Derek Lowe, last 7 starts:
OPS against: .458
It gets better. He’s 5th in the National League in WHIP this year, ahead of some names you might recognize – Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, Tim Lincecum, and Jake Peavy. Most of what I’ve liked about Lowe in his Dodger career is how consistent and reliable he’s been; in his four years here, his ERA has been within a 0.40 range every season, and as he’s never been on the disabled list in his career, he makes every start. You know what you’re going to get from Derek Lowe, and that’s 30+ starts, 200+ innings, an ERA about a run or so better than the league average, and a surprisingly mediocre record because he never gets any run support. Plus, if you should be lucky enough to make it to October, he’s battle tested from his days in Boston. With all the volatility and injuries you see in an average starting rotation, having a guy like that is unbelievably valuable. Paul DePodesta really ought to be getting a Nobel Prize for that 4 year, $36 million deal he signed Lowe to after 2004. Instead, he got a swift kick in the ass. Oh well, nearly as good.
Except that this year, consistency be damned. Lowe’s had 4 months with an ERA of roughly 3 (April, June, July, and August), 1 month where he was absolutely horrible (0-4, 6.11 in May), and now a month where he’s been untouchable (0.89 in 3 September starts). It all adds up to the second-best year of his career as a starter, behind only his 2002 campaign in which he finished 3rd in the AL Cy Young voting. 2008 has seen Lowe set non-2002 career highs in WHIP and ERA+ (as a starter; remember, he was an All-Star closer in Boston first). Since all signs point to the Dodgers making it to October (*notajinxnotajinxnotajinx*), how bad-ass does a 1/2 of Billingsley/Lowe look? It might not be Sabathia/Sheets or Zambrano/Harden, I suppose. But I’d certainly take it over Santana/Pelfrey or Hamels/Myers.
We’ll have a lot more on Lowe’s impending free agency after the season. However, today we’ve also got to discuss another veteran starter who has a contract decision coming up: Brad Penny. He’s been pretty bad in his first two appearances out of the bullpen, but I think a lot of people (okay, me) chalked that up to the rust accumulated by not being able to go on a minor league rehab stint. But now there’s this from ESPN’s Buster Olney:
Heard this: Brad Penny‘s season is likely over, after he threw in the ball in the 83-84 mph range the other day.
I thought that was interesting, because we haven’t seen the possibility of his season “likely” being over from any of the local guys, and it’s unusual for a national guy to pick up on something like that first. Besides, in his first time back, velocity was not the problem. Against San Diego on Sept. 10, Penny threw fastballs on 16 of his 17 pitches, nearly all of which were between 93-96 MPH. Now I’m no doctor, but if you can still hit 96, it seems to me like there’s not a major injury there. No, Penny didn’t get an out, but he didn’t get hit all that hard either. He walked one, gave up a single to left, and an infield hit. It’s hardly surprising that his control would be off after his layoff, and besides, if you’re throwing almost entirely fastballs, you can’t expect to be fooling anyone.
In his second time out against the Pirates on Sept. 15, Penny threw only 13 pitches. Granted, he gave up an asbolute bomb of a home run to Adam LaRoche, and that’s not good. That said, getting 3 outs on 13 pitches generally is pretty good. More importantly, however, is Olney’s assertion that he was only getting up “in the 83-84 mph range.” According to MLB gameday, Penny threw only 5 fastballs against 5 curveballs and 3 changeups. His fastball was down from the first time out, staying in the 87-91 range (though still above what Olney said; was he counting the changeups?) Even so, he was able to induce three groundouts (I know, I know, and a single and a homer.)
My point is, we’re talking about a guy who missed a month and had no chance to go on a rehab assignment. His first time back, it’s almost entirely fastballs – doesn’t that sound exactly like what pitchers do in spring training, working on their pitches regardless of the results? His second time out, he started working on the other pitches too, and while giving up a homer isn’t a good thing, it wasn’t a total disaster either.
Hey, it’s more than possible that Buster Olney knows something that I don’t. I just find it hard to believe he’s found out something that none of Dodger beat writers know.
That said, I’m posting this at 8:42am PST. I fully expect to receive the press release saying that Penny is on the 60-day DL by 9am.
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness