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Derek Lowe is no fan of Sabermetrics

May 12, 2013, 11:35 PM EDT

Derek Lowe AP

Drew Davison of the Star-Telegram has an interesting article up in which Derek Lowe expounds on the increasing prevalence of statistical analysis in baseball. The Rangers signed Lowe to a Minor League contract in March and was eventually added to the bullpen. Lowe, who turns 40 years old on June 1, posted a 5.52 ERA as a starter for the Indians, but found success in the bullpen after the Indians released him and the Yankees picked him up. As a reliever last year, he posted a 3.04 ERA in 23.2 innings. Lowe hasn’t been as successful this year, currently with a 5.56 ERA in 11.1 innings.

Lowe blames statistical analysis for his difficulty finding a job during the off-season:

Lowe won the job with the Rangers and has since found out that at least three teams wanted to sign him in a similar capacity. However, he didn’t pass the “stats test.”

“If you pump my numbers into the system compared to, let’s say, Tanner Scheppers, of course his stuff is going to outscore my stuff, I’m not naive,” Lowe said. “He’s a young kid who throws 98 mph with a great breaking ball. Listen, I know I don’t pass the test.

“But it doesn’t take into consideration the human element of sports. Don’t get me wrong, I think those stats can be beneficial. But I use more of a human element. Where has the guy had success? What cities has he had success? What cities has he failed at? Has he performed well when it matters?

Lowe also answered “God, no” when asked if Major League players pay attention to Sabermetrics. He’s wrong about that as Zack Greinke (link), Brandon McCarthy (link), and Brian Bannister (link) are three of an increasing pool of players who utilize modern analysis to improve on the field.

It is understandable why a 40-year-old player on the 18th hole of his career wouldn’t feel the need to add math to an already long list of things to do to stay competitive, but as the years go by, players like Lowe — just like the older writers who still reference slide rules and mom’s basement, and make Edwin Starr “WAR, what is it good for?” jokes — sound increasingly anachronistic in their refusal to adapt to the times.

  1. BPKay - May 12, 2013 at 11:40 PM

    a not so advanced statistic is that Ron Washington doesn’t trust lowe with less than a 5 run lead

    • beefytrout - May 13, 2013 at 12:10 AM

      I made the comment to my dad that Lowe would definitely pitch today because the lead was so massive, but I wondered if it was big enough.

  2. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 12, 2013 at 11:43 PM

    “If you pump my numbers into the system compared to, let’s say, Tanner Scheppers, of course his stuff is going to outscore my stuff, I’m not naive,” Lowe said. “He’s a young kid who throws 98 mph with a great breaking ball. Listen, I know I don’t pass the test.

    Damn those scouts! If only they got their noses out of a spreadsheet….

  3. mdr1591088 - May 13, 2013 at 12:03 AM

    Someone should politely explain that sabermetrics (or just plain, old-fashioned splits even) keep track of “Where has the guy had success? What cities has he had success? What cities has he failed at? Has he performed well when it matters?”.

    And then they should politely explain that he’s ineffective no matter where or when he’s performed this year.

    • stoutfiles - May 13, 2013 at 9:03 AM

      Thank you. Sabermetrics was dumbed down for Moneyball; it takes everything into account. The upside of a good rookie would beat out Lowe’s ability to pitch well in X city.

  4. alexo0 - May 13, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    If something said I wasn’t very good at my job, I don’t think I’d be a big fan of it either.

    • gilbert718 - May 13, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      You are so right, but maybe if they weren’t so stubborn they could use it to get better at their job.
      (this includes scouts, players, managers and GMs)

  5. tuberippin - May 13, 2013 at 1:24 AM

    Yes Derek, it’s definitely sabermetrics that precluded your old ass from getting a job tossing batting-practice-speed pitches in long relief appearances or in blow-out games. Couldn’t be that you are not a good pitcher any more.

  6. cktai - May 13, 2013 at 2:05 AM

    Hate to tell you Lowe, but questions like

    “Where has the guy had success? What cities has he had success? What cities has he failed at? Has he performed well when it matters?”

    That’s all part of modern sabermetrics right there.

    • eightyraw - May 13, 2013 at 12:03 PM

      Splits like that are not sabremetrics. The sample sizes are too small and noisy to produce any meaningful results.

      • cktai - May 13, 2013 at 5:00 PM

        There is more to location-related success than splits. You have HitFX which can show how someone’s hitting correlations with the dimensions of the pitch or you have park-factors in general.

      • cktai - May 13, 2013 at 5:03 PM

        Also you have the case where for some players, a trade or signing with a new team suddenly affects performance. In that case there are often case-studies that investigate the factors that could have potentially lead to the change. There is more to sabermetrics than just numbers.

      • eightyraw - May 13, 2013 at 5:47 PM

        I don’t see how your first comment is relevant to Derek Lowe’s quotes. Looking at one pitcher’s success/failures at different parks will likely provide no meaningful insight towards future performance in said park, esp. in Derek Lowe’s case. And these case-studies of a new team affecting performance, are those also done when stays the same? Again, this is probably just noise that is assigned a post-hoc narrative.

      • cktai - May 14, 2013 at 6:34 AM

        Case-studies are be a vital part of scientific research. Without them, you only have theoretical preconceptions about potential factors. You can look at several different cases where performances have drastically changed to see if there are factors which re-appear in multiple cases, recognize patterns. If that is the case, then you can expand your research to include other cases, such as those where the performance have not changed or changed far less. Only in the final case can you say something remotely conclusive, but without the preceding steps, the factors might never have been detected in the first place.

        Research has to start somewhere. It seems very naive and very restrictive to assume require every step in scientific research to immediately avoid any possible noise. In many cases, there is simply not enough data available to eliminate all noise. As long as the researcher is aware of the limitations of their research, then limited sample sizes and case-studies can provide possible avenues for further research.

      • eightyraw - May 14, 2013 at 1:53 PM

        But when baseball has so much data, why limit yourself to a sample size that is entirely too small (case study of a player moving teams)?

  7. Kevin S. - May 13, 2013 at 5:38 AM

    Hey Derek, you know that plain ole fashioned metrics say you suck now too, right?

  8. jarathen - May 13, 2013 at 7:17 AM

    Some players are made better by their understanding of sabermetrics, but for most players, they can ignore it and play their game. It’s up to general managers, the coaching staff, analysts, and fans to talk about. Just play the game your way. Everyone else will sift through the numbers to see what that means.

  9. skeleteeth - May 13, 2013 at 7:55 AM

    Read that as ‘fan of Sambuca’, which is probably true as well.

  10. mlblogstomsinger1 - May 13, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    I’ve got news for you – spend any time actually covering the sport, and you’ll find out most players don’t pay attention to even regular statistics. They play, don’t analyze.

  11. Brian Donohue - May 13, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    “18th hole of his career”? Nah, give the guy a break: I’d say he’s on 17, facing down the island green. You know, like Sergio yesterday…

  12. nbjays - May 13, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Not surprising, as Sabermetrics is no fan of Derek Lowe, either.

  13. bricktop02 - May 13, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    It’s not the statistical analysis. It’s your shitty pitching why you can’t get a job.

  14. grumpyoleman - May 13, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    Tell me how “an increasing pool of players who utilize modern analysis to improve on the field” is accomplished. They can read all the stats they want but it isn’t going to help them hit, run, or throw better.

  15. scoocha - May 13, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    Looks like baseball players are as dumb as other athletes. Lowe couldn’t find a job as a starter because he doesn’t have starter stuff anymore. Plus, what he brings to the table isn’t worth the money he’s seeking.

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