After signing a two-year contract with the Mets in 2019, Jed Lowrie’s playing time was temporarily halted. Due to several different issues, Lowrie played just nine games in 2019 for the Mets and missed the entire 2020 season. But Lowrie is back on the field, and back in Oakland, and quickly reminding teams of the hitter he was before his hiatus. Through 61 PA, he is hitting .333/.410/.519 with a 172 wRC+. He has two home runs and four doubles.
Before his series of injuries, Lowrie was an above-league-average hitter. In 2017, he slashed .277/.360/.448 with a 11.3% walk rate—good for a 120 wRC+. And in 2018, his 124 wRC+ was produced by a .267/.353/.448 slash line. He’s never been a power threat, but Lowrie possesses solid contact skills with good plate discipline, making for great on-base skills. So far in 2021, Lowrie has taken another step forward as a hitter and his strengths have seem to become even stronger.
Quality of Contact
Lowrie has always shown a solid ability to make contact, consistently posting Z-Contact rates near 90% and swinging strike rates below 10%. 2021 is more of the same. He holds a whiff rate in the 65th percentile and a chase rate in the 87th percentile, so while it’s not like he is making contact every time he swings, he is a better-than-league-average contact hitter with some really awesome plate discipline. But this season Lowrie’s quality of contact has drastically improved. He currently sits in the 87th percentile in hard hit rate and the 80th percentile in barrel rate. His contact has been LOUD resulting in some expected stats that look like this.
Part of this success may stem from Lowrie’s batted ball profile, where he is hitting line drives at a career-high and ground balls at a career-low. Take a look at how his profile has changed over his last three playing seasons.
Specifically, his grounders in 2018 came from a lot of pitches in the middle and bottom portions of the zone. But now those pitches are being hit in the air—and being hit hard. For example, take this very good pitch from Zac Gallen. Instead of taking this low-and-away changeup and hitting it on the ground, something he did 16 times in 2018, he’s lacing it the other way at 103.9 MPH!
Lowrie is owning the bottom of the zone. He’s seeing the majority of his pitches ranging from below the zone to the heart of the zone, and when he’s attacking those hittable pitches, he usually ends up hitting it pretty well. His batting average on pitches low in the zone is .400, a big step up from the .287 average he posted in 2018 on these same pitches. A .400 average is nice, but Lowrie also owns a .741 xwOBA on pitches in these zones, which is a huge improvement from his .338 xwOBA in 2018. This means not only is he hitting these pitches, but the quality of contact he is making on these pitches (hitting them much harder with a more optimal launch angle), points towards more impactful expected outcomes.
Plate discipline has always been a strength of Lowrie’s and it hasn’t wavered in 2021. As I mentioned earlier, he’s in the 89th percentile in chase rate and he’s walking 12.3% of the time. Lowrie knows his strike zone and will his free passes gratefully. He’s currently 36th in the league in BB/K and one of just 43 hitters with a strikeout rate below 16%. By swing/take measures, Lowrie is one of the best. In 2018, his total swing/take runs was 26—the 32nd highest in the league. This season he is seventh in the league with eight swing/take runs. He his net runs by zone are as follow.
The only hitters that have done a better job than him are Ronald Acuña Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., J.D. Martinez, Justin Turner, Shohei Ohtani, Brandon Nimmo, and Byron Buxton. That’s a pretty solid group of hitters to be grouped with, especially as it pertains to their on-base abilities.
Lowrie is finally healthy and back on the field everyday, which is always great to see for any player who’s had to deal with as many injuries as he has. He has enough pop to repeat his 20-homer year from 2018, and with how hard he’s been hitting the ball thus far, he might just surprise us with a little extra. The switch-hitter is currently the 17th best hitter in MLB by wRC+. If you haven’t been watching any Oakland baseball, maybe it’s time to tune in and watch a few Jed Lowrie at bats. This dude can hit.
Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire