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« So why not, Jonathan Papelbon? | Main | Peter Gammons: Mariano Stands Alone »

Derek Lowe Loses that Sinking Feeling

Derek Lowe has decided to call it a career after 17 seasons that included a curse-shattering World Series title with the Red Sox in 2004, two All-Star selections and career earnings north of $110 million. Lowe's money pitch was the sinker, which helped him keep the ball in the park like few others during his era. With 0.7 career home runs surrendered per nine innings, Lowe ranks behind just Greg Maddux, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte and Pedro Martinez among those tossing 2,000+ innings since the beginning of the 1997 season.

While Lowe's sinker cashed lots of checks over his career, it started to bounce a few years ago -- as in, off outfield walls and bleachers. Lowe's sinker stopped sinking -- and hitters started slugging.

Take a look at Lowe's pitch location with his sinker from 2010 (his last quality season) to 2013, when he coughed up three homers in 13 innings pitched out of the Texas bullpen before getting released.

Pitch location of Lowe's sinker, 2010


Pitch location of Lowe's sinker, 2011


Pitch location of Lowe's sinker, 2012


Pitch location of Lowe's sinker, 2013

Lowe threw about 68% of his sinkers down in the strike zone in 2010, by far the highest clip in the majors among starters who used the pitch regularly. That declined to 65% in 2011, 60% in 2012 and 51% during his brief tenure with the Rangers in 2013.  

With Lowe leaving more sinkers over the middle and upper portions of the plate, hitters teed off. Opponents slugged .400 against Lowe's sinker in 2010, .438 in 2011, .461 in 2012 and .514 in 2013. The big league average for starters over the 2010-13 seasons is .447. Lowe might not say he's retired, but his sinker says otherwise.

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