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January 13, 2009
  
Lowe or Perez?

The Mets signing of Tim Redding to at least compete for the fifth spot in the rotation pretty much confirms something that fans knew all along: the Mets will not sign both Derek Lowe and Oliver Perez. It is likely that one or the other will sign. Spirited debate amongst fans about the merits of Lowe vs. Perez has picked up over the last two weeks or so. Lowe supporters point to his proven track record and durability (he’s averaged 212 innings over the last four seasons). Those in the Perez camp point to his age, strikeout ability, and the fact that he’s lefty. Here is my take on Lowe vs. Perez. Note that I present the statistic FIP (“fielding independent pitching”) because it is a better predictor of future performance and gauge of value than ERA. FIP focuses on factors under a pitcher’s control (strikeouts, walks, home runs allowed), removing the highly variable factors of ERA (defense, bullpen, luck).

Derek Lowe, age 35
2008 FIP: 3.26
Career FIP: 3.76

Lowe arguably had a career year in 2008. He posted career bests (as a starter) in walks-per-nine innings, strikeout-to-walk ratio and FIP so his seemingly mediocre 14-11 W-L record is misleading. It will be tough for him to replicate this contract year performance, but the CHONE and Marcel projections predict about 180 innings and a 3.70 FIP for 2009. Also, Lowe has no injury history. He’s one of two major leaguers (the other being Brad Ausmus) with ten-plus years of major league service without making a trip to the DL.

Lowe is the second best pitcher in the majors at inducing groundballs behind Brandon Webb. This is usually a positive, as ground ball pitchers generally give up less homeruns. However, the Mets infield is not exactly spectacular (especially the Luis Castillo/Carlos Delgado right side) so maybe his groundball ability wouldn’t be as big an asset as it seems. If Castillo and Jose Reyes can rebound to their 2007 showing, a groundball pitcher could be useful at Citi Field.

Oliver Perez, age 27
2008 FIP: 4.68
Career FIP: 4.67

Tens of thousands of words have been written on Mets blogs about the enigma that is Oliver Perez. His stuff is electric, and on some days he actually does pitch like Sandy Koufax. On other days, he looks like Bill Pulsipher. Strikeouts are his biggest talent, and it appears his less than stellar HR/9 will improve if Citi Field really is the “Grand Canyon” of baseball. Many call Perez a big-game pitcher who steps it up vs. division rivals the Phillies, Marlins, and Braves. To his credit, he has a sub-4.00 ERA vs. all three of these teams since joining the Mets and a sub-2.00 ERA vs. the Yankees. Additionally, he pitched pretty well in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, with a little help from Endy Chavez. It’s those poor games against the lowly Nationals, Pirates, and Giants that concern me.

CHONE and Marcel project about 170 innings and a 4.70 FIP for Perez. Not bad, but not what you want from a guy asking for $12 million a year. He is entering his prime years, so the expectation is that he will reduce his staggering walk rate (career 4.76 BB/9) as he matures. If he can improve his control (as lefty strikeout pitchers Mark Langston and Randy Johnson were able to do) Perez may become an elite pitcher at some point. The question is, when?

Verdict

I believe Lowe gives the Mets the best chance to win now and in future seasons. Groundball pitchers age more gracefully than power pitchers (see: Pedro Martinez), and I think concerns about him suddenly breaking down due to injury are nothing more than wild speculation. Comparisons to older injured pitchers John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson are unfair, as Smoltz has battled arm problems his whole career, and Glavine and Johnson didn’t get hurt until they hit their 40’s. If Lowe can be had for three years, $42 million with a fourth year option there is no reason not to sign him.

One question I pose to those in the Perez camp: if he was not a Met, and instead a free agent from another team like the Reds or Orioles, would you still want to sign him over Lowe? If he had no history with the Mets, he’d basically be Randy Wolf, a pitcher who has not garnered much buzz this offseason. Wolf is 32 years old, but had a better 2008 FIP and has a superior 2009 FIP projection to Perez. Yes, he has injury concerns and might be a bigger risk than Perez. However, the point is that for the purposes of objective player evaluation, we cannot let memories of Perez’s big games against the Phillies cloud the fact that he led the league in walks and was not even one of the top 30 pitchers in the National League last season (in a contract year!). Don’t get me wrong – I am a fan of Ollie. I’d love to see him sign with the Mets if Lowe goes elsewhere. But in this offseason of bargain contracts (Yankees signings excluded), it would be unwise to overpay for him while letting Lowe slip away to a division rival.


