Derek Lowe is not a stranger to most baseball fans. From his days as the Red Sox closer, to being a 20 game winner in his first full season in the rotation, the Dodger's sinker throwing righty will be the Cubs first postseason test in 2008.
While Lowe hasn't shown the same dominance he had in that great season in 2002 (21-8, 2.58 ERA, 0.97 WHP), he's been a solid starter every year, posting at least 182 innings and 32 starts. This season, he's gotten better and better, finishing September with a 30.1 innings, 19 K's, just six walks and no home runs. Lowe's ERA for the month was just 0.59, allowing only two earned runs in five starts.
Lowe's bread-and-butter is a sinking two-seam fastball. He doesn't throw it exceptionally hard, but it sinks and sinks, as does his change-up. Throw in a pretty good slider, and you have a three-pitch guy who can front a rotation.
Before moving on to the details of his stuff, what he throws overall is, perhaps, most important. In 2008, Derek Lowe has started using more sliders than last year. As 2008 has progressed, Lowe's been throwing less change-ups. Click the image to enlarge.
Lowe's change-up (a circle change, based on photos you can find on Google) comes out of his hand around 85-87 mph, and only moves about three inches down and in, relative to his sinker. The sinker sits around 90, maxing at 94.1 (going back to 2007, over 5000 total pitches). It's nothing more than a two-seam fastball, but the action is down and away from righties. So is the change's action, but more down and less away. The slider is a touch faster than the change, and is a pretty typical looking slide piece.
This first graph (click to enlarge) shows the average difference in movement from the actual pitches thrown to the same pitches without spin. The flight paths below are more helpful. Together, they give you an idea of what type of stuff Lowe has, and how it moves.
A 0 value on the vertical axis means the ball dropped as much as you'd predict by gravity alone. Most fastballs "rise" relative to gravity (but do still drop a little in reality), by as much as 12-15 inches. To a hitter's eye, Lowe's heat is sinking like a stone.
Pitch effectiveness - click the table headers to sort ....
That's pretty good stuff. Lots of strikes, except for the change. Lowe tends to keep that out of the zone, and almost only uses it against left-handed hitters. And he keeps it away from them. Actually, most of his pitches stay away from the strike zone, thanks, for the most part, to the sinking action.
Here's what Lowe throws on each count
|#||B||S||LHH||CH LHH||F2 LHH||SL LHH||RHH||CH RHH||F2 RHH||SL RHH|
Game 1 will be a good battle. I'll have more on the Cubs 11 playoff pitchers before, during, and after the game.