Derek Lowe is no fan of Sabermetrics

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Drew Davison of the Star-Telegram has an interesting article up in which Derek Lowe expounds on the increasing prevalence of statistical analysis in baseball. The Rangers signed Lowe to a Minor League contract in March and was eventually added to the bullpen. Lowe, who turns 40 years old on June 1, posted a 5.52 ERA as a starter for the Indians, but found success in the bullpen after the Indians released him and the Yankees picked him up. As a reliever last year, he posted a 3.04 ERA in 23.2 innings. Lowe hasn’t been as successful this year, currently with a 5.56 ERA in 11.1 innings.

Lowe blames statistical analysis for his difficulty finding a job during the off-season:

Lowe won the job with the Rangers and has since found out that at least three teams wanted to sign him in a similar capacity. However, he didn’t pass the “stats test.”

“If you pump my numbers into the system compared to, let’s say, Tanner Scheppers, of course his stuff is going to outscore my stuff, I’m not naive,” Lowe said. “He’s a young kid who throws 98 mph with a great breaking ball. Listen, I know I don’t pass the test.

“But it doesn’t take into consideration the human element of sports. Don’t get me wrong, I think those stats can be beneficial. But I use more of a human element. Where has the guy had success? What cities has he had success? What cities has he failed at? Has he performed well when it matters?

Lowe also answered “God, no” when asked if Major League players pay attention to Sabermetrics. He’s wrong about that as Zack Greinke (link), Brandon McCarthy (link), and Brian Bannister (link) are three of an increasing pool of players who utilize modern analysis to improve on the field.

It is understandable why a 40-year-old player on the 18th hole of his career wouldn’t feel the need to add math to an already long list of things to do to stay competitive, but as the years go by, players like Lowe — just like the older writers who still reference slide rules and mom’s basement, and make Edwin Starr “WAR, what is it good for?” jokes — sound increasingly anachronistic in their refusal to adapt to the times.

Nationals succeeded by spending money

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Throughout the playoffs, the Nationals have been cast as plucky underdogs fighting and scrapping their way into the World Series. It’s somewhat true: the Nats overcame a dreadful start to the regular season after losing their star outfielder in Bryce Harper, and were heavy underdogs in the NLDS against the Dodgers, who won 13 more games. But the Nationals are not David in a David vs. Goliath story. They’re closer to Goliath because they have flexed their payroll muscle to fill the roster with talented players.

The Nationals didn’t come close to matching the 13-year, $330 million contract the Phillies wound up agreeing to with Harper, instead offering a 10-year, $300 million deal of which about $100 million was deferred. Losing Harper has somewhat defined their 2019. But they did sign starter Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million contract, and they’re paying Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg $38.33 million and $37.4 million, respectively. As we saw in the NLCS, it was the starting rotation that carried them into the World Series.

Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, will not win the award again this year most likely, but he once again ranked among the game’s best pitchers. During the regular season, he posted a 2.92 ERA with 243 strikeouts across 172 1/3 innings. Strasburg led the league in wins with 18 and innings with 209 while authoring a 3.32 ERA with 251 strikeouts. Corbin continued to impress with a 3.25 ERA and 328 strikeouts in 202 innings. As a unit, the Nationals’ 3.53 ERA from starting pitchers ranked second-best in baseball behind the Dodgers. Sounds about right for a rotation collectively earning about $100 million.

We — the royal we — have been quick to point out when an uncommon strategy works, like the Cubs’ and Astros’ rebuilding strategies before they came in vogue or the Rays’ use of the “opener.” It’s only fair to point out that a time-tested strategy, spending money on good baseball players, also works. The Nationals’ current payroll of about $204.5 million is third-highest in baseball, according to USA TODAY.

In September, the Nationals’ NL East rival Phillies were reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal to have curtailed efforts to compete for a Wild Card because of a lack of certainty. The front office didn’t want to invest significant resources into grabbing a lowly Wild Card only to have to match up with the behemoth Dodgers in the NLDS. But that’s exactly what the Nationals did. The Nationals also swept the slumping Phillies in a five-game series September 23-26.

The Phillies aren’t alone. We’ve seen in the last few offseasons that teams have become loath to invest in free agents, particularly ones 30 and older. Even Scherzer took notice. Asked about the Nationals’ collective age, Scherzer said via The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd, “It just seems everybody wants younger and younger players. And everybody wants to forget about all the old guys. We see it in free agency, we’re not dumb. And the fact (is) we’re the oldest team and we won the National League.”

Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Josh Donaldson will highlight the upcoming free agent class. They could be joined by Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman, and J.D. Martinez if they exercise the opt-out clauses in their contracts. In the cases of Cole and Rendon, at least two-thirds of the league should be actively pursuing them but if the past few years are any indication, the actual interest will be muted and they won’t end up signing until after the new year. Front offices have continued to blindly recite the phrase “aging curve” while pointing at the Rays in an effort to scale back payroll. The Nationals, meanwhile, are putting the “money” back in Moneyball and they might win a championship because of it.