I think it was around 2005, or so, when I started to get back into Giants baseball. As a younger person growing up, I always loved baseball. I especially loved the statistics, the numbers, the never ending columns of data that baseball seemed to create. I can recall spending countless wasted hours on games like Sierra’s Front Page Sports Baseball 1994 — and if I haven’t dated myself, I just did. I played the hell out of that game on my state-of-the art Gateway 486 with CD-ROM! I remember tweaking lineups and customizing just about everything in the game. I probably should have been doing something more constructive like playing outdoors, or reading books, or talking to girls, or whatever, but baseball held its grip on me. I was hooked.
Often times in life you drift away from stuff that you’re really into. For me, that was baseball. I drifted away for a bit, did different things, found different interests, but in 2005 I started to really follow the Giants again. I, of course, was aware of the 2002 World Series, and Scott Speizo’s stupid face, and while I was always aware of Giants baseball, it was something on the back burner. But, in 2005, I got back into really watching the team. I got back into really following the team, mostly through the magic of — then, the amazing technology — MLB.com. Specifically the Gameday application and MLB.tv.
It’s hard to believe that this:
Was once so amazing. Today, it looks primitive. It looks … awful, but at the time holygodwhatamazing. Today’s spoiled whippersnappers won’t understand it, but it was the best thing ever. You mean I can watch baseball … on my computer?
The ability to watch baseball from my computer was huge, but also what got me back into Giants baseball was left-handed pitcher, Noah Lowry. If you’re a fan of the Giants, you probably remember this game in 2004 against the Cincinnati Reds. Lowry, a relative unknown (to me, at least), threw nine shut-out innings against the Reds. In that game, he struck out nine with the goofiest, disappearingist, changeup I’d ever seen. This was during the time when Jason Schmidt was routinely dominating NL lineups — from 2002-2004 Schmidt struck out 26.5-percent of the batters he faced while posting a 140 adjusted ERA — but there was just something about Lowry and the way he pitched. He was tactical. Schmidt pounded hitters with mid-90s heat and a devastating changeup. It was a brute force approach to pitching, and it was filthy. Lowry, on the other hand, worked the ball around, never threw much past 90, occasionally threw an average looking curve and then, eventually, he would drop that gorgeous changeup in.
It was a thing of beauty.
In 2005, after coming off a successful 2004 call-up, Lowry threw 204.2 innings, posted an ERA+ of 115, and was an up-and-coming bright spot for the Giants’ rotation. By all accounts he looked like a guy that, at age 24, was ready to step into the rotation and be a mainstay for years. The “for years” part always gets me. I’m often guilty of throwing in a “for years” when talking baseball. If Tim Lincecum can keep throwing 95-MPH he’ll be an ace “for years.” That sort of thing. It’s all kind foolish. Bodies break down, skills deteriorate, injuries happen, and eventually players stop being the same. One player’s “for years” might be another player’s “for a couple of months.”
After 2005, the Giants thought enough of Lowry to sign him to a four-year deal (with an option) for $9.25M. The team was clearly impressed by the young lefty. Alas, for Lowry, things did not go well in 2006 — his ERA swelled to 4.74 from 3.78, and he missed time with oblique and forearm injuries.
Lowry’s career numbers, 2003-2007
|162 Game Avg.||13||10||4.03||204||109||3.6||6.1|
As you can see from the table above, Lowry’s career was never really the same after 2005. He would never pitch over 200 innings in a season and things took a turn for the worse in 2007 when was injured yet again. At the time it was called “exertional compartmental syndrome” and the surgery was thought to be a “mild procedure.” Years later, in 2009, Lowry would have a rib removed to alleviate pain in his neck and shoulder. In 2010, the Giants declined their $6.25M option and released Lowry.
His agent, Damon Lapa, accused the Giants of misdiagnosing Lowry’s 2007 injury and, shockingly, performing the wrong procedure:
“Not only did they perform the wrong surgery, but Noah did the wrong rehab along with it, and he’s basically been spinning his wheels for the last six to eight months,” Lapa said.
I specifically remember Lowry’s 2007 season. After posting BB/9 rates between 2.7 – 3.3 in the previous three years, Lowry’s walk-rate suddenly ballooned to five walks per nine. Watching him pitch, you knew that something was going on, and yet he still threw 156 innings before the Giants shut him down in August. He would never throw another pitch in the majors.
After spending a good bit of time thinking about Lowry tonight, I was dedicated to go back through old footage on MLB.tv and try to find a couple of changeups and GIF them for posterity’s sake. It was an unsuccessful venture and after approximately 15 minutes, I came to the conclusion that if it existed — footage of the changeup — I couldn’t find it.
I did come across this interview that Lowry did with ESPNews in 2007 — with amazing journalistic questions such as “Who is the grittiest pitcher on the team?” and “What’s that thing on your face?” Oooh boy. Within the semi-awkward Lowry interview, they show a couple of clips, mostly nondescript fastballs and a couple of lazy curveballs.
I GIF’d one of ‘em:
It’s a shame that I can’t find any changeup footage. A real shame.
It’s hard to believe that Lowry is just 32 years old. If I ever meet him, I’ll have to thank him for getting me back into baseball. Lowry was more than just a cautionary tale of “sometimes pitchers go kablooey.” He was a damned fine pitcher.
I still think about that changeup sometimes. If you ever saw him pitch, I bet you do, too.