Pitch usage, mechanics key to Lowe's rebound

Pitch usage, mechanics key to Lowe's rebound

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After analyzing as much data as possible, the Indians pulled the trigger on trading for veteran sinkerballer Derek Lowe over the winter with the belief that there were plenty of indicators for a solid comeback campaign.

On Tuesday, Indians manager Manny Acta pointed to Lowe's pitch usage last season as a main contributor to his subpar showing with the Braves. Over the next six weeks of Spring Training, and in the coming year, Cleveland plans on working with Lowe on going back to some old habits.

First and foremost, the Tribe wants Lowe to feature his fastball more often.

"Some guys, at times without knowing, fall in love with certain pitches," Acta said, "and just get in some tendencies and just forget about No. 1 a little bit. He's not the only one. A lot of the players don't realize their pitch usage as a pitcher, or their tendencies as a hitter, until you point them out to them with stats."

Last season, the 38-year-old Lowe went 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA in 34 starts for Atlanta, which traded the right-hander to Cleveland on Oct. 31. The Braves received Minor League reliever Chris Jones and agreed to pay $10 million of the $15 million Lowe is set to earn this season.

That showing came after Lowe went 45-33 with a 3.95 ERA combined over the 2008-10 seasons. During that same three-year period, the sinkerballer averaged only 56 walks per season -- compared to the 70 he issued last season.

As far as his pitch usage, Lowe turned to his sinker 50 percent of the time in 2011, according to fangraphs.com. That was down from 63.9 percent in 2010 and 67.6 percent in 2009. He featured his slider 25.3 percent of the time last year compared to just 16.1 percent in '10. Lowe's cutter percentage has climbed from 1.5 to 4.5 to 8.9 over the last three years.

Acta noted that the Indians have also identified some mechanical flaws that came up last year for Lowe. With those issues being tackled at the onset of Spring Training, the manager is convinced that Lowe can bounce back in a big way for the Tribe in the season ahead.

"He's going to go back to where he was before," Acta said. "He's very aware of what was going on mechanical- wise. If you put that together with the pitch usage, well obviously that would make a difference."