A week into the season, after the A’s went 1-6 and were outscored by a billion runs, I criticized the A’s offseason plans, namely that their replacement for Marcus Semien was hoping for a resurrection of Jed Lowrie. Well folks, he is risen.
Since that article, the A’s are 14-2 and have the second-best record in the AL behind the, uh, Kansas City Royals. Meanwhile, Lowrie is hitting .278/.345/.468 for a 137 wRC+. That sort of line is what you would expect from dual-flapped wonder. That is, if you weren’t around for the last two years.
Lowrie spent the last two seasons with the Mets, only getting into nine games and often as a pinch hitter. He only amassed eight plate appearances, going 0-for-7 with a walk and four strikeouts. A knee injury kept Lowrie off the field, and the Mets allegedly kept Lowrie from getting surgery, threatening a grievance if Lowrie had a procedure done.
Irrespective of any Mets malfeasance or nincompoopery, it appeared that Lowrie was done. Middle infielders with bad knees tend to age like a 2000’s era raunchy college comedy, and Lowrie is 37. Indeed, Lowrie didn’t get many calls this winter, and he still had to fight for a roster spot on a team with a rather noticeable hole in the infield.
Lowrie’s road back to the show definitely wasn’t easy, but for an outside observer, it’s like those two years didn’t happen. Lowrie hasn’t missed a beat, and he’s apparently better than ever. Even his rolling xwOBA chart is convinced you can just forget about 2019 and 2020 and live in the here and now of 201‰021.
Entering Monday’s game against the Rays (in which Lowrie went 0-for-4 with four softly hit balls), Lowrie had a .431 xwOBA on the season. His success hasn’t been the result of a sacrifice made to the BABIPdook; his batting average on balls in play is a perfectly average .302. If anything, he’s been unlucky as his expected stats are well beyond his actual numbers. He has also posted his highest maximum exit velocity of 108.1 mph. Changes to the baseball have increased exit velocities, but it’s convincing that Lowrie can still hit balls that hard.
Lowrie’s command of the plate hasn’t suffered in his two-year absence either. Per Baseball Savant, he’s only chasing pitches out of the strike zone 18.3 percent of the time. That’s good enough to put him in 91st percentile for chase rate. He’s also making contact with 87 percent of pitches he offers at inside the zone. That combination continues to make him difficult to strike out.
The A’s have a history of outperforming their projections, in no small part because of surprise performances like the one Lowrie is giving them to start the season. If Lowrie had given them anything at all, it would have been a win. The way he’s going, though, Lowrie could be what pushes them past the median and into the postseason.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.