Scouting The Trade Market: Derek Lowe

Three offseasons ago, everyone knew that the Yankees were going to make a major run at CC Sabathia. The rest of their starting pitching plans were a little unclear, but it seemed like a safe bet that they were going to pursue another free agent starter. They ultimately landed A.J. Burnett, but the other candidate was the sinkerballing Derek Lowe, who ended up with the Braves.

Atlanta has the most pitching depth in baseball, even after trading Rodrigo Lopez to the Cubs last week. Aside from their five Opening Day starters (Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and the currently DL’ed Brandon Beachy), they also had top prospects Mike Minor and Julio Teheran in Triple-A and the lesser known but still effect Todd Redmond. The Braves are very much in contention and maintain that they have no interest in trading Lowe, but everyone has a price. Let’s start with the cons…

The Cons

  • It’s hard to believe, but Lowe will turn 38 on June 1st. And with that age comes with a loss of velocity, as his famed sinker now sits more 86-89 than 89-91 like it did a few years ago.
  • Lowe would be more than just a second half rental. He’s under contract next season for the decidedly not team friendly price of $15M. He makes the same amount this year, so he’ll cost about $2.5M per month the rest of the way. That is no bargain.
  • It’s been more than six years since Lowe pitched in the American League or in a hitter’s ballpark.
  • Lowe’s recent DUI case was thrown out, but it’s still an unnecessary distraction and an obvious character flaw.

The Pros

  • Despite his age and declining velocity, Lowe is still really effective. His 55.8% ground ball rate this year is his worst since the data started being recorded in 2002, but it’s still a top ten mark in all of baseball.
  • Lowe is one of the most durable pitchers in the game, throwing at least 190 innings in each of the last six years and in eight of the last nine. In the one off year, he still made it to the mound for 182.2 IP.
  • Lowe’s strikeout rate has actually been going up over the last few years, and right now it sits at 7.79 K/9 with 9.2% swings and misses. Both of those are career highs as a starter. Those whiffs are the result of an increased using of his sharp slider, which is often mistaken for a cutter. He’s also throwing his changeup more than ever as well.
  • I don’t put too much stock in postseason track record, but it can’t be a bad thing that Lowe owns a 3.30 ERA in 76.1 playoffs innings since becoming a full-time starter in 2002. He’s also pitched in the World Series, for what it’s worth.

One thing to keep in mind: all those ground balls are great because dinky little seeing eye singles are better than the extra base hits that tend to result from fly balls, but the Yankees have a pretty poor defensively infield. Aside from Mark Teixeira, everyone is below-average now that Robinson Cano seemingly forgot how to use his glove.

Lowe’s contract is far from ideal, but you’d have to think the Braves would be willing to eat some of it to move him. They simply won’t get anything of value back if they don’t. Part of the problem is that Atlanta doesn’t have any obvious needs. Jason Heyward is out with a shoulder issue, but when he’s healthy their outfield is pretty much set (Heyward, Nate McLouth, and Martin Prado). None of their four infielders (Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, Alex Gonzalez, and Chipper Jones) are going anywhere, and neither is catcher Brian McCann. They have pitching as well. Of course these things have a way of changing and quickly, but right now there’s no obvious trade match between these two clubs even though Lowe’s appears to be one of the better trade candidates out there.

The RAB Radio Show: May 31, 2011

It’s been an odd West Coast trip so far. The Yanks have held their own against four very good, if not great in some cases, pitchers. Yet they’re only 2-2 to this point. Mike and I talk about the frustrations of Friday and Saturday, and then look forward to see what could change in the next couple of weeks.

Podcast run time 23:10

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

2011 Draft: Keith Law’s Mock Draft v2.0

Keith Law’s latest mock draft went up behind the iron curtain of Insider yesterday, and this time he has the Pirates taking UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole first overall. “The Pirates are still seriously on Danny Hultzen and Bubba Starling,” says KLaw, “and I wouldn’t rule Anthony Rendon out entirely, but my gut tells me right now they’ll find Cole’s raw stuff — he hit 101 for me on Friday night and touched 100 many times, including in the eighth inning — too good to pass up.” He had them taking Hultzen last time, and MLBTR summarized the rest of the mock nicely.

The Yankee don’t have a first round pick, but Law provides some info on which players could fall due to bonus demands, so check it out.

Looking back at recent complete game shutouts

After going an AL record 341 games between nine-inning complete games, the Yankees have received two such efforts in the last week. CC Sabathia did the honors against the Blue Jays last Tuesday and Bartolo Colon did the same to the Athletics yesterday, but you might remember that Sabathia’s was not a shutout. He allowed four runs in the early innings of that game before settling down. A big reason why the Yankees have had so few complete games (shutouts or otherwise) in recent years is Mariano Rivera, and that’s a pretty damn good reason. In honor of Colon’s gem, let’s look back at the last five complete game shutouts thrown by Yankees’ pitchers.

