During Derek Lowe’s tenure with the Red Sox, he was a 21-game winner, 42-save closer and 5.42 ERA starter.
Lowe was consistently inconsistent and gave birth to what we all refer to as the “Derek Lowe” face — a face of pure failure.
Lowe was acquired along with Jason Varitek in the Heathcluff Slocumb heist of 1997. After making his major league debut for the Mariners and tossing 53 innings, Lowe saw 16 innings of relief work in Boston. In 1998, Lowe was a swingman, making 10 starts and relieving in 53 others. As 1999 rolled around, Lowe eventually was anointed the closer and finished the year with 15 saves.
The aforementioned 42-save season came at the turn of the century, as he posted a 2.56 ERA. The next year saw a slide into mediocrity, with a scant 24 saves and 3.53 ERA. Even though Lowe likely would have been fine closing the whole year, he wasn’t considered a “typical” closer and thus was was taken out of the role when Ugueth Urbina was acquired. After finishing the season out in the bullen, the club put him into the rotation for 2002, when he gave a hint of his talent, going 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA in 219.2 innings.
The next two years represented an implosion. His ERA in 2003 was 4.47, although he managed to win 17 games and go over 200 innings again. Lowe was key to defeating the Athletics in the 2003 ALDS, throwing 9.2 innings (one start, two relief appearances) of an 0.92 ERA and angering Athletics who felt that Lowe crotch-grabbed them after striking out Terrence Long to win the game.
A year later was, of course, 2004. Lowe made 33 starts and was tremendously unlucky by posting a 5.42 ERA with a FIP that indicated his ERA should have been 4.26. The two years, then, were extremely frustrating for Lowe, the Sox and fans. The talent was clearly there, as he had a devastating sinker. For some reason, Lowe was struggling to put it all together. (Fire Brand archive: A Lowe Blow: That Sinking Feeling, 06/2/04.)
Lowe was banished to the bullpen for the 2004 playoffs, although it was the best thing that could have happened to him. (Fire Brand archive: Which starter should go to the bullpen? 8/30/04.) Lowe finished out the last inning of the ALDS against the Angels, being given the honor to be the pitcher of record when David Ortiz walked off in the bottom of the 10th.
In the ALCS, Derek Lowe started Game 4 thanks to Tim Wakefield saving the bullpen in Game 3, giving up his Game 4 assignment. In a must-win game, Lowe went 5.1 innings while walking none, striking out three and giving up three runs. Not a great effort, but enough for the Red Sox to win on a Big Papi walk-off home run again.
Lowe then won Game 7 in a blowout win, pitching six innings of one-run ball. He had the honor of starting Game 4 of the World Series as a result. As no Red Sox fan needs telling, that meant Lowe won the final baseball game of the 2004 season, and thus being the winner of each series’ clinching game — a first in baseball history.
The Red Sox front office, however, was sick of Lowe’s wishy-washy attitude both on the mound and his questionable antics off the field and politely declined to invite him back. He would go on to have four impressive years for the Dodgers (albeit with off-the-field issues). Frankly, we could have used him. During the 2005 ring ceremony, Lowe showed up wearing his typical Red Sox uniform even though he had already made a start for Los Angeles. Lowe has made no secret of his desire to return to town, and that he had never wanted to leave.
After being unable to return to town for 2009, Lowe is now in Atlanta, and is coming off a poor season that was stained by a handful of poor starts and should turn things around in 2010. (Fire Brand archive: Boston interested in Derek Lowe, 11/13/08.)
Lowe served as a starter, reliever and closer for Boston and outside of his 21-win season, his value came out of the bullpen for the Red Sox. Given his versatility and his impact on the Red Sox while with the club, it was important that he be on the All-Aughts team — first and foremost because he earned such a spot.