Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Last night, Derek Lowe was a victim of the Red Sox conscience decision to acquire better bats than glove men. The strategy is sound since four out of the five projected 2004 starters have solid (Wake) to very good (even BK) K/9 rates over the past couple of seasons. The fewer balls in play due to strikeouts yield less of a need for players that flash the leather. Pitchers with high K/9 rates will not have their Runs Allowed/9 affected too much by downgrades in the field. Thus, a team with pitchers with high K/9 rates will value offense more than defense in position players.
Below is the Sox OPS, Defensive Efficiency (developed by Bill James, the metric is the rate balls in play are turned into outs), courtesy of Baseball Prospectus, and Lowe’s RA/9 this season, 2003 and 2002.
04 - .814 - .6934 - 7.13
03 - .851 - .6862 - 5.00
02 - .789 - .7046 - 2.66
As expected, Lowe’s RA/9 increased by 2.34 from 2002 to 2003 as the Sox defensive efficiency dropped. (I excluded Lowe’s three years as an ace reliever because his K/9 was above average. Lowe changed as a pitcher when he became a starter.) In contrast, Pedro’s RA/9 actually dropped indicating that he was either luckier than Lowe and/or less dependent upon seven players behind him. My thought is the later had a bigger impact. With an average K/9 rate, Wake’s RA/9 increased by 1.57. In most cases, the higher the strikeout rate, the less of a need for a no hit – great glove player on a club.
On the bright side, Lowe’s stuff last night looked better than I have seen in sometime. He had good movement on his fastball/sinker that was hitting 90+ on the gun. I can’t recall the last time when Lowe’s fastball hit 92mph. As with most pitchers, the fastball is the key. Of course, the pitch to Tony Clark that has just landed was terrible, but other than that Lowe pitched fairly well (He did miss the target on Sheffield’s but the ball was moving down and away. Hitters with or will end up with 500+ homers do that crap.) It would not be a surprise if Lowe pitched a gem in Hot-lanta this weekend with an increase of strikeouts over his average of four per nine.