Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Natural: The Myth of Jed Lowrie

Who's "Jeff" Lowrie?

At the Patriot Day game last Monday, my 6 year old overheard the women in SRO behind us talking about her favorite new player named "Jeff" Lowrie.

courtesy of
Jed Lowrie?  "He's the shortstop for the Red Sox.  He's taking Marco Scutaro's place until he doesn't hit any more.  [or contract malaria or the Bubonic Plague]"  I'm expecting more questions, perhaps "who's Marco Scutaro?" or "why are those women always swearing?" But he just turned around and continued to watch.  Maybe he knows who Jed Lowrie is, or maybe he doesn't care, but one thing's for sure, the beginning of the Red Sox 2011 season has been marked by two things - mediocre play and the emergence of Jed Lowrie.

A couple of weeks ago, I had suggested that Tim Wakefield would be the key to the Red Sox 2011 season.  I might be wrong.  Jed Lowrie, relegated either to the disabled list or the bench since the Red Sox called him up in 2008, had been prior to this year a disappointment.  This year, Lowrie was pegged to be the utility infielder, backing up Scutaro, Youkilis and Pedroia.  He was originally pegged to get about 105-150 at bats.  A funny thing happened though, Lowrie started off the first couple of games only hitting .143/.393, but then has gone on a tear, hitting .462/1.231 for the season.  It's very early in the season - I understand that, but on a team with silver sluggers at virtually every position, the team's hottest hitter is a utility infielder.  No wonder the Red Sox are 6-11.

But where did this all come from?

Originally drafted by Red Sox in 2005 out of Stanford University, Lowrie was seen as an average fielder, who had gap power.  After his Sophomore year at Stanford where he hit no home runs. (interesting), Lowrie progressed to have a great offensive Junior year, hitting 17 home runs, driving in 68 runners, while batting .399/1.239 in only 60 games.  After a slight fall off in his Senior year, the Red Sox drafted him in the first round of the 2005 amateur baseball draft.  A couple of decent - but not great - seasons in A and AA ball led to Lowrie being considered one of the Red Sox best prospects in 2007 and 2008.

But he really hasn't panned out yet.  Hindered by wrist issues and a curious case of mononucleosis, Lowrie has always had to fight for his job, even at the ripening age of 27 years old.  Seemingly one of Francona's favorites though, Lowrie has managed to stick with the big club.   Despite being injured/sick for most of the 2010 campaign, Lowrie showed flashes of long awaited promise at the end of 2010, hitting .287/.907 with 9 home runs in only 171 at bats. 

Getting back to this year, Lowrie has demonstrated patience at the plate (while not garnering that many walks) and obviously is seeing the ball well.  He leads the league in batting average by almost 90 points (although he not yet qualifies with the minimum amount of plate appearances).  He has hit 3 home runs in his last 5 games and leads the team in RBIs.  When you see a box score of the Red Sox starting line up, you notice that many of the Red Sox are at or below .200 while Lowrie's .463 batting average sticks out like green thumb (not sore).  After this tremendous start, proponents are hopeful and critics are doubtful.  I don't think anyone knows where this will end up.  Could he be Bill Mueller (without the aura of steroids) or could he be Sam Horn (one good game and that's about it).  Have we seen the best or were we beginning to see the real Lowrie?

Either way, it didn't take long for the boys to start asking me if Lowrie hit a home run or got an RBI.  When he's up at plate, they don't ask me who he is, they know.  And not know like Carl Crawford's .130 batting average know, more like David Ortiz 2003 know.  Back to my question.  Will it last?  Obviously not at this pace, but he is slowly becoming the Red Sox starting shortstop - almost enough to make us forget about Hanley Ramirez.

And the myth continues.

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