12 Responses to “Lowe or Perez?”

  1. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on January 13, 2009 at 2:03 am (#918624)

    In the kinda-sorta-post-roid era, the eight year difference in ages more than makes up for all the other places where Lowe is preferable to Ollie.

    Players are getting older a lot quicker now that its harder to get away with Better Living Through Science and those eight years are gold.

    Gimmie Ollie.

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  3. Comment posted by MetsFanSince71 on January 13, 2009 at 7:30 am (#918625)

    The Mets are acting cheap and it pisses me off that we even have to “choose” between 2 pitchers.

    You wanna slam dunk the NL East crown this year?

    Then do as the Yankees would - act like a big market team and sign BOTH Perez and Lowe.

  4. Comment posted by riveraro on January 13, 2009 at 10:55 am (#918720)

    I’ve never been overly impressed by Lowe…..i think he is a solid pitcher and would be a welcome addition to a Mets staff that needs stability & consistency but Ollie would be my choice…..based on the fact that he’s a 27yo lefty power pitcher that can dominate a game…I take him as is but he has a ton of room for improvement….i believe 7in, 8k’s per & 2 runs can be the norm for Ollie…the guy can be as good as any of the top hurlers out there….he just needs to stop the mental meltdowns he’s prone to…he’s a bit weak above the shoulders but his arm is electric. I’d like to see them both in a Mets uniform though as i believe Maine is a big question mark & Niese is not ready from what i’ve seen. The Mets CAN NOT waste another year…Omar has to sign one of them at the very least….you can’t start the year with the staff as is & feel comfortable that you’ll contend

  5. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on January 13, 2009 at 3:21 pm (#919116)

    moot

  6. Comment posted by JamesSC on January 13, 2009 at 3:41 pm (#919149)

    MetFan71, I don’t want to act like the Yanks and sign both players and heck even the Yanks wouldn’t increase their salary by the amount that you are suggesting for Lowe and Perez. I think it would be a terrible move to give Lowe 15 mil and Perez 10 mil for the next 4 years especially if the economy doesn’t rebound dramatically.

    Honestly, I think the Braves will pay for their 60 mil contract more than they get out of Lowe. I think we end up having to get Ollie, but if I can get Ollie at 3×10 vs Perez at 4×15, I would definitely do that.

  7. Comment posted by JamesSC on January 13, 2009 at 3:42 pm (#919150)

    Sorry, obviously I meant Ollie 3×10 and Lowe 4×15 :)

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  9. Comment posted by MetsTailgate on January 13, 2009 at 4:19 pm (#919189)

    Moot indeed.

    Here comes the inevitable 4 year, $52 million Ollie Perez signing. Blah.

  10. Comment posted by argonbunnies on January 13, 2009 at 5:07 pm (#919242)

    Ollie is extremely fun to watch and not a particularly effective pitcher. If we want that, we can sign Pedro for less money.

    Randy Wolf was healthy all last season, and Ben Sheets’ most recent injuries haven’t been big deals. I say sign these two guys, and let Tim Redding take his below-average pitching to long relief.

    The Lowe deal is a good one for the Braves. They have the cash, and Lowe will earn it in the first few years of the contract. Whether paying him $15 mil to be barely average in 2012 looks acceptable will of course depend on where the market goes.

  11. Comment posted by homey1knobe on January 13, 2009 at 7:04 pm (#919261)

    I wish I had a photo of Ollie’s wife/gf so I could present my case. Let me tell folks - she is extremely hot.

    Her name is Luz Ariana

  12. Comment posted by homey1knobe on January 13, 2009 at 7:12 pm (#919263)

    BTW: I want us to sign Randy Wolf (athletic, great guy, and when he’s in control of it - devastating curve/change pitch).

    Randy proved to be durable last year. He would be a MetGeek fav.

  13. Comment posted by LetsGoMets on January 13, 2009 at 9:46 pm (#919280)

    Did the Braves overpay for Derek Lowe? Probably. For the first two years of his contract, he should be worth his pay. For the next two, it’s a little more questionable. There will likely be a decline in year 3, so $15-million per year at that point will be too much.

    The Mets did the right thing by establishing interest in Derek Lowe, but not spending too much money on him as if he was a Sabtahia.

    Oliver Perez is worth about what the rumored offer (3 years/$30 million) has been reported to be.

    I would hope they don’t have to go the unnecessary routes of signing either Randy Wolf nor Jon Garland, who are mediocre at best. Eating innings alone does not a good pitcher make.

  14. Comment posted by Jordan Fensterman2 on January 14, 2009 at 11:26 am (#919499)

    If Ben Sheets is going to cost less than Lowe than the Braves signing of Lowe would be a major blessing in disguise.

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