Derek Lowe, P, #32 (1997-2004)
70 W - 55 L, 85 Saves, 384 G, 673 K, 3.72 ERA, All-Star 2000, 2002
You needn't look any further than the 2004 post-season to gain an understanding of what it was like to be Derek Lowe. Known for incredible talent, at times questionable mental makeup, and a knack for having the highest highs and lowest lows a player can find on a baseball field, Derek Lowe went from being left out of the post-season rotation in 2004 to becoming the winning pitcher in the deciding games of the American League Divisional Series, American League Championship Series, and 2004 World Series. From desolation to revelation, this ride was the epitome of Derek Lowe's career.
Known for his devastating sinker and astounding GB/FB ratio, Lowe both excelled and fell from grace on the mound in Boston as both a top tier closer and top of the rotation starter over his eight year career as a Red Sox. Over the course of his career, Lowe would pitch in more games in a Red Sox uniform (384) than only Bob Stanley and teammate Tim Wakefield. Lowe ranks 4th on the all time Red Sox saves list with 85, and is the tallest pitcher to ever pitch in a Sox uniform at 6'6". Lowe is also the last Boston pitcher to record a no-hitter when he no-hit the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on April 27, 2002 five years and one day removed from his MLB debut with the Seattle Mariners.
Born June 1st of 1973 in Dearborn, MI, a young Derek Lowe was the all-American high school athlete. Lowe lettered in baseball, golf, soccer, and basketball where he was a first team all-state player. In 1991, Lowe chose baseball as his sport of choice and was drafted in the 8th round of the 1991 amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners as a pitcher. By the end of the 1992 season in class A ball in Bellingham, WA Lowe was touted as the #6 prospect in the Northwest League by Baseball America.
Lowe rose through the Mariners minor league system spending 1994 and 1995 in AA before moving up to AAA Tacoma in 1996. Lowe started the season in 1997 back in Tacoma before getting his call to the bigs in late April. On April 26th, 1997 Derek Lowe made his Major League debut for the Seattle Mariners. Trailing 3-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays, Lowe was called upon out of the bullpen to start the sixth inning. In his first inning of work Lowe induced three ground balls in a one-two-three inning. Lowe would give up a hit in the seventh inning and a hit in the eighth allowing no runs while the Mariners tied the game at three. In the bottom of the ninth in his fourth inning of relief work, Lowe gave up back to back one out singles before being replaced by Norm Charlton. Charlton wasn't able to close out the inning and Derek Lowe's first appearance in the big leagues resulted in a well pitched loss.
Lowe would go on to start nine games for the Mariners going 2-4 with a 6.96 ERA before being traded to Boston along with catcher Jason Varitek at the July 31st trading deadline for Red Sox closer Heathcliff Slocumb in what would go down as one of the best trades in Boston Red Sox history. Lowe would go on to make his Red Sox debut on September 1st and compile a 0-2 record and 3.38 ERA in 8 relief appearances for the Red Sox in 1997.
Lowe started 1998 in the starting rotation before going 0-7 with a 5.81 ERA over ten starts before being moved to the bullpen where he found a niche setting up for Tom Gordon and excelled. In 53 games as a reliever in '98 Lowe went 3-2 with 4 saves and a 2.88 ERA. As a reliever, his BAA dropped .057 points and his Opponent SLG dropped .124 points to .301 while his K/BB ratio doubled. Lowe found comfort in the 7th and eighth innings and began to stand out as one of the better setup men in baseball.
The 1999 season saw Derek Lowe continue to evolve; this time from setup man to closer. As he did in 1997, Lowe flourished in his new role as the season progressed. Over his first 42 games, he was primarily a set up man for, of all people, Tim Wakefield who had been called upon to close games to start the season. Lowe did his set up job well going 0-2 with a 3.04 ERA, 4 saves, 34 K and 19 BB. In his final 32 appearances, primarily as the closer, Lowe was 6-1 with 11 saves, a 2.21 ERA, and only 6 BBs compared to 46 Ks. The closer role suited him and set him up for a breakout year in 2000.
In 2000, Derek Lowe built off his positive experiences in the ninth inning the year prior resulting in an All-Star appearance on his way to lead the American League in saves with 42. In 74 games, Lowe was 4-4 with 42 saves, a 2.56 ERA, and a 79/22 K/BB ratio. For all Lowe's success however, his future career wouldn't see him continue to flourish as a closer.
