I actually planned to write this before last night’s game, but with Dice K’s gruesome performance, I was in a singin’ mood.
If the Red Sox’ goal this year is to win baseball games (a novel concept, I know) then they should start playing Jed Lowrie with much more regularity.
Lowrie debuted for the Sox in 2008 at 24 years old. He posted a respectable (for a shortstop) line of .258/.339/.400 in 306 plate appearances. In Julio Lugo’s last full season with the team, Lowrie looked like the light (ALLITERATION!) at the end of the tunnel to bring a stop to our short stop merry-go-round and the guy who would usher one of the least likeable Sox players of my lifetime out of town (Lugo).
Unfortunately, 2 weeks into the 2009 season and Lowrie underwent surgery to repair a ligament in his wrist and kept him out for 3 months. He returned for a month and was clearly not right (a .147 BA in just over 30 games on the season) and went back on the DL. Just like that, Jed Lowrie was injury prone and no longer the short stop of the future.
Following the 2009 season, the Red Sox signed Marco Scutaro (who was coming off a career year at age 33) to a 2 year contract to bridge the gap to the newest short stop of the future, Jose Iglesias. Lowrie was left without a defined role, but with his bat there was the thought that he could still get about 400 plate appearances in a super utility role. Of course, “injury prone” Jed Lowrie was stricken by mononucleosis in Spring Training and was sidelined until after the All Star break (rumor has it he got the disease from making out with Kaitlyn Martinelli under the bleachers at the Spring Fling Dance). Meanwhile, Scutaro was failing to live up to his previous year’s work with the bat and the glove despite being a constant presence in a lineup historically decimated by injuries. When Lowrie finally returned in July, he decided to put the entire league on notice. Channeling the previous Red Sox short stop of the future, Hanley Ramirez, Lowrie destroyed Major League pitching with a line of .287/.381/.526 in 197 plate appearances including 9 home runs! Still just 26, it appeared that Lowrie had finally carved a permanent place in the Red Sox lineup.
Flash forward to today, and it looks like Terry Francona has forgotten all about Lowrie’s late season Hanley impression. Through the first 11 games, Lowrie has started 3 games and only 2 at shortstop. He has pinch hit in 4 others, but never for Scutaro. Despite facing 3 of the toughest left handed starters in baseball thus far (Wilson, Sabathia, Price), Lowrie, a switch hitter, has started in exactly 0 of those games despite the Sox lefty heavy lineup. Even if Lowrie weren’t far out performing Scutaro in a very very small sample (1.063 OPS vs. .480 OPS), these numbers are really out of whack with what should be happening. Lowrie is younger, a better hitter, and probably as good a fielder as Scutaro at this point in their careers. He also is a versatile switch hitter that should allow Francona to give Ortiz and Youkilis more rest against tough matchups this year than they have gotten.
At this point, the only logical explanation I can think of for playing Scutaro so much more than Lowrie is that they are showcasing Scutaro to pick up some more bullpen help as the deadline approaches. The fact that he makes a lot more money and is a veteran is usually not something the Sox concern themselves with (see Lowell, Mike) and clearly he is not the better player right now. I would sure like the team to unleash Jed Lowrie to the league with far more regularity to see if they have someone who can keep Iglesias in the minors longer to learn how to hit and then potentially push Youkilis to a DH role and slide over to third once the Cuban short stop makes his ascension. We haven’t had much to root for this year, but Lowrie’s continued break out should be at the top of the list. Make it happen Tito.
Thanks to the incredible Baseball Injury tool (http://www.baseballinjurytool.com/), Baseball Reference (http://www.baseball-reference.com/) and Fangraphs (http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=4418&position=3B/SS) for all injury and stats info in this post.