Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 5, 2004
BASEBALL: Lowe No Longer
It could be a coincidence that uber-groundball pitcher Derek Lowe turned his season around immediately upon the Red Sox ditching Nomar and bringing in glove wizards Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz. Could be, but not likely.
When the deal was made a month ago, I looked at the Hardball Times' Fielding Independent Pitching numbers, which seek to project a pitcher's ERA as if he had an average defense behind him (FIP) compared to the pitcher's actual Runs Allowed, and found significant underperformance by the major Sox pitchers, particularly those with high numbers of ground balls allowed and especially Derek Low:
Now, the individual numbers at such small sample sizes are bound to be flukey, although it's clear that Lowe is no longer getting completely murdered by his defense. But the overall conclusion is clear: since the deal, the Sox pitchers are pitching slightly better (as Peter Gammons and others have noted, Lowe's walk rate has dropped dramatically since the deal, perhaps due to greater confidence in his defense), but their defensive support has been dramatically better, as their FIP has dropped by 0.20 R/9IP while their Runs Allowed-FIP margin has dropped by 0.59. Maybe, just maybe, Theo and Bill James & co. know what they are doing.
* - There may be an error in the Hardball Times numbers for Lowe, but I can;t fix it without comparing apples to oranges.