Look at Lowry 

The life of most major leaguers is one of constant adjustment. Rookie sensations do not stay sensational for long as the opposition starts to pick apart their weaknesses and exploit them. Perhaps the most talented never need to adjust -- how long has Mariano Rivera been the world's best closer with basically one pitch? -- but for mere mortals, it's change or die.

Which brings me to Noah Lowry. He was a rookie sensation, and through his first 53 big-league games, he was well above a league-average pitcher. Not lights-out, but let's call him a solid B student. That's not easy to do for a soft-tossing lefty with complicated mechanics. Not only was his ERA above league average, but he struck out a lot of batters. Through 2005 he whiffed 249 in 303 innings, or 7.3 Ks per 9 innings. Not Pedro Martinez-like, but very strong. And anyone who saw games like this one could spot his calling card instantly: a "Bugs Bunny" change-up that made batters look cartoonish as they swung and missed.

Last year, Lowry hurt himself in his first start. He only missed a month, but the season never quite got back on track. He had his usual August surge, but note that even with his success, he didn't deliver the same strikeout rate as before. He's not fooling batters as often. He hasn't struck out more than 6 batters in a game since September 2005.

The main reason: hitters have adjusted. They wait and wait and wait for the changeup, and when it's flat, without that two-seam, sinking action, they whack it. Combine that with injury and control problems, and you suddenly have a mediocre pitcher. Mike Matheny saw it early. In 2005 he was telling Lowry to throw more curveballs, fewer changeups. Throwing the curveball well is another matter, and yesterday's game, in which Lowry threw several beautiful curves for strikes, could be a sign that the adjustment period is starting to pay off.

* Fuel for the Lincecum fire: Baseball Prospectus today ranks the top under-25 right-handed starters in the game, majors and minors combined. It's subscription-only, but here's the final list to tease you:

1. Jeremy Bonderman, Tigers (24)
2. Felix Hernandez, Mariners (21)
3. Jered Weaver, Angels (24)
4. Tim Lincecum, Giants (23)
5. Philip Hughes, Yankees (21)
6. Josh Johnson, Marlins (23)
7. Rich Harden, A’s (25)
8. Justin Verlander, Tigers (24)
9. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers (21)
10. Kevin Slowey, Twins (23)


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