metafrantic (metafrantic) wrote in baseballblog,

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Mike Lowell... remember him?

How come Boston fans are so excited about J.D. Drew, but no one's talking about Mike Lowell? Okay, yes, Drew is finally earning his $14m per year, but how about the $12.5m for Lowell?

When the Sox signed Lowell to his 3-year deal back in November, a great many critics chided them for giving him so much money coming off a career year. His splits between home and away games was dramatic, and he set a number of offensive career highs; most people complained that he had no chance of approaching those numbers again.

But in this post, I suggested that Lowell was the best available choice for the Sox: I argued that Lowell's home/away splits were a good thing, giving him a big advantage to produce at Fenway. To quote myself from that article:

"...with his athleticism and his swing, there's no reason to think that he can't find a happy medium between his 2007 numbers (.324/.378/.501/.879) and his 2006 numbers (.284/.339/.475/.814). If Lowell averages .295/.360/.485/.845, along with his perennial 22 HR and 40 doubles, that's a very solid line."

Here are the numbers I suggested, and his 2008 numbers so far:

Suggested: .295/.360/.485/.845, 22 HR, 40 2B in 589 AB
'08 so far: .299/.362/.520/.882, 13 HR, 21 2B in 271 AB

I was dead on for Lowell's averages, slightly underestimating his SLG. His HR-per-AB and 2B-per-AB are a bit better than I expected, too. Even better is the fact that his away numbers (.314/.354/.512/.866, 8 HR in 172 AB) are very respectable, and not that far off his home numbers (.273/.374/.535/.909, 5 HR in 99 AB). Plus, Lowell's BABIP is .304, much closer to his .284 career average than last year's .342. That suggests he's not getting as lucky with balls in play as he was last year, but he's still producing.

But the absolute best thing about Lowell's production is this: Of all AL 3B, Lowell is 2nd in AVG, 3rd in OBP, 4th in SLG and 2B, tied for 6th in HR and tied for 1st in RBI. He's producing, all-around, 2nd or 3rd among all AL third basemen (despite missing time on a DL stint). He's significantly outperforming highly-touted Miguel Cabrera - another off-season 3B option for the Sox - who hasn't handled his transaction to the AL well.

Lowell was absolutely unreal in June, posting a 351/.425/.608/1.033 line, with 6 HR, 25 RBI, 18 Runs and a 13:8 BB:K rate in 97 AB. He's also playing his usual stellar defense.

And remember: Lowell's had MORE away AB (172) than home AB (99). That means the Sox are going to have more home than away games for the rest of the year. That $12.5m is looking like money well spent.
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