December 26, 2012
Wednesday, December 26
The rumor mill was predictably quiet on Christmas Eve and Day, but general managers did not exercise their right to celebrate new holidays, preferring instead to work straight through Festivus. Today’s Roundup rewinds to the weekend, when the following nuggets made the rounds…
Derek Lowe seeks guaranteed rotation spot
The Transaction Analysis for that signing, written by Christina Kahrl, described the deal as “a reasonable investment” in the heat of an aggressive spending environment, not unlike the one that has pervaded free agency so far this winter. Looking back, Lowe may have been moderately overpriced on a $15 million annual salary, but he did not betray general manager Frank Wren’s trust entirely. The former Dodger, Red Sox, and Mariner turned in three steady seasons in 2009-2011, recording a FIP between 3.67-4.02 and eating about 190 innings each year. That consistency led the Indians to gamble on Lowe last offseason, as Chris Antonetti agreed to take on $5 million of his paycheck and send bullpen prospect Chris Jones to the Braves.
Ben Lindbergh, breaking down that trade, cautioned against expecting a significant rebound from Lowe, because of his age and the context of moving from the Braves to the Indians, who had a comparable defensive infield but poorer-framing catchers. And instead of bouncing back, Lowe continued his tumble into mediocrity, with his once-solid strikeout rate plunging toward Aaron Cook territory. After whiffing at least 13 percent of opposing batters in each previous year of his career, Lowe struck out only 8.6 percent of them in 2012, resulting in a 4.37 aggregate FIP. That figure was amassed over 21 starts for the Indians (4.44) and 17 relief appearances for the Yankees (3.72), and it represented his worst effort since 2004.
Additionally, Lowe, always somewhat of a liability versus left-handed batters (.291 opponents’ TAv), became unserviceable against them, a weakness that contributed to his downfall in Cleveland.
The above graphic, from Lowe’s Brooks Baseball Pitcher Card, can essentially be summed up in one sentence: If it wasn’t down-and-away or up-and-in, it was going a long way. Lefties smacked Lowe around to the tune of a .345/.412/.525 triple-slash line and a .332 TAv that, for the sake of comparison, matched Miguel Cabrera’s mark for the 2012 season. Thirty-one of the 290 opposite-handed hitters that he faced notched an extra-base hit, and only 19 struck out. The Yankees, who inked Lowe to a pro-rated contract three days after the Tribe cut him loose, aided the sinkerballer by shielding him from tough lefties during his long-relief gig, but for future employers, his splits scream “buyer beware.”