Derek Lowe pitching his way onto the postseason roster

Yanks place three on Baseball America's Top 20 Sally League Prospects list
Missing in Action: Clay Rapada
(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

When the Yankees signed Derek Lowe in August it was tough to think of it as an impact move. Lowe had started off the season well enough, pitching to a 3.06 ERA through his first 11 starts. But then that nearly 1:1 K/BB ratio started catching up with him. His next 10 starts were pure disaster, an 8.77 ERA and more walks than strikeouts. At this late stage in his career, it was tough to expect anything of him. If not for the injury to CC Sabathia, the Yankees might not even have signed Lowe in the first place.

Yet Lowe came onto the scene strong, holding down the fort for the final four innings against Texas, preserving a win for David Phelps. But it didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off again. He allowed at least one run in each of his next six outings, which included a blown game against Toronto. It seemed like the end of meaningful appearances for Lowe. But after last night’s two-inning win, perhaps Lowe has changed some opinions. It might have punched his ticket to the postseason roster.

No, we should not evaluate Lowe based on a single performance. If we did that we could just as easily base it on the one-out, four-hit, two-run appearance he had against Baltimore a month ago. Or we could even look to the crazy 10-9 win over Oakland a couple of weeks ago, when Lowe allowed the tying run that pushed the game into extras. The case for Lowe on the postseason roster involves a brief but positive trend, coupled with a generally positive performance in pinstripes.

Since signing with the Yankees in mid-August Lowe has thrown 23.2 innings in 17 appearances, holding opponents to a .261/.306/.370 line. That’s not elite, but it’s serviceable for a middle reliever who can go multiple innings. He has also managed to keep home runs in check while striking out more than twice the number he’s walked. He has also kept inherited runners in check, allowing just one of nine to score. Again, not world-beating, but certainly worthy of consideration.

Furthermore, Lowe has stepped up his game since sitting down for nine days in mid-September. Since coming in to relieve a knocked-around Phil Hughes during the doubleheader against Toronto, Lowe has allowed just seven hits in 12.1 innings, striking out five and walking four (one intentional). He has allowed just two runs in that span and has held opponents to a .171/.244/.171 line. Yes, he has not allowed an extra base hit in that time, which is one reason why he’s kept runs off the board. (In fact, he hasn’t allowed an extra base hit all month.)

When evaluating pitchers for postseason rosters, we needn’t consider the whole picture. What a pitcher did in April probably has little bearing on what he’ll do in October. The season goes through phases, and as we’ve seen so many times in the past the hot hand prevails. Lowe has certainly been on a hot streak lately, which should be enough to warrant an LDS roster spot. They do have an extra spot, as only six of seven bullpen spots seem set in stone (Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, David Phelps). The Yanks could go with Cody Eppley, but they might prefer someone who can give them length and perhaps face a lefty or two.

Even when the Yankees signed Lowe it didn’t appear he’d be a strong candidate for the postseason roster. They did, after all, sign him after he’d been cut by the Indians, who had little to gain or lose by releasing him. After his first few performances it looked like he’d be out of consideration, but he’s changed that perception in the last few weeks — a time when the Yankees needed him the most. The performance last night in Boston might have just put his name onto the ALDS roster.

Yanks place three on Baseball America's Top 20 Sally League Prospects list
Missing in Action: Clay Rapada
  • gc

    It’s Mike Francesa’s new favorite play-ah!

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      he was going on and on about him yesterday. by the way, pretty certain francesa is going to screw us, he keeps taking about how dice k is so horrible. really hoping he doesn’t toss a gem for his last red sox start. i don’t have a ton of confidence in hirok tonight, but i hope that we can get a quick 5-6 runs against dice k

  • Yankees Win

    So I guess the first question would be, do you factor Nova being off the roster all together? Understandably, but wanted to see if you penciled him elsewhere. I’m guessing he is a flat out no for the bullpen, correct?

    I agree with everything you said and mostly for the reason that Lowe keeps the ball on the ground. That in itself has immense value. So many possible scenarios, but if the Yanks are in a pinch and Joba and Robertson are for whatever reason unavailable, Lowe would be a better candidate than the others mentioned. I imagine Phelps is a few pegs higher on the chart in non Joba and D-Rob situations, but I rather Lowe at this point over Eppley for that back up.

    • JonS

      I’d say no just because Nova doesn’t have a track record out of the pen.

  • Mike

    So I say there’s a very good chance then he makes the postseason over Nova. There’s no way the Yankees are bringing Phelps, Lowe, Nova and Garcia. They’ll bring 2, if not then a max 3 of them.

