After he got that shot, Lowe started pitching like an all new man. He tweaked his sinker a little bit, and started pitching like the Derek Lowe of old. In September, Lowe threw 30 2/3 innings, allowed 4 runs, 1 homer, walked 3, and stuck out 29 on his way to a 5-0 record and the NL Pitcher of the Month award for the final month of the regular season. Where in the hell was this guy when the Braves needed him to post a K:BB of something like 3:1 instead of the 107:58 mark he put up during the first 5 months of the season? Lowe's strong September has given Braves fans a reason to be optimistic going into 2011.
But when you crunch the entire season together, Lowe's second year in Atlanta was overall better than his first. His ERA fell from 4.67 to 4.00, and his FIP also dropped, from 4.06 to 3.89. Not that the FIP drop is much of one, but its still a decrease. Lowe bumped his strikeout rate by more than a batter per inning, from a near career low 5.13 up to 6.32. His walk rate remained above his career average, at 2.83 per 9 innings. One thing that may be a little worrisome: Lowe's groundball rate was still way below his career average, which is 62.9%. Lowe's first two seasons in Atlanta couldn't crack the 60% mark. If Lowe is able to get the ball on the ground just a little more next season, he could be a force if his strikeout rate stays up.
The Braves aren't expecting Lowe to be the ace they thought he would be when they signed him two years ago. With Tommy Hanson pitching like the stud that everyone projected him to be, and Tim Hudson having a stellar comeback year, Lowe and Jair Jurrjens can worry about being the #3 pitcher in the Braves rotation. When you've got a #3 or #4 pitcher who was a pitcher of the month in the last full month of the season, you've got something special going in your rotation. Lowe could thrive with less pressure on him, pitching further back in the Braves rotation. I'm expecting big things from Lowe in 2011, despite him turning 38 on June 1st.