In a tidy bit of salary dumpage, the Atlanta Braves trade inning-eating sweathog Derek Lowe to Cleveland in exchange for an A-ball pitcher Chris Jones.

With Lowe due to earn $15 million next year, the Braves will eating as much as $10M of that total, saving a cool five million bucks to spend on a light-hitting corner outfielder who plays the game the right way.

The Indians? This Tribe is certainly an interesting bunch next year.

In Lowe the Tribe inherit something they already had in spades – a low-strikeout groundball machine able to stay on the field. Between Lowe, Fausto Carmona (he of the recently activated 2012 option), Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Tomlin, the Tribe have nearly 1000 innings of starting pitcher locked up. Only Jimenez strikes out batters at an above average rate while the collective groundball rate is nearly 55%.

The Tribe is going whole hog on the wormburners, hoping to keep the ball in the park at a nice price point. Will it work? Consider this graph, mapping ground ball rate against FIP over the past three seasons.

The relationship isn’t overwhelming but it does suggest that more ground balls are indeed good for business. If the Tribe gets 200 innings of ground balls for a mere $5 million dollars they’ve done very well to make their run prevention better, if only in theory.

The biggest thing the Tribe needs now is a strong infield defense to play behind this collection of sinkerballers. Expect to see a lot of Jack Hannahan next to Lake Erie in 2012. The Tribe’s infield defense is a bit of a mixed bag, with Asdrubal Cabrera unlikely to win any Fielding Bible awards and “passably average” serving as Jason Kipnis’ defensive ceiling, the ability to turn all these grounders into out is not a sure thing.

The Braves deal from a position of incredible depth and the Tribe pick up a player in their very specific mould. Other than Derek Lowe being a highly unlikable guy, there is a lot to like in this trade. Interesting it came so soon into the off-season.

Comments (8)

  1. Frank Bird works fast and now has money to play with. I’m excited in Atl

  2. Not sure about Hannahan – methinks the Tribe stick with Lonnie Chisenhall for primary 3B duties. IIRC, he is around average with the leather as well. Maybe, just maybe, the move is to return Kipnis from whence he came (the OF) and allow Sizemore to leave, and then spend a bit to bring in a good glove for the keystone.

  3. The Indians have clearly identified groundball-heavy pitchers as some sort of market inefficiency. Their system is absolutely littered with such pitchers. Getting Lowe for $5-million is also a nice deal for them considering other pitchers of his ilk will be making much more than that. I like this deal for both sides.

  4. Isn’t Cleveland the place where the grounds-crew heavily soaks the infield with water prior to games?

  5. How do ground-ballers perform to fly-ballers in Cleveland’s stadium?

  6. I’m usually a big fan Drew, but this is some weak analysis. The entire point of FIP is that it is supposed to be fielder independent. Trying to correlate it against groundball percentage doesn’t get you anything that you don’t know just by looking at the FIP formula. Higher ground ball percentage means less homeruns therefore FIP decreases, it’s that simple. What you really want here is the effect of fielding, since it’s the balls in play that are important here.

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