By Jason Wojciechowski on April 4, 2013 at 9:00 AM
I've tried to avoid being excited about Jed Lowrie ever since the A's traded for him (which lack of excitement has been assisted by the package the A's gave up for him—he could hit all the homers in the world but he'll never erase my love for Chris Carter) but after just three games, I'm buying in pretty hard.
I like the swing. I really like the approach, which is illustrated here:
which show his career swing rates from each side of the plate compared to hitters from that same side. He likes the pitch down and in from both sides (though as a lefty, he hasn't actually done anything with those pitches—this True Average on pitches in those zones is awful), but for the most part, he's swinging at pitches in the zone and taking the pitches that are not at a better rate than the average hitter. He appears to be particularly good at spitting on the pitch away, which is a great habit to be in if you want to hit for power and you're not Miguel Cabrera—Lowrie has a nice .170 career isolated power, but he's a six-foot-tall, 180-pound middle infielder, not a masher, so his hitting success has to come from getting the pitches he can drive and driving them.
Lowrie's defense has also made me a happy fan. He doesn't have the range of Brendan Ryan, which is a pretty unfair comparison, because nobody has the range of Brendan Ryan—his name just comes to mind because Ryan has been the opposing shortstop for the opening series of the season. But you were impressed by the Eric Sogard flip, right?
I think the Lowrie half of that play is just as impressive, picking up the ball in an unusual position, spinning, and throwing to first to salvage one out. I can't recall a spectacular play he's made (or even had available to him) in the first three games, but he's made the semi-routine ones with aplomb. The key for me is that the A's didn't get a hitter who can stand at shortstop; they got a reasonable (if perhaps average-at-best) shortstop who can hit.
Of course, performance has never been the issue with Lowrie. He hit like mad in 2010 and then did quite well with the bat in 2012. The problem is the six disabled list trips since 2009, just one of which was for the minimum time, and the numerous "day to day" injuries that caused him to miss a game here and a pair there. It's probably inevitable that he'll get hurt for the A's, too, but for the moment, he's fun to watch.