Hello again everyone from sauna-y southeast Michigan! While things remain hot up here, the same sure can’t be said for the Braves and Derek Lowe!
I won’t retread all the things that Fred brought up in his article that he posted earlier today, as I suggest you peruse it to get a feel for the travails our fearless manager Fredi Gonzalez is dealing with. It’s at times like these that I don’t envy him his job. So, without duplicating what you’ve already read here, what else can be said?
First of all, it’s obvious that Derek Lowe sucks right now. Anyone who has watched him pitched doesn’t need to look at a stat line to know that he is not even pitching at a replacement level right now. However, to me that’s almost like saying all humans have, on average, one testicle and one ovary; it’s accurate but not terribly informative. Lowe has been haunted by a blowup inning of late. Usually he’s cruising along without a worry in sight when suddenly the bottom falls out. It’s not related to pitch count, as it’s happened at a 40 pitch level and a 90 pitch level and everything in between. It’s probably related to a mechanics issue, as Lowe has been throwing his sinker harder than normal during most of this entire time (90 MPH versus 87-88 when he’s “on”). He also is relying less on his slider than normal; whether it’s because of lack of faith or lack of talent, I don’t know. It also seems that he is having a very hard time locating his sinker. He falls behind in the count then has to get the ball up. His sinker is incredibly hittable when it’s up in the zone. Finally, in the blowup innings he’s also been the victim of terrible luck, be it ground balls that find a hole, swinging bunts that result in hits, botched double plays, or sure outs that turn into fielder’s choices. And the balls that are hit solidly are hit REAL solidly, and almost never for outs. If this sounds like an apology for Lowe, I can assure you it’s not; he’s largely made his own bed and he’s an incredibly overpaid number five starter at this point in his career.
I do think that the good news is that if I can see all this with Lowe, the Braves coaches can see all this as well. For those of us who have lived with Lowe’s full tenure with the Braves, we know that it’s not unusual for him to go into slumps, even prolonged ones. But he has been resilient in overcoming the slumps as well. I think that his problems are mechanical, not physical (though pitchers have certainly been put on the DL with fewer physical problems, like that pitcher with San Francisco whose name rhymes with Beat-Oh). As such, they should be correctable. If they can be corrected, Lowe can become more like the pitcher we saw last September than the one we are seeing now. And, lest we forget, Lowe still ranks as a very effective post-season pitcher, whose experience could be crucial in helping the Braves young staff make their way through the playoffs, should the team be fortunate enough to make it there.
If you’re looking for Lowe to basically “go away”, I just don’t see it happening. The Braves are still on the hook for the balance of this year’s salary and all of next year’s $15 million. If you’ll recall as recently as a couple of weeks ago, teams were said to be considering Lowe as a mid-season pickup. The Braves are interested in keeping his value up. The only way to do this is to keep him in the rotation and to get his mechanics fixed. Lowe in the pen, unless he’s closing, means the Braves would have to pay substantially all of his remaining salary to get rid of him. In the entire history of at least the current ownership, they have never dumped a salary like this. I don’t see it happening now.
I was originally going to make this article about what is going on with the team in general, but I think Fred and I tend to write long articles by most blog standards. So, I’m going to cut this one off here and save my other thoughts for another post.
That’s my take. Please share yours!