Jed Lowrie, just happy to be here, via multimedia.heraldinteractive.com
The Santana trade that never happened is looking really bad right now. Not only has centerpiece Jon Lester become the best pitcher on our team (38 VORP), but Jed Lowrie has turned into an RBI machine of late.
In the last week, Lowrie has played six games, and knocked in 11 runs. He's batting .348 / .407 / .609 with two doubles, two triples, and a mere two strikeouts in 28 plate appearances. Granted this is the very definition of a small sample size, but it is encouraging nonetheless. Lowrie already has the same number of RBIs (22) as Julio Lugo, despite far less playing time.
Overall, Lowrie's line for the year is a respectable .287 / .345 / .426, with a 100 OPS+. Lowrie has given us league average batting at a position where no one in the AL is hitting particularly well. Jeter's OPS+ is 97, Michael Young's is 102, Orlando Cabrera's is 78, Eckstein's is 90. The only AL shortstops having genuinely great years are Jhonny Peralta (116 OPS+) and Royals infielder Mike Aviles (130 OPS+). Just for kicks, Edgar "I can't play in the American League" Renteria's OPS+ is 70.
So adjusting for the general mediocrity of league shortstops, Lowrie has been playing very well for us. A particular bright spot has been his defense. Lowrie's been sure-handed with the glove, committing no errors on the season, and more importantly he's shown good range. His RZR of .841 is much higher than Julio Lugo's .786, and his OOZ is higher proportionally than Lugo's. Basically, Lowrie is getting to more balls than the speedier Lugo, and he's fielding them better too. Since defense was always the knock on Lowrie - that he wouldn't have enough range - this is a very good sign.
Lowrie's limited playing time (35 G, 27 starts) has kept some of his stats down. Jason Bay has a higher VORP (5.8) in only six games with the team than Lowrie does (5.5). Heck, Lugo has a higher VORP than both of them, at 8.5. Lowrie looks a lot better according to win shares; his 0.4 batting and 0.6 fielding add up to 1 win share, which is what Lugo's given us in much more playing time.
What we've seen of Lowrie has been very encouraging, but it may be too soon to anoint him the shortstop of the future. Other promising rookies, namely Pedroia and Ellsbury, have gone through massive slumps, and we can probably expect the same from Lowrie at some point, as the league adjusts to him. And while his defense so far has been superb, it may be a fluke rather than a sign of his true ability.
I'm curious what OTM readers think about Lowrie. Has he proven himself to you? Will his defense hold up? Should Julio "King of VORP" Lugo get the SS position back if he ever returns from the DL, or should he take Alex Cora's job? Voice your thoughts in the comments.