Talking about Derek Lowe's turnaround due to an increased amount of sliders is beating a dead horse at this point, but after eight strikeouts over six innings against the Padres on Monday, a season high for him, I thought it might be interesting to look at the turnaround in a broad sense.
From April 5, 2010 to Aug. 29, 2010, Lowe threw his sinker 63.2% of the time at an average speed of 88.3 MPH. It had a whiff rate of 6.4% and was in play 20.7%. His slider was thrown 13.6% of the time at an average speed of 81 MPH. It had a whiff rate of 12.7% and was in play 18.7%.
From Sept. 8, 2010 to April 25, 2011, Lowe threw his sinker 47.5% of the time at an average speed of 88.3 MPH. It had a whiff rate of 7.6% and was in play 18.1%. His slider was thrown 30.1% of the time at an average speed of 80.7 MPH. It had a whiff rate of 19.4% and was in play 14.5%.
The difference in slider usage between these two points is 16.5%. The difference in whiff rate is 6.7%.
The results are staggering. Lowe's K/9 over the more recent stretch when he used his slider more is 8.88 K/9. His career high in a season as a starter is 6.64. Through 33.2 innings this season, it sits at 8.55.
Lowe has become a ground ball pitcher capable of sustaining a K/9 above seven. So far this season, his GB% is 54.1%. A quick look at last year's leaderboard shows those with a GB% at 50% or above with a K/9 above seven were Jaime Garcia, Ricky Romero, Felix Hernandez, Francisco Liriano, Jon Lester, Adam Wainwright, Roy Halladay, Hiroki Kuroda and C.C. Sabathia.
Will he sustain such a high K/9? Maybe not, but a 76 inning stretch of 8.88 K/9 is nothing to sneeze at. Lowe's increased use of his slider has given him an added weapon and changed the way hitters must approach him. It likely won't be the last time he strikes out eight in a game this season.