photo © 2009 Keith Allison | more info (via: Wylio)This was quite the weekend for Jed Lowrie as he got his time starting three out of the last four and playing in all four. He has been unbelievably hot going 7 for his last 14 and carrying an OPS of 1.154 so far. That led to the twitter hash tag of #TheLegendofJedLowrie getting started with my favorite being:
“Take the “utility” designation out of a superutilityman, and what do you get? #legendofjedlowrie” by @brianmacp
Obviously his numbers will fall as his playing time increases, but what has Lowrie done well so far and what will he do in a starting role?
Lowrie has always been much better against left handers and that was why he played over David Ortiz this past week with a left hander on the mound. That dominance has continued, but he has also been solid against right handers this year.
Lowrie so far has been making unbelievable contact, striking out only 4.5 percent of the time. That will change based on his career rate of 20 percent as well as his BABIP of .500 regressing to normal levels.
I’m not breaking any ground here saying Lowrie will regress from this, but should Jed Lowrie be the starting short stop or continue to play the utility infielder role and start against lefties. Based on career numbers Lowrie and Marco Scutaro are fairly equal in contact and patience.
The big difference is power based on their lines:
Based on the difference in SLG, Lowrie is an above average hitter while Scutaro is a below average hitter. Their 2011 projections back this up, but what about the defense? Scutaro was touted as a defensive star who totaled two solid seasons at short stop before joining the Red Sox. In 2008 he had a UZR/150 of 17.8 and fans agreed with a +8 rating defensively.
Other than 2007 and 2008 though his defense has been average or worse and the fans jumped ship giving him a -9 in 2010 according to the fans scouting report. Lowrie on the other hand has had more consistent numbers from the fan report with a -1 score in 2009 and 2010.
His UZR rating though likes him much more with a career 14.9 UZR/150 at short stop. Let’s assume that is still a small sample size and he is more of an average defender making him no worse than Scutaro by any measure making the defense a wash.
Their speed is similar and based on their projections your looking at Lowrie being near a 3 WAR player and Scutaro being more of a 2 WAR player in about 20 more projected games. This means a move to place Lowrie in the starting lineup would add about a win or a win and a half to the 2011 Boston Red Sox.
That seems like the easy choice, but could Lowrie add that value in a utility role? Assuming he started somewhere in the infield every time the Red Sox saw a starting left hander he might see some 200 PA in a season. You can then give him another 150-200 PA for injuries and day’s off for infielders and he has the 400 PA to fulfill the numbers for his projection.
I understand why everyone wants Lowrie to get that starting role, but the Red Sox would gain about one win by starting Lowrie over Scutaro. He could add much more value in a utility role taking as many at bats against lefties as possible. That said he would most likely take the most at bats from David Ortiz, which might not go over well. While adding the most value it might not be the most realistic.
Scutaro is in his last season in Boston and will not be fully supplanted for the starting job just yet. That said Francona will put in Lowrie as much as he can in the short stop role as long as he continues to pound opposing pitching. This seems like a solid mix of both options and giving Lowrie plenty of at bats to prove his skills and also his health.