Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This is the story about a man named Jed

The Red Sox should never make trades with the Houston Astros. In what might be the beantowner's second worst trade since Bagwell, the team from Boston sent Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland for Mark Melancon. And sure, Melancon did have a severe meltdown early for the Red Sox, but he's pitching really well at Triple A and he can still help the team from Boston. Even so,the Astros got a steal. Jed Lowrie is currently the third best shortstop in baseball according to Fangraphs, behind only the miracle rebirth of Furcal and the consistently good Andrus.

To be fair to the Red Sox, Mike Aviles, the guy the Red Sox chose over Lowrie is currently ranked the fourth best shortstop, right behind Lowrie. But the only thing keeping them close is the obscure base running ranking. Aviles is given 1.9 runs for his efforts on the base paths while Lowrie is given a negative rating there. But at this point, if you take away that metric, Lowrie is having a far better season than Aviles. And the Red Sox can't be happy with Aviles' current 3.8 percent walk rate.

It seems hard to understand, in hindsight, why the Red Sox would have given up on Lowrie. Yes, he had trouble staying healthy the last couple of years, he was a former Number One draft pick for that team back in 2005. But before that, he seemed exactly the kind of player the Red Sox covet. His minor league on-base percentage was over .380 and though last year did not pan out in 341 plate appearances for the Red Sox, those 88 games were the first regular playing time Lowrie had received in his young career. And he's always had a decent slugging percentage for a shortstop too.

But that's all a moot point as Jed Lowrie has moved on and now plays shortstop for the Astros. And much like his team, led by manager, Brad Mills, Lowrie personifies that hard-working, never-say-die attitude this over-achieving Astros team has displayed thus far. And sure, both the Astros and Lowrie could sink like a stone as the season wears on, but the view here is that Lowrie's season is the real deal.

Why is that the view? Because you can't fake patience at the plate. That is a skill that is not prone to slumps. And this year, Jed Lowrie is only swinging at 21.1 percent of pitches out of the strike zone (according to Pitch/FX, Fangraphs has him at 16 percent). Lowrie's career rate at that metric is 21.4 percent, so this is who he is. His 10.8 percent walk rate can actually go higher as the season progresses.

And Lowrie puts the ball in play. He only has a 5.6 swinging strike rate, which is very low. And his BABIP is .304, which is perfectly reasonable. There seems to be no reason not to believe that he can't keep his average in the .280 range and improve slightly on his current .365 on-base percentage. Lowrie is a switch hitter, so he won't get lost in match up battle late in the game and his power thus far is not a surprise to someone who has watched a lot of Red Sox games over the years. His seven homers has already eclipsed his last season totals for the Red Sox.

Lowrie leads the Astros in OPS and is playing his position at short in solid fashion. His was the exact kind of deal the Astros need to make in the coming seasons to fix a long-term lack of drafting and player acquisition problem that has plagued the Astros. If this deal is any indication of the new team in place in Houston, then they are off to a great start. As for the Red Sox, well...the deal wasn't quite as bad as that Bagwell thing.


John Green said...

I don't think the Red Sox ever questioned Jed Lowries offensive skills, but his defense was shaky at best while with the Sox and he had trouble staying healthy. Personally I'm happy for the kid, he deserved a chance to excel and he's getting it now. Good for him.

netherton said...

Interesting analysis of Jed Lowrie. I wonder if that is perhaps a glimpse into Cardinals fans future with Tyler Greene. Not injuries as with Lowrie, but MLB yips (courtesy of TLR, I suppose).

It is always interesting when a team trades away a young player and their flourish elsewhere. The Red Sox did get value for Lowrie though - Melancon has some seriously good stuff. Hope he gets back to the big leagues soon.

Jonathan C. Mitchell said...

I was working on a Lowrie piece and this trumps mine. Great work! Scrapping my piece now because it just looks like a weak copycat of yours. Haha!