And, perhaps more importantly, can he?
I don't claim to be a defensive specialist. It is absolutely the weakest part of my game. From UZR to Bill James' +/- it's all a little vague in my book. Generally, my coda has been that Jeter is awful and Lugo is awful with most other things up in the air.
But I do know bad defense when I see it, and I'm pretty sure that negative numbers are bad things. And over the course of the offseason and 1 major hip surgery I've seen Lowell go from a defensive stopper to a defensive sieve.
To wit, here are some o' those fancy numbers you folks like to use. Small sample sizes be damned!
Mike Lowell UZR/150 2008: 15.6 (11.1 RAR)
Mike Lowell UZR/150 2009: -9.4 (-2.3 RAR)
Kevin Youkilis UZR/150 2008 (3B): 22.6
Now, as I said, I don't claim to be a defensive expert, so I don't know how the 3rd-1st transition works. Youk seemed to handle it more than fine, and I know that 1st base is considered the most basic of defensive positions to play while 3rd base has such intimidating nicknames as "the hot corner". But then again, Lowell has played 3B all his life, and I don't know how easy it is to teach an old dog new tricks. And since it's anathema to mention the possibility that Ortiz should get benched, the obvious move seems to be to switch our corner infielders.
Now, maybe I'm acting a bit rash. The season has just begun in many ways, and we can't expect all our people playing badly coughtheentirefuckingrotationnotnamedWakefieldcough to keep on doing so. But when there's such an obvious cause that the effect could be predicted (Hip Surgery -> Limited mobility), and with such telling side effects as difficulty legging out easy doubles, one can't help but start thinking something should be done.
So I'm throwing my idea into the ring. Take it as you will.
Bonus thoughts: Spreads our strengths out. Weakness of Lugo covered by strength of Youkilis. Weakness of Lowell covered by strength of Pedroia.
Could well keep Lowell healthier over the course of the season giving the lack of diving and bunt-running-out, etc. With his bat as nice as it's been of late, we want to keep it in the lineup.
Hopefully won't strike the wrong chord with him given some of our cries to drive him out of town a few months back.