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

CC Sabathia (May 8th, 2009 vs. Orioles)

This game is more memorable for Alex Rodriguez than Sabathia. After missing the first 28 games of the season due to his hip surgery, A-Rod returned to the lineup in Baltimore and promptly hit a three run homerun on the first pitch in his first at-bat. That swing gave the Yankees a lead Sabathia would protect for all nine innings, allowing four hits and a walk on 112 pitches. Two of those hits led off the ninth, but CC rebounded to punch out the next three for outs numbers 25, 26, and 27. This was Sabathia’s “welcome to New York” moment of sorts; he came into the game with a 4.85 ERA and the Yankees were just 2-4 in his starts. (Game Score: 86)

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Chien-Ming Wang (July 28th, 2006 vs. Devil Rays)

Two years before his career effectively ended while running the bases in Houston (sob sob), CMW tossed nine shutout and fairly typical CMW innings against the team former known as the Devil Rays at home. He struck out just one of the 30 batters he faced, getting 19 ground ball outs and seven in the air. Tampa didn’t put a man on base until the fifth inning, when they got one of their two hits. It was vintage Chien-Ming Wang, he threw just 104 pitches thanks to the impatient Devil Rays’ batters. (Game Score: 82)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Aaron Small (Sept. 3rd, 2005 vs. Athletics)

Yep, Aaron Small. Fun fact: He made just nine starts in 2005 despite that 10-0 record. The other win came in long relief. The Yankees gave Small just one run of support through the first six innings, so his margin for error was small. He allowed five hits and two walks on 112 pitches, but only once did Oakland have two runners on base at the same time. Small struck out just three, getting most of the other outs in the air and on line drives. Good thing he was pitching in spacious Whatever They Called It Back Then Coliseum. (Game Score: 78).

Mike Mussina (June 14th, 2005 vs. Pirates)

It wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Pirates put someone on base, and Bernie Williams saved the shutout by throwing a runner out at the plate in the sixth inning. No, seriously. Bernie really threw a runner (Matt Lawton) out at the plate. Moose struck out six and walked one, surrendering five hits in this game, throwing a tidy 109 pitches in the interleague matchup. The Yankees scored seven runs before the fifth inning was over, making life a little easier for their starter. (Game Score: 82)

(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Carl Pavano (May 17th, 2005 vs. Mariners)

Pavano didn’t do much for the Yankees, so this game was easily his best in pinstripes. This was before the days of the completely punchless Mariners offense, and Pavano allowed just five singles and a hit batsman against seven strikeouts. Two of those hits came in the fourth inning and another two came in the ninth, when the Yankees were up six-zip. This was Pavano’s ninth start of the season, and he’d make just 17 more over the next three and a half seasons with New York. (Game Score: 84)

* * *

Moose owns four of the six complete game shutouts before those five games, with the other two going to Roger Clemens and David Wells. Boomer actually threw nine complete game shutouts in pinstripes, six more than Andy Pettitte did in 273 fewer starts. Wow. Here’s a list of all 806 CG SHO in Yankees’ history.

Colon dominates A’s in Memorial Day shutout

Like a boss. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

How did you celebrate Memorial Day? Bartolo Colon honored those who gave their lives defending this country by throwing a complete game shutout, and I doubt you did something as cool as that. The Athletics managed to hit just seven (!!!) balls out of the infield in nine innings, and two of those balls were leadoff doubles that did not come around to score. The final tally: nine innings, four hits, no walks, six strikeouts, eleven ground balls, and just 103 pitches. Amazing. That’s what Colon has been. Amazing.

As for the rest of the team … Mark Teixeira hit a first inning two-run homer, his seventh jack in eleven games. Robinson Cano doubled and tripled, Frankie Cervelli and Brett Gardner each stole two bases, and Nick Swisher even managed to reach base twice (single and a walk). Solid day all around and a textbook win. Great pitching, the long ball, and a few manufactured runs. Everyone’s happy.

The Yankees have won two in a row, four of six, six of nine, and nine of 13. They also held multi-run leads in their two most recent losses, so those games were winnable. RAB will back to normal on Tuesday, when Freddy Garcia gives it a go against Brett Anderson. Here’s the WPA graph and box score of Bartolo gem.

Betances strong in Trenton win

Triple-A Scranton (8-5 loss to Indianapolis)
Austin Krum, LF: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 RBI
Ramiro Pena, SS: 0 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K
Jesus Montero, DH: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 K
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 0 for 4, 2 K, 1 E (missed a catch)
Justin Maxwell, CF: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 2 K
Brandon Laird, 3B, Kevin Russo, 2B & Dan Brewer, RF: all 2 for 4, 1 R – Laird and Russo doubled, Brewer whiffed and caught stealing … Laird also committed a fielding error
Gus Molina, C: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K
Adam Warren, RHP: 6 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 5-6 GB/FB – 53 of 92 pitches were strikes (57.6%)
Kanekoa Texeira, RHP: 1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3-0 GB/FB – 20 of 32 pitches were strikes (62.5%)
George Kontos, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB – eight of his dozen pitches were strikes

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