Stop telling me Derek Lowe didn’t suck

It’s hard for me to take advanced statistical measurements seriously when sabermetricians keep insisting Derek Lowe wasn’t all that bad.

Obviously, Lowe didn’t pitch anywhere nearly well enough to earn his $15 million dollar salary. But….he wasn’t nearly as awful as you might think. Sure, his ERA was 5.05, but his FIP was 3.70, and his xFIP was 3.65. Those are damn good numbers, actually better than Jair Jurrjens‘ on the season.

I’ve had it with the persistent dismissals of JJ’s performance. When healthy he’s been a rock but the statistically obsessed continue to attribute his good work to luck. Apparently JJ’s one lucky dude.

Now know acknowledging measurements like ERA and innings pitched qualifies me as a dinosaur but these are not irrelevant numbers.

Despite making 11 more starts Lowe pitched just 35 more innings than JJ. The soon-to-be highest-paid middle reliever in baseball never saw the 8th inning this season and made it through 7 just three times. Jurrjens completed two games and pitched past the 7th on six occasions.

Altogether JJ has pitched 671 innings for the Braves — nearly 100 more than Lowe. But Lowe has allowed 12 more hits. Their BB/9 IP ratio is virtually identical. Lowe’s WHIP: 1.463. JJ’s: 1.291

Apparently I’m easily fooled.

Based on Lowe’s production as a Brave (7.8 fWAR in three seasons), he’s slightly overpaid, assuming that 1 fWAR = $4.5 million. So he’s been worth $35.1 million, and made $45 million.

So Lowe’s worth $12 million a year!?! If that’s how the numbers crunch it’s hard for me to take the number crunchers seriously.

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20 Comments on Stop telling me Derek Lowe didn’t suck

  1. A very simple statistic: 17 losses.

  2. PepeFreeUs // October 3, 2011 at 3:23 am //

    Not everyone is buying this. I’ve seen several sabermetrically inclined people at various sites I visit rage on Lowe every bit as hard as we have.

    As I’ve written here before, I always like finding new ways to look at the game but this is simply moronic. To assert that Lowe just continues to have the worst luck of anyboy this side of that Hee Haw “Gloom, Despair and Agony” sketch, while Hudson and Jurrjens have rabbit’s feet up their asses is beyond ridiculous.

    Lowe walks too many people, throws too many pitches and has shown a nearly unerring tendency to throw a lollipop after he’s walked several batters. He gives up bullets on the ground that skip past fielders, not the sweet little bouncers that Hudson induces. All ground balls are not created equal. That’s a basic insight that eludes these people.

    At this point, they’re almost like trolls, deliberately taking absurd positions in order to draw attention the themselves.

  3. That whole section on Lowe is built on a straw man anyway. Fans who think Lowe “should be released” don’t understand the economics of the game. They don’t represent the majority of fans who understand how the game works – but are not necessarily stat geeks.

    I like the insights that sabermetrics can provide, but sometimes it seems like “luck” is really a euphemism for “shit we can’t explain away”.

  4. Anytime results fly into the face of sabermetrics, it is due to “small sample size” or “unsustainable luck.”

  5. Sharon Egan // October 3, 2011 at 9:29 am //

    Sports media may feel they must kowtow to the sabermetrically obsessed in their hires for baseball writers and commentators, but ballclubs fortunately don’t make decisions like stat geeks.

  6. Viva Rufino Linares! // October 3, 2011 at 9:49 am //

    It is this type of “research” that drives me away from sabermetrics.

  7. I think there is a small but vocal subset of the stat geek crowd who see the 17 losses and the hefty price tag and see it as a challenge. If they can somehow convince the unwashed masses that Lowe was a decent pitcher this year, then they’ve also made a compelling argument that wins and losses are a worthless stat. Which it kinda is, but they’d be better off focusing on the Felix Hernandez examples and not on Derek Lowe.

