MLB Playoff Predictions: Does Lowe or Lincecum Have the Advantage in Game 1?

Brett KettyleCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2010

Derek Lowe Has Dominated at AT&T Park Throughout His Career
Derek Lowe Has Dominated at AT&T Park Throughout His CareerKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On the surface, it sounds like a silly question: Does Derek Lowe or Tim Lincecum have the edge in Game 1 of the NLDS Series between the Atlanta Braves and the San Francisco Giants?

On one hand, you have the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner in Lincecum, and on the other, is the Braves “15 million dollar mistake” in Lowe. Yet when you look deeper, Lowe might be better suited to pitch in this game than you would think. 

The overall body of work in 2010 favors Lincecum, but here are three things that give Derek Lowe the edge in Game 1.


Pitching Hot-Streak

Both Lowe and Lincecum had phenomenal months in September. Both pitchers won five starts in the month, but Lowe was 5-0 while Lincecum was 5-1. ERA wise, both pitchers were phenomenal, posting ERA’s under two, but Lowe again holds the edge (1.17 to 1.94).

Lincecum struck out more batters per inning in the month, but it was Lowe who had a better K:BB ratio and struck out over eight per game despite being a sinkerball pitcher. Lincecum is known for his strikeouts, so seeing him ring up 50 batters in a month isn’t all that unexpected.

Both pitchers are hot right now, but Lowe has been the hotter of the two. It was Lowe who took home NL Pitcher of the Month for September.

Head-to-Head with the Opponent

In his career, Lowe has enjoyed continued success against the Giants. In 17 starts against them, he has gone 7-5 with a solid 3.02 ERA.

Lowe’s numbers are even better when pitching in San Francisco at AT&T Park. In eight starts by the bay, Lowe has posted a 1.98 ERA.

Lincecum has also pitched well against the Braves in his career. He has a 6-2 record and 2.89 ERA against the boys from Hotlanta. At home, Lincecum has been good throughout his career with a 3.06 ERA.

Both pitchers have advantages, so far, but Lowe has been the better pitcher (albeit in a smaller sample size) at AT&T park while Lincecum has fared better against the Braves regardless of the venue.

On the season, both pitchers have faced the opposing team twice. Lowe is 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA while Lincecum is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. Granted, the sample size is small, but each pitcher has made two starts against the team they are set to face and Lowe’s ERA is a full point lower.

Although it’s close, the advantage again falls to Derek Lowe. He has been a dominant pitcher in AT&T Park and has fared better against the Giants current lineup than Lincecum has against the 2010 Braves.


Playoff Experience

Experience isn’t necessarily a known quantity by any means.

For instance, Roy Halladay made his playoff debut yesterday by throwing a no-hitter.

That being said, when in doubt I would argue that more experience is better. Lincecum has never had the chance to pitch in the playoffs in his career, while Lowe has performed well (3.33 ERA in 83.2 innings) on baseball’s biggest stage.

Given a choice between two otherwise equal pitchers to start a playoff game, I would always take the one with more experience (unless his experience shows that he chokes on the big stage, which Lowe’s doesn’t).


Overall Edge

Let me get one thing out there, I don’t think Derek Lowe is a better pitcher than Tim Lincecum. In his career, Lowe has only had one or two seasons as a starter that were better than Lincecum’s 2010 (which was a down year by his lofty standards).

Over their careers, however, Lowe has fared better against current Giants (.282 BAA, .712 OPS) than Lincecum has against current Braves (.294 BAA, .805 OPS).

While Tim Lincecum may, on the surface, seem to be far better than Derek Lowe, the underlying factors show that Lowe may actually have the advantage in game one of the 2010 NLDS.