MLBTampa Bay Rays

Making an Early MVP Case For Brandon Lowe

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Armed with one of the most subtly entertaining Twitter accounts in baseball, a natural charisma and likability as well as tremendous on field talent, Brandon Lowe has spent parts of the last two seasons breaking out as a fan favorite in St. Petersburg, Florida. The 25-year-old is only one year removed from his very first All-Star selection, as the 2nd Baseman by trade (that can go full Ben Zobrist when needed) hit 17 homeruns with a .270/.336/.514 campaign in only 82 games.

Let’s preface this by addressing the clear elephant in the room before I dive in: whoever wins the MVP, unless a previously proven commodity such as Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez or someone along those lines will be frowned upon in the future when compared to other winners of the award. Rightfully so, because a lot of players have a hot sixty games and it evens itself out over the course of a 162. However, the award still has to be given, therefore it’s a legitimately MVP. The Rays, who just took back to back games in the Bronx started by Masahiro Tanaka and Gerrit Cole, will be in sole possession of first place in the AL East with a victory today. The one player, despite a number of COVID related illnesses as well as unrelated injuries crippling the Rays roster, at the heart of it all is Brandon Lowe. Lowe has eight homeruns on the season so far, all of them have been a difference maker, including a number of late homeruns that single handedly won the Rays ballgames. Notably, the 9th-inning go ahead homerun against Toronto and Tuesday’s three run homerun off of Masahiro Tanaka (in a 6-3 final) come to mind.

He plays defense, he runs the bases well, he’s beloved in the clubhouse. He plays the game the right way. But are his statistics truly the best in the American League? It’s a league with not only the player who may end up the best ever (Trout), but studs like Francisco Lindor, Matt Chapman, Rafael Devers and Bo Bichette. Anthony Santander and Aaron Judge, fellow AL East hitters, are raking. It’s Lowe, though, who has separated himself from the pack and has been absolutely scintillating. Heading into Wednesday’s game (where he extended his hit streak to nine games off of Yankee ace Gerrit Cole), he had a 1.166 OPS in 23 games, by far the best in the American League. The next closest in the AL Is Aaron Judge’s 1.101, and Judge is on the injured list which will hurt his chances down the road. The next closest after that is Twins’ Designated Hitter Nelson Cruz, who has both past PED transgressions and the lack of playing time in the field going against him in MVP consideration. Mike Trout was at 1.039. His OPS was the second highest in baseball, just shy of Phillies’ right fielder Bryce Harper and his 1.186 OPS. Bryce won an MVP in the Nation’s Capital in 2015 during his time with the Washington Nationals.

Lowe’s traditional statistics? He’s 4th in homeruns, but not too far behind Mike Trout’s 10. He’s hitting .337 this season, has driven in 23 runs in 24 games played, and heading into Wednesday’s game had scored a league leading 20 runs. He’s getting on base at over a .400 clip. Overall, his line is .337/.409/.759. That .759 SLG percentage is the highest in baseball other than Nationals superstar Juan Soto (.938) who has played in significantly less games due to contracting COVID 19 at the start of the season.

Traditionally speaking, Brandon Lowe does it all. He grinds out every at bat, makes the pitcher work, then makes him pay. What does a more analytically driven take look like? It completes the story. His 217 OPS+ is the highest in the AL. His 1.5 Offensive WAR is the highest in the AL, with Mariners’ Kyle Lewis arriving in second at 1.2. His 1.6 overall WAR is the highest in the AL, with Baltimore’s Anthony Santander coming in second at 1.4. His 1.2 Adj. Batting Wins is the highest in the AL, and so is his 13 Adj. Batting Runs. His 26 runs created is the cream of the crop. His Offensive Win Percentage is .854, the next two highest in the American Leagure are Twins’ Cruz (.840) and Oakland’s Robbie Grossman (.825). His 1.6 WPA is the best in the AL, as is his 1.1 Situation WPA. His 1.3 REW is only behind Twins Nelson Cruz’s 1.4.

Disclaimer: All WAR projections via BBRef measurements. All statistics heading into Wednesday unless otherwise noted.

His splits are fascinating, however. He’s hitting .333 at home and .340 on the road. On the service, he seems to have the same production no matter where he’s at. In a time where road games are so much more vital, however, his OPS difference is somewhat drastic. At home, it is 1.042, whereas its road counterpart is 1.251. Seven of his eight homeruns have been on roadtrips. Although his average on balls in play is higher at The Trop (.455) than it is on the road (.323).

Is he clutch? League average OPS is around .750. With 2 outs and RISP, he has an OPS of .833. In tie games, he has an OPS of .978. Within one run, he has an OPS of 1.296.

So far, granted only half way through, Brandon Lowe has been by far the most valuable player in the American League to his team. With speculation as to whether 2020’s shortened campaign would give us a surprise MVP winner, Brandon Lowe is certainly on his way to making a compelling argument, and hopefully he can keep it up down the stretch and bring the Rays their first World Series Championship.

Follow me on Twitter: @TheJameus

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