    With Ibanez getting recent AB’s against LHP, this tells me Andruw Jones is finished. So my best guess for the postseason roster:

    C- Martin
    1B- Tex
    2B- Cano
    SS- Jeter
    3B- A-Rod
    LF- Ichiro
    CF- Granderson
    RF- Swisher
    DH- Ibanez
    Bench – Stewart
    Bench – Chavez
    Bench – Nunez
    Bench- Gardner

    SP- CC
    SP- Pettitte
    SP- Kuroda
    SP- Hughes
    RP – Joba
    RP- Logan
    RP- Eppley
    RP- Rapada
    RP- Lowe
    RP- Phelps
    RP- Robertson
    RP- Soriano

    So of the players who have been on the roster for most of the year, I see Jones, Garcia and Nova missing out

    • Tim

      I agree with those guys except I don’t think Eppley makes it. I don’t know what other position player they want to take instead (I would say Nix if he was healthy) but probably McGahee to give them a RH pinch hitter off the bench and another insurance policy at 1B/3B since they would be thin if their was an injury.

      • Mike

        I don’t think they’d go with 5 bench players. And why would Eppley be out?

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      I’m not sure they’d carry 8 relievers for the playoffs. I think there is still at least a chance one of Jones/McGehee makes the bench (probably in place of Eppley).

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I agree. I see the extra bench guy over 12 pitchers. I think either Eppley or Lowe sit it out, Nova’s on the outside looking in, and Andruw Jones will have to dig deep into his pockets for some veteran presents.

  • Stebo For President

    And henceforth, he shall forever be known as “Bone Logan”.

  • Robert

    D’LOWE will blow up in the playoffs,send him home!!!!

  • Jorge (México)

    I agree with the roster Mike posted 3 comments above, except for one guy. I’d have Chris Dickerson as a 5th bench spot rather than Coddy Eppley as an 8th reliever. All the rest of the roster, that’s exactly what I think

    • Mike

      Why is everyone against Eppley? I’m not saying he’s great or anything but he’s still a key piece I think especially for a 7th innning in a game. Can’t go Jo-Ro-So every game out there. And you certainly can’t put Rapada or Logan against a RHB.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting

        It’s the playoffs. There’s enough off days built in where if the game is at all close, it should be Jo-Ro-So every game out. In games that aren’t that close, Phelps or Lowe could handle those innings.
        Normally teams use fewer relievers in the postseason than normal, so there isn’t much reason to carry 8 relievers. I would think Jo-Ro-So, Logan, and Rapada are probably locks. The last 2 spots would go to 2 of Phelps, Lowe, and Eppley. Since Eppley’s limited to short ROOGY stints, I’d think Lowe and Phelps would offer more flexibility. It seems like Lowe has become a definite now based on his recent usage, so it will come down to Eppley or Phelps (or only a 4 man bench).

  • CountryClub

    I’d be shocked if Lowe isn’t on the roster. Especially if Nova or Garcia gets his spot. It seems pretty clear based on the past few games that Girardi trusts him. And, to his credit, Lowe has come through.

  • Mike N

    Loving the Billy Martin kicking-dirt-on-ump picture in the sidebar!

    And yeah, Lowe has been really good since he’s been hired.

  • Darren

    It’s funny how everyone absolutely killed Lowe when he DFA’s, even though he had a lot of upside and was at zero cost. It never seemed that far fetched that he would thrive in a relief/swing role on a 1st place team after being overexposed as a starter for a horrible team.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      We see a veteran who looks like he’s on the way down, and we begin to believe that the only possible path is a straight line further down. There’s always alternate possibilities and what a change in role/scenery can do, regardless of age or immediate performance.

      When Nova went down (that’s when Lowe was signed, right?), Lowe was the first name which came to mind for me. He’d recently been DFA’d, and it was the time of the season where I want veterans and people who have sniffed a postseason race before. He was absolutely worth the shot. He’s done the reasonable job he was asked to do thus far.

      • Darren

        Then you and me were the only ones on that boat. I seem to remember a lot of scoffing and proverbial eye rolling at the thought that he could help us. I was willing to give him a lot of credit for how he performed against us in 2004, even that was 8 years ago while most SABR heads felt it was neigh impossible to have any success now that he’s old.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          Well, when a team DFA’s an older guy who has performed poorly this season, it’s easy to think that he’s done. Fortunately, Lowe has proven most of us wrong.

  • Curtis

    I hate the thought of Derek Lowe pitching high leverage innings in the postseason. I have a feeling that’s gonna come back to bite the yanks.

    • MannyGeee

      you realize that every inning is ‘high leverage’ starting right now, right? if there is any single pitch thrown from here on through that is NOT high leverage, then something went horribly wrong because youre likely down by 8 runs.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Exactly. Well said.

  • MannyGeee

    also… so much veterans presents!

  • Bill

    I would really like to see Eppley on the roster. His inability to get lefties out is bad in the regular season because of the grinding schedule and need for length on certain days. Eppley could be huge for some big righty batters and could get some key double plays.

  • Joe F

    I’ll be happy to see him when we’re beating a team 10-0.

    • Billy

      Did you watch last night or Sunday?

    • Billy

      Did you watch last night or Sunday?

  • Laz

    He is still making $15M this year. Just lucky the Indians are paying almost all of it.

  • Laz

    He is still making $15M this year. Just lucky the Indians are paying almost all of it.