Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Giants Pitching Preview 2005: Deluge of Changeups
I'm usually the optimistic type when it comes to the Giants. No matter what moves they make, or how hideous a newly acquired player's past performance has been, I tend to see the bright side. When someone tells me the Giants have the oldest outfield in the history of baseball, I say, yes, but they combined for 105 home runs last season, one of them is the greatest player of his generation, and it's not like they're a bunch of Cliff Floyds out there or something. When the '96 Giants flirted with .500 in the summer of that year, I was optimistic enough to say that they might fight for the division. Of course, they soon lost 20 of 21 games or something like that, due to Van Launching Pads and 63 appearances by Doug Creek, and I looked like a boob. But then I was optimistic about the '97 team's chances, and they won the division after an unforgettable September. I tend to do this to players also. Even when Marvin Benard failed to justify a $12 million handed to him by swinging at pitches over his head and falling down a lot in the outfield, I said well, he did have a good '99 and he's a tenacious little S.O.B., so let's give him some more time. Of course, that "little more time" turned into me marking days off on the calendar before we were finally rid of that midget's contract. It basically takes ineptitude of Neifi-esque levels to really turn me sour towards a Giants player for any length of time.
So it might come to you as a surprise when I say I'm pessimistic about Noah Lowry's chances to repeat his 2004 success. He was 6-0 last year and had several brilliant performances (notably his 10-K shutout against the Reds), so you'd think I would be tooting his horn a little more. I don't know, maybe it's the fact that he doesn't throw hard and relies on deception to get batters out that has me wary. Or maybe it's the fact that whenever his name is mentioned I think of the idealistic bureaucrat named Sam Lowry in the movie Brazil, who ends up losing his mind in the end and fading into a self-made dream world. I sure hope this Lowry doesn't do the same. I mean, we already had Shawn Estes, for the love of God.
Anyway, I think Lowry will be a decent pitcher, don't get me wrong. But like I said, he's susceptible to a sudden collapse because he relies too much on fooling batters with his changeup. The pitch is nasty without a doubt, but it certainly isn't Jason Schmidt-caliber or anything, so if a hitter guesses right, often times they can tee off. What I do like is that Lowry has solid strikeout rates because his changeup makes his fastball sneaky-fast, in that his normally 88 mph heater looks more like 95 after a few offspeed pitches. Trevor Hoffman is the poster boy for this effect, and Mark Redman is another example. He has also shown good control, which he has to do to keep from being shelled, but in the end, I think Lowry is due for a rude awakening because major league hitters make adjustments, and the second time Lowry makes his way through the league, hitters will be ready for him. Of course, you could have essentially said the same thing about Kirk Rueter circa 1997, but he's still around. But there's always the fear that, due to his relative lack of stuff, Lowry's career will venture out too close to the bay and get and get swallowed by a whale (Humphrey, perhaps?) like his biblical namesake*. It'd help a lot if he improved his breaking pitches in order to compliment his bread-and-butter changeup.
Looking forward more, I think Lowry is in for a career resembling Frank Tanana's after Tanana's fastball fell into a ditch and died. This means lots of effective innings, few walks, and few strikeouts. He's a fly ball pitcher so his ERAs could well be correlated with how good the outfield defense is behind him. Of course, the fact that the Giants have three geriatrics covering the outfield grass doesn't really bode well in this sense. I don't think Lowry will be an All-Star ever, but he should be better than Rueter, and that's certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
*My scriptural sources have told me that it was Jonah, not Noah, who was swallowed by a whale. Noah built an ark and saved some animals from a big flood while humankind was obliterated. Well, maybe Lowry will build the proverbial ark on the mound and rescue the Giants from mediocrity with brilliant pitching. Eh? Eh? Ah, screw it, I'm done here.