Looking to back up his '00 season with another stellar campaign, 2001 didn't get off the start that Derek Lowe was hoping for. In April, Lowe couldn't get out of his own way going 1-4 with 3 saves in 13.1 innings giving up 20 hits on his way to a 6.75 ERA. Lowe settled into the season in May and June, before struggling again in July and losing his closing job to acquired Ugueth Urbina in August. Lowe would make three successful starts in September, once again taking the lows of losing his job as a closer to an opportunity to excel in another role. Over the three starts he would go 1-0 with a 1.12 ERA.
In what would become a common trait for Derek Lowe, he would bounce back from adversity in a big way in 2002. As a starting pitcher for the first time since he started his Red Sox career, Lowe had another All-Star appearance, this time as the games starting pitcher. And that wouldn't even be the high point of his season. Lowe would go 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA over 32 starts finishing third in the Cy Young race to teammate Pedro Martinez and award winner Barry Zito. But when he looks back on what could be called the most successful season of his career, Lowe will remember one day above all others, April 27th 2002. Against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Fenway Park, Derek Lowe would pitch the game of his life no hitting the Rays in a 10-0 win. After the game ended and the fans partied to a rousing rendition of "Low-Rider" Lowe came back on the field and addressed the fans.
"I'm just glad all you guys were here to enjoy this with me. I know last year you guys had no confidence in me, and I deserved that. And I just want to come out in this park and give the confidence back to you guys. And I'm just very glad that you guys stayed with me and cheered me on throughout the game. Thank you very much."
Once again, success was hard for Derek Lowe to repeat for Lowe in 2003. Lowe would end up a respectable 17-7 behind the strength of a stellar offense, but would post a 4.47 ERA over 33 starts. At Fenway Park, Lowe approached the pitcher we say in 2002 going 11-2 with a 3.21 ERA. On the road however, Lowe was 6-5 with an abysmal 6.11 ERA. It would be on the road however that Lowe would make his most lasting memory of the season. With the Red Sox on the brink of erasing an 0-2 deficit against the Oakland A's in the ALDS, Lowe was called upon in a role that he had given up years before; the closer. After starting game four in which he pitched well but yielded a no decision in a Red Sox win, Lowe was called on in the ninth inning striking out two A's on nasty diving sinkers with the game in the balance. Jason Varitek would call the last strike "the best pitch he's ever made." Here is my recap from that game.
2004 would be Lowe's last in a Red Sox uniform before leaving in free agency and signing a contract with the L.A. Dodgers. He would in fact save his best for last. Both fortunately and fortunately, his best wasn't on display until the very end. Lowe would struggle through most of the season with questionable mental makeup and a 15-12 record and a 5.42 ERA. Luckily for Red Sox fans, even after being left out of the rotation in the 2004 post season, Lowe's ability to bounce back from the lowest of lows was never more apparent.
In game three of the ALDS against the Anaheim Angels with the Red Sox up two games to none and the game headed to extra innings, Lowe pitched a scoreless tenth inning before David Ortiz ended the game and the series with a walkoff two-run homer into the Monster Seats making Lowe the winning pitcher. After being called upon to start game four of the ALCS against the New York Yankees because of the devastation that long games prior had on the Red Sox pitching staff forcing schedule starter Tim Wakefield into action, Lowe pitched well keeping the Red Sox in the game through his 5.1 innings of work. By the time the series had reached game seven, Lowe was called upon again, this time on only 2 days rest. Lowe pitched his way into Red Sox history allowing only one run and one hit over six innings on his way to another series clinching win solidifying the greatest comeback in the history of team sports. Not to be outdone, Lowe finished off his amazing post season run with a victory in the clinching game of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on October 27th, 2004. In what would be his last game in a Red Sox uniform, Lowe would go seven scoreless innings, allowing only three hits while walking one and striking out four. The Red Sox won the game 3-0, the series 4-0, and after a horrid regular season, Derek Lowe was the winning pitcher in all three series-deciding games in the 2004 playoffs.
This Top 100 Red Sox profile was written by Tim Daloisio, Editor and Chief Blogger of the Red Sox Times.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Derek Lowe, P, #32 (1997-2004)