A fascinating career. Lowe came up with the Mariners in 1997, after years as a prospect, and pitched some, not well, before being traded to Boston, with Jason Varitek, for Heathcliff Slocumb in one of the worse “prospects for relievers” trades of all-time. It was maybe the first building block of the Red Sox world champions/mini-dynasty. The Red Sox used him as a starter briefly, then converted him to the bullpen. In 1999-2001, he was their most-usual closer, making the All-Star Team in 2000, even though he didn’t, and still doesn’t, have a normal closer arsenal. Lowe is primarily a ground-ball pitcher who even used one inning at a time won’t strike a whole lot of people out, and sometimes that pitcher is going to give up four singles in a row. For a starter, that’s not something that will necessarily kill you, but it’s a problem in high-leverage situations. Bill Simmons used to talk about the “Derek Lowe Face”, the slightly poleaxed look the pitcher would get when that sort of thing happened.

Lowe moved to the rotation after the acquisition of future murderer Ugueth Urbina late in 2001, and in 2002 won 21 games, with a 2.66 ERA and made his second All-Star Team. It was a fluke season, helped by a ridiculously low batting average on balls in play. When the hits started falling the next year, his ERA jumped by more than a run, though he still won 17 games. Lowe has usually pitched quite well in postseason, but got shelled in the 2003 ALCS, and when he was horribly unlucky in 2004, looked to be on his way out of the league. But he had a strong postseason, winning games in each series, and got a big (and unexpected) contract from the Dodgers.

Lowe had the most extended success of his career with the Dodgers, posting four straight years of ERAs well below the league, though the won/lost records don’t necessarily show it. Some of it is ridiculous numbers of “unearned” runs, like in 2005, when 24 of his runs were scored that way. Usually it’s not that dramatic, and he has pitched well. He also rarely missed a start, and had his best year in 2008, so he was a hot property. He was also 35 years old.

When dealing with pitchers, the most important thing to look at for the next year is not the age, but what they did the previous season. Long-term, you better look at age, and Lowe will be 39 when this contract runs out; it seems unlikely that he will still be effective then. It’s not impossible. The main thing I look for when projecting pitchers forward is strikeout rate; if they’re losing strikeouts, they’re about to hit the wall. Lowe’s strikeout rate is pretty steady; there’s been some decay, but not too much. (He’s struck out 147 men in each of the last two years, but pitched in 11 2/3 more innings last season than in 2007.) His control has improved, and it may be that he’s at a sort of peak right now. It happens.

Lowe doesn’t give up too many homers, though oddly he allowed more in Dodger Stadium than in Fenway. That may be a philosophical thing, or because he’s been used more at the edge of his effectiveness at the front of the rotation than in the middle as he was in Boston… Lowe is a career .125 hitter, walks occasionally, and appears to be a good bunter. If they’re gonna bunt, at least they should be good at it.

Derek Lowe Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com