2012 in Review: Derek Lowe

Derek Lowe was acquired by the Indians just after the 2011 World Series ended. He had one year left on his previous contract, but the Braves were no longer in his services. They were willing to eat $10M of the $15M owed him in exchange for nothing (technically, in exchange for Chris Jones, but the move was primarily a salary dump for Atlanta), so the Tribe picked him for for one year at $5M.

2012 bWAR (Baseball-Reference's version): -0.7 (-0.8 with Indians, 0.1 with Yankees)

2012 Salary: $15,000,000 ($5,000,000 from Indians, $10,000,000 from Braves)

2013 Contract Status: unrestricted free agent

The going rate for free agents (and a free agent signing is basically what the trade amounted to) says that $5M should by you production that equals a WAR of 1.0, give or take, which isn't much, but it's far better than Lowe had done in 2011, when Lowe carried a 5.05 ERA over 187 innings, good for a bWAR of -1.2. Still, he'd been effective in 2010 (a 4.00 ERA over 193.2 IP), basically a league average pitcher for a lot of innings and it must not have seemed too big a gamble to the front office that he might return to that 2010 form. Lowe had thrown at least 180 innings for ten straight seasons, only CC Sabathia (RIP) and Mark Buehrle could say the same. League average for 200 innings might not sound like much, but it makes you a pretty solid 3rd starter, which is exactly what the Indians were hoping to get.

Lowe's season began well, he pitched 7 innings against Toronto, allowing only two unearned runs as the Indians won. He continued to pitch well throughout the early stages of the season and was a major reason the Tribe found itself in 1st place with a 3.5 game lead heading into Memorial Day weekend. Up to that point, Lowe had put together the following stat line:

9 starts, 8 quality starts (including a shutout in Minnesota), 58.2 innings, and a 2.15 ERA

To look at that, Lowe was a Cy Young candidate as the season rolled into summer. Looking closer, he'd only struck out 15 hitters in those 58.2 innings, giving him a K/9 innings rate of 2.30. To give that figure a little context, only one pitcher in the last 25 years has finished a season (and qualified for pitching rate stats) with a K/9 rate that low (the immortal Nate Cornejo, in 2003). The last pitcher with a figure that low who was a league average pitcher or better (as measured by ERA+, in which 100 is league average) was Bill Lee, in 1978. Basically, Lowe was going to have to start striking more guys out, or he was going to start getting hit hard.

Get hit hard he did.

On May 26th Lowe gave up 8 runs on 10 hits and couldn't escape the 3rd inning against the White Sox. Between that start and the end of Lowe's time in Cleveland, his line wasn't quite as pretty:

12 starts, 60.1 IP (not once did he last 7 innings), 27 BB to 26 K, a 1.96 WHIP (!), and an 8.80 ERA (double-!!)

At that point the Indians decided to cut their losses, and Lowe was released. In the end, the best thing that can be said about Lowe's 2012 season is that he was allowed to go pitch for New York, where he's helped the Yankees lose a couple games.

Final 2012 pitching line with Indians:

Year Age Tm W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
2012 39 CLE 8 10 5.52 21 1 1 119.0 156 79 73 8 45 41 71 1.689 11.8 0.6 3.4 3.1

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com

That's not good. Among all pitchers with 100+ IP, here are some rankings for Lowe's season:

* 24th worst ERA in franchise history

* 12th worst ERA+ in franchise history

* 13th worst WHIP in franchise history

* 7th worst H/9 in franchise history

* worst K/9 in franchise history since 1984

Lowe's time in Cleveland was short, but he managed to make his mark on the team's all-time leader boards, so he's got that going for him, which is nice.

Place in Indians 2013 Plans: Maybe the Tribe will get to face him!

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