3.14.2006

Your 2006 Giants: Lowry Year to Shine

Noah Lowry is the one who finally did it. Unlike the greater heralded starting pitching prospects to come out of the Giants farm system before him - Ainsworth, Williams, Foppert - Lowry was the one who finally made the rotation at the start of the season and had a good year overall. Ainsworth's first season ended with a freak break of his shoulder blade. Williams, after a superb mid-year promotion, was up and down for his first season as a starter, and after a second straight year of not being in good condition coming into spring training, he was traded. Foppert rose like a meteor through the farm system, leaving the rest in the dust, but when he got there, he injured his arm and kept quiet about it until the ligament broke and Tommy John beckoned.

Noah outdid them all and he left them in the dust where it counted: in the majors. He had 33 starts in 2005, winning 13 games, with a 3.78 ERA in 204.2 IP and 1.31 WHIP. But it was not all sunshine and flowers everywhere in 2005 for Lowry, he had an ERA of just over 5 after three months, he looked like a pitcher headed for the dreaded sophomore jinx. He didn't have good control and he was giving up too many homeruns. He was lucky there wasn't anyone waiting to come up or he might have been sent down.

But then he finally straightened himself out in July. And he followed that up with as dominating a month as a pitcher will ever have in August: going 5-0 with 39.1 IP, giving up only 22 hits and 9 walks, with 33 strikeouts and 0 HR, he had a 0.69 ERA with a 0.79 WHIP and .167 BAA. He then regressed in Sept, but it was still an OK month, just not great.

And 2005 Could Have Been Better

There's the old saying, "if it wasn't that I had bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all." That was slightly his plight in 2005. While Tomko got 3 starts in LA and 2 in SD, two of the best pitchers parks in the majors and Schmidt got 2 in SD (though 3 in AZ) and even Hennessey got 2 games in LA, Lowry got to enjoy 3 starts in Coors and 2 starts in Chase (though he pitched well at Chase). If he would have gotten only 1 start, pro-rated, at Coors, which is what all the other starters did, removing those stats reduced Lowry's overall ERA to 3.47 and WHIP to 1.26 (from 3.78 and 1.31, respectively) and reduced his road ERA to 3.75 and WHIP to 1.34 (from 4.43 and 1.45, respectively). Suffice it to say, he got his butt whooped pretty good there in 2005 but if he got less starts there in 2006, his overall numbers will look better.

In addition, as a pitcher playing in the majors for the first time, he most probably was not conditioned to last a full MLB season. Even the minor league seasons are not as long. And this showed in his September stats. After two months of under 1 hit per IP and low HR rate and high strikeout rate, he gave up more hits in that month than in any other month, even the three months when he was pretty lost at the beginning of the season. And his K9 rate fell to the levels of his first month.

2006 Season

Prospect books say that the 2nd half is a good leading indicator of how a young prospect will fare in the intervening years. I hope that is true because Lowry had a great second half of pitching:

Period - ERA - WHIP - H9 - HR9 - BB9 - K9 - K/BB
Pre-ASG - 5.07 - 1.52 - 9.9 - 1.4 - 3.8 - 7.5 - 2.0
Post-ASG - 2.43 - 1.10 - 7.0 - 0.4 - 2.9 - 7.7 - 2.7

He improved across the bar, some dramatically so, and was totally dominating. I think a low to mid-3 ERA is within reach, if he can get some lucky breaks and if he could ever figure out how to bottle the stuff, he could get into elite status with an ERA under 3.00. And like Morris and Schmidt, a low to mid 3 ERA should enable Lowry to win a lot of games, somewhere between 15-19. I think the possibilities of the Giants having a formidable 1-2-3 in Schmidt, Morris, and Lowry is very good.

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