those 15 wins, he only had two starts in which he gave up more than 3 runs (5 and 6 respectively).
In those wins, 12 of them were quality starts and 4 of them were great starts (7 innings pitched, 2 ER or less).
The stats show that he earned those wins 80 percent of time and he obviously knows how to win games; he only needs to pitch better than opposing pitchers and a shutout is not required to win.
Now, let’s look at the 10 games he lost. Four of them were quality starts; it may not sound a lot but that is 40 percent of his loses suffered from low run support and one of them was a great start (8 inning pitched, 2 ER).
There are four other starts, he lost pretty ugly; more than 5 ER, hence 7.49 ERA in loses.
Let’s see how many games the Braves bailed him out with offense. In his 9 no decisions, two of them are shortened by rain or injury. In the rest of them, he pitched at least 5 innings and 5 of them were quality starts.
In all of his no decision, he only gave only 3 ER or more once (4 ER). These stats indicate that Braves really did not bail him out with offense much and he always try to keep the game in line for the Braves to win.
3. Monthly Split
Now look at his monthly stats. He claimed that he only had two bad months. Unfortunately, on paper, he had three bad months, which is half of the season.
His ERA per month from April to September (made one start in October) was 3.10, 3.73, 6.54, 3.38, 5.08 and 6.43. Let’s see under the surface and see if I can bail him out.
In June, he had 4 quality starts and earned 2 wins. It is abnormal that four quality starts in a month, his ERA can be over 6. Thanks to the two starts he gave up 13 runs in 5.1 innings.
How that is contributed to the team? A 2-2 record which is average but they can easily be 4-2 if Braves could get their offense going like they were in second half.
Similar things happened in August. He had three quality starts in six tries and one of them was a great start (7 innings, two ER) and his ERA was 5.08. Thanks to the meltdown against the Mets that he gave up 8 runs in 3.2 innings.
How did that month contribute to the team? A 3-1 record and that was when the Braves had the chance to push for the division win and they should be thankful to Derek and his contribution.
Note that he made a start against the tough Dodgers and Randy Wolf, who were the best pitcher for them in the second half.
In that start, Derek matched toe to toe with Randy against an elite line-up and gave up three ER and last 5.2 innings. It was not a quality start but a great win for the Braves.
Therefore, he was right to argue that he was good most of the season but the end of the season let him down. In fact, he is being humble to say he had two bad months. In fact, he only had one bad month, which was September.
It is true that he does not have ace stuff. There is no way he can pitch more than 10 great starts like Roy Halladay (14) or Cliff Lee (17). However, what he can provide is that consistent quality starts and a chance for the team to win.
Another rare quality of his is that he is not afraid of facing tough pitchers, his game will be up a level if he is going to face a tough pitcher and when he is good, he is as good as anyone.
Based on what I analysed, he is still capable to win at least 12 games without any help of luck and we all know that winning a game does not only depends on stuff and game plan.
It is very safe to predict that Derek will win another 15 games in 2010 for the Braves.
I do agree paying him $15 million per year is too much but I am also glad the Braves can have him around for another three years. Make no mistake; every member in the Braves rotation is at least as good as him.
They neither equally have great experience behind them (Kawakami and Hudson) or top of the league stuff (Tommy Hanson or Jair Jurrjens).
I won’t be surprised that all five starters of the Braves win at least 15 games in 2010 and it did not happen for the Braves since 1998.
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