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Josh Lowe should be an All Star

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

ST PETERSBURG FL. It was in 2022 that we started hearing that Josh Lowe was going to fill some important holes in the Rays roster. He struggled, however, batting .221/.284/.343 with only 2 home runs in 181 at-bats. Although his second call-up went better than his first, he fell short of hopes.

This year the script has flipped, and Josh is hitting .305/.364/.625 with 11 homers in 140 at-bats. Lowe is not only one of the best hitters on the team, he is one of the best hitters in the majors. What’s changed?

New year, new blueprint

The statistical contrasts from this year and last year are more than clear. In 2023 Josh Lowe is simply a better player at the plate. However, in the next quote, Kevin Cash highlights a very important aspect of his mental game.

“Confidence is certainly there, and he went to work really hard this offseason on making some swing adjustments”

If you are one of many that have asked what has changed in Lowe’s game, well here is what he said about it.

I’d say the biggest change has been in terms of hitting. Not waiting for maybe the best pitch, just when I get a good one to go on it. But, at least for the defense is pretty much the same, which is to get out there.

As he mentioned Josh is swinging at the hittable pitch, not waiting for the perfect one. That’s one of the reasons Lowe has been able to reduce his K% by almost 10% (2022 33.3K%, 2023 22.9K%). His general approach has been different, but pulling the ball has been a massive asset to his game. Josh explains why pulling the ball has helped in many facets.

There’s been a little more conscious effort to pull the ball, and I think maybe not pull the ball a lot, but just be on time for the fastball, and be ready to hit. And that’s just more of my approach overall.

The elimination of the infield overshift has helped. Lowe pulled the ball to right field 29.3% in 2022 now he is doing it 44% of the time. Like he said he has changed his approach to be in time to the fastball, but at the same time be a little early to hit breaking pitches that are being located at the bottom of the zone.

Another crucial improvement is how he has handled fastballs in 2023. Last year he had 36.8 whiff% and a .413 xSLG against fastballs. The eye test left many of us wondering whether he was capable of hitting anything over 95mph. This year he has gathered amazing numbers with just 31.3 Whiff% and an outstanding .545 xSLG. Moreover, he has 4 homers against the same pitch. Josh has made some tweaks, and here he explains them a little bit more.

Yeah, I mean that’s just kind of the way the game is going now. You cannot get to that pitch every single time, is one of the toughest pitches to hit. But, just prove that I can get to it. I know I can get to it, but like I said, I’m very confident and I think just being a little more compact, and staying a little shorter has helped.

Just to put everything in perspective here are some numbers when Lowe is pitched inside the zone. He has only faced 556 pitches on the season, which is not a big sample size, nevertheless, the tweaks are there. In the zone, he is hitting .367 AVG with a .959 SLG, and you can say he is getting lucky. The answer is no, he has a .313 BABIP. Here is what Lowe said about finding the best pitch to hit.

I don’t know. I mean, sometimes it’s just the best pitch to hit. Sometimes they try and pitch me with a fastball and bury curveballs down the zone. But, I’m looking for a mistake and put a good swing.

Never a doubt

We all spent the winter lamenting the failure of the Rays front office to sign or trade for a good left-handed bat. When Neander and others said they trusted their in house options, we assume they were making excuses. But, well, it looks like Lowe is indeed the lefty bat they needed, and he appreciates the opportunity to prove it:

Obviously, they could have got out there and got a lefty bat, but to them to put that trust in me, Raley, and B-Lowe it’s huge for all of us. We are all more than capable, and we look to keep it going.

You need to give credit to Lowe, he was criticized a lot. People all over were expecting a trade, or for him to stick in triple-A for another couple of months until he figured something out. Instead he broke camp with the team and has been one of their most effective players.