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40 Players in 40 Days: Derek Lowe

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Braves fans and bloggers have spilled lots of digital ink venting their frustration with Derek Lowe.  He was paid $60 million over four years to come in and be an "ace," and instead he's come in and posted an ERA higher than any of the other five starters on the Braves' staff.  Lots of fans appear willing to trade him for nothing more than salary relief, even if that means eating a significant portion of the last three years of his deal.

But looking at Lowe's ERA doesn't tell the whole story.  Yes, his strikeout rate is down from his sparkling 2008 campaign, and his walk rate is up, but his 3.78 FIP is still darn respectable, and in fact his peripheral rates are incredibly similar to his 2006 campaign in which he posted a 3.63 ERA.  What's different this year is his .331 BABIP, which is 35 points higher than his unluckiest year in Dodger Blue (2007), even though there was only a negligible rise in his line drive rate.  For a guy that pitches to contact as much as Lowe does, those extra hits make a huge difference.

It doesn't help that Chipper Jones has been absolutely atrocious playing third base, Martin Prado and Kelly Johnson haven't exactly sparkled on D, and even Yunel Escobar's UZR is negative.  That sort of thing kills a groundball machine like Lowe, so perhaps it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to trade Lowe to a team that can put a decent infield behind him.  Even more efficient, though, would be to try to make some strides on defense so that your $60 million man can play his game and be a top-end starter once again.

The bottom line: Any winter trade scenario involving Lowe is likely a pipe dream, unless Wren is unwise enough to simply pay another team to take him off the Braves' hands.  With a little help from his defense, there's no reason why Lowe can't be a #2 starter once again in short order.

Author's note: The statistics in this post were compiled prior to Lowe's final start.  After five walks and just one strikeout over 4 2/3 innings against the Nationals, his FIP rose to 4.06, and his BABIP fell to .330.

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