The Derek Lowe sweepstakes is in full effect. Oh, you didn’t notice? Neither did most of the MLB. However our beloved Rockies have made a move of sorts. Even if it could be considered slightly insulting to a veteran of 16 years, the Rockies have once again offered Lowe a minor league contract. From a fan’s point of view most of us have to be saying, “Hey, at least he isn’t 50!”. The 39-year old pitcher has definitely seen better times than his recent tour with Cleveland and New York, but perhaps a change of scenery is just what he needs. Perhaps the friendly confines of Coors Field is just what the doctor ordered…
Still not buying it? Me either. I guess I’ll have to come up with some better justification as to why Derek Lowe could be an anchor for the Colorado Rockies rotation in 2013.
Let’s start with some basics.
Derek Lowe is a real, true inning eater. I know, I know. That is the same excuse the front office used last year when we traded away Jason Hammel and flamethrower Matt Lindstrom for Jeremy Guthrie. But Lowe really does gobble up innings, and I don’t see him flopping the way Guthrie did. The reasoning is simple: Guthrie obviously let Coors get inside his mind, Lowe is completely familiar with Coors. He spent 4 years with the LA Dodgers, eating up 200+ innings in 3 of the 4 years. He also took the Dodgers to the postseason twice, and posted a .529 winning percentage. This is against a healthy dose of NL West teams. Oh, by the way, the Rockies play in the NL West.
Derek Lowe still has his stuff. He just hasn’t had the opportunities lately to showcase it. In the world of stats and sabremetrics, I am drawn to one pitching stat in particular — FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching. This to me is a true look at pitching, showing what a man’s ERA should have been over time while canceling out the effects of fielding. In the FIP world a value under 4.00 is above average. So as I start to rattle off numbers, think of them the same way you would an ERA — they’re just more dialed in.
In 2012, a year of struggle and trades, Lowe threw out a 4.40 FIP. That’s not horrible, and considerably better than most all of the Rockies current rotation. In 2011, his last season with Atlanta when he went a measly 9-17, he posted a 3.94 FIP. The Rockies currently don’t have a single starting pitcher with a career FIP under 4.00. Chris Volstad, another pitcher the Rockies have brought in with hopes he will help their rotation, has a disgusting career FIP of 4.83. Derek Lowe’s career FIP is 3.93. What’s even better? In 4 years with the Dodgers Lowe posted a 3.83 FIP! Now obviously that was 5 years ago and Lowe was.. 5 years younger. But I find it very encouraging that he showed an above average FIP in a recent losing season. And I hate to be a broken record but he has shown moderate success against the NL West which is something the Rockies seem to constantly struggle with.
If he is nothing else, he is (currently) cheap. Sorry Derek, but facts are facts. No one is offering up a major league contract. Heck, no one is even offering a competing minor league contract to the Rockies. We all know that beloved day is right around the corner (Pitchers and Catchers report!) and it might be time to go ahead and bite the bullet, big guy. Sure there is always the hope that some contender would come to you mid-season with the prospect of reaching the playoffs — even from the bullpen. But I don’t see that happening.
What I am really leaning on is the hope that Lowe is a competitor and will not want to sit for half a year. If worse came to worse Lowe could be the stopgap the Rockies need at the start of the season while some young arms get innings in Colorado Springs. Maybe the Rox could even flip him for a prospect by July.
At the end of the day I really like this minor move by the Rockies to pick up a veteran pitcher to bolster their staff. Of the few moves the Rockies have attempted this off-season this one actually makes some sense to me. It will be interesting to see if Derek takes the bait and comes to Salt River Fields next week ready to put a bandaid on a suffering rotation.