It ain’t easy being green…and gold.
For Athletics shortstop Jed Lowrie, the first three months of the 2014 season have been a trial of cruel fortune, frustration, and maybe a shattered piece of equipment or two. Coming off a .290/.344/.446 campaign in 2013 and into contract year in 2014, expectations were Lowrie were sky-high after finally clocking a productive season without injury the year prior.
However, like a bad case of cinematic sequelitis to a sputtering Michael Bay franchise – Lowrie’s repeat season has been a complete and utter dud. Failing to gain any traction out the gate, the 30-year old has produced a paltry .217/.314/.327 batting line in 329 plate appearances, amounting to a .05 oWAR – a far cry from the career-high 4.4 oWAR posted last season.
So what happened? Why has Jed Lowrie essentially devolved from an upper tier offensively-minded shortstop to a Reid Brignac doppleganger in less then a calendar year? Well, the answer isn’t a simple as you’d expect.
While on the surface, Lowrie’s return to earth is apparent by his general slash line and meager production numbers, a deeper examination reveals a healthy amount of rotten luck. For one, Lowrie’s BABIP has regressed from a lofty .319 last season to .242 in 2014, as the holes and gaps from a year prior have been elusive. As easy as it it to stand by the laurels that perhaps he’s not making solid contact as consistently as he has in the past, the former Stanford Cardinal has in actuality nearly replicated his line drive rate from 2013 (22.6% vs 23.4%). Bizarrely enough, his walk rate has risen from 7.6% to 11.6% and his strikeout rate has remained virtually unchanged from 13.7% to 14%, proving that he’s not dramatically changing his approach at the plate to compensate for his underwhelming numbers.
Although many Athletics fans may feel the need to cry out prematurely for the grand entrance of Addison Russell or the mythical acquisition of Jimmy Rollins – perhaps all it takes is a little bit of faith in the proven commodity of Jed Lowrie. With a half a season left in the tank, the time is ripe for the offensive struggles of the veteran shortstop to even out. With the stretch drive and postseason play on the distant horizon – it couldn’t come at a better time.