    Also Chop n Change is right. Lowe should not be released. He also shouldn’t be in the rotation and should preferably be on some other roster next year, but he shouldn’t be outright released.

  8. I’ll agree that he shouldn’t be released, though they’re wrong in that the Braves shouldn’t jump at anyone’s offer to take him and his salary off our hands. And if he is on the 2012 roster and continues to pitch like shit he should be released, or Kawakami-d.

  9. @atlmalcontent: I agree 100% – my guess would be if there are no takers he will be released, for no other reason than he would be a potential distraction if he were to stay on the roster.

  10. PepeFreeUs // October 3, 2011 at 10:45 am //

    dayf is exactly right about the challenge aspect of this.

  11. duanesammons // October 3, 2011 at 10:51 am //

    The predicament with Lowe will be the unsettling cloud that hangs over the Atlanta offseason. There will be those who clamor for the team to simply trade him, not understanding the financial peril he has put the team in and the fact he cannot be jettisoned off on a whim. It would be one thing had he finished the season strong as in 2010, but he holds so little value heading into next year.

    If we are hell bent on going with a rotation of Hudson, Hanson, Jurrjens, Beachy, Delgado/Minor/Teheran, it becomes difficult to determine exactly where Lowe is best suited (assuming he’s on the team that is). At an insane price tag obviously, could he be used in a Moylanesque role? The ground ball specialist? Or would we be better served using him as more the mop-up/long relief guy?

    I don’t think there is a way he sniffs the starting rotation unless he just pitches lights out in the spring. But the more and more I think about it, the more I hope we’re able to swing a Hanson/Alex Gordon deal and let the pieces fall where they may.

  12. And perhaps they could craft a package featuring Jurrjens and prospects in exchange for Matt Cain. The Giants probably won’t be sinking a third of their payroll on two pitchers. Cain is a FA after next season, when the Braves will shed Lowe and (probably) Chipper contracts. They could also decline Huddy’s option. Cain is from Alabama and is NOT represented by Scott Boras so Atlanta may appeal to him.

    Cain has thrown at least 217 innings each of the last four years. He turned 27 on Friday.

  13. I saw most of DLowes starts this year, and he was bad. Just to clear any confusion.

  14. A friend’s experience with a fantasy league run by Bill James rather soured me on the stat heads. He was leading his league in 1994 when the strike wiped out the remainder of the season, but James awarded the title to another guy, based on projections.

  15. I was holding out hope DLowe would have a good 2011, given the way he finished last year’s campaign. But he was truly terrible. I don’t see how anyone who watched him pitch can say otherwise. The fact of the matter is we have 6-7 starters who each give us a better chance to win than Lowe, so no matter his salary, he shouldn’t be starting. Kudos to FW for making that clear.

  16. williemontanez // October 3, 2011 at 9:59 pm //

    FIP is merely a number that calculates the rato of HR/K/BB to innings pitched. The assumption that all balls hit in fair territory should be treated the same is overly simplistic. I will stick with ERA, WHIP and Quality Starts.

  17. Greg Maddux allowed a ton of balls hit in fair territory. I guess he was lucky for two decades.

  18. Wow, I must have missed the part of the season where Derek Lowe was selected for the All-Star Game before he REALLY started sucking. Stupid me.

  19. “He was leading his league in 1994 when the strike wiped out the remainder of the season, but James awarded the title to another guy, based on projections.”

    If there was money on the line, I probably would’ve paid Don Gibb with a case of Bud Dry to kick some nerd ass.

  20. roadrunner // October 4, 2011 at 7:30 am //

    Sabermetrics people love FIP because in order to get a true measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness, they try to isolate his actions from those around him. BB, SO, and HR are the three stats that they believe are wholly dependent on the pitcher. And of course, that’s not true. There’s not a thing a pitcher does that is not dependent on the defense that surrounds him. If sabermetrics was an academic discipline, FIP is the kind of idea that would never survive an undergraduate term paper.

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