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The Evolution of Mark Lowe's Delivery

I present to you four images:


The first image is from April 2008. Mark Lowe brings his knee up to his nipples as he begins to throw from the windup.

The second image is from September 2008. Lowe's knee is up high again, but by this point he's abandoned the windup in favor of throwing from the perma-stretch.

The third image is from April 2009. Still throwing from the stretch, Lowe's knee lift is lower than before, and he's more closed instead of leaning back and balancing on his push leg.

The fourth image is from a few days ago. Lowe's leg is lower than ever before, and he's gone from a quick knee lift to something like a pseudo-slide step.

These were all deliberate changes made to Lowe's delivery, changes in part intended to give him better control over his body and in so doing allowing him to find a more consistent release point. The windup and the knee lift added a few tenths of a second to Lowe's delivery time during which both the current and the previous coaching staffs think Lowe loses it. By simplifying everything and making him quicker to the plate, coaches believe that Lowe will be able to have more success.

The problem, of course, is that he hasn't. At least, not yet. Dropping the windup seemed to do Lowe some good, as his strike rate jumped from 58% to 63% a year ago after going to the stretch without sacrificing any missed bats, but so far in 2009, after spending the last several months trying to get quicker to home, his command has been poor and his swinging strikes have dropped by more than a quarter from where they were in 2008. This despite a clear uptick in velocity. That's bad.

It could be related to the fact that Lowe has been throwing more fastballs at the expense of his change. His fastball is pretty hittable, while his offspeed stuff is considerably less so. However, I don't think that alone explains why Lowe's swinging strike rate is as low as it is, and one has to wonder whether it is in any way related to his faster delivery. I know when I used to pitch, trying to speed things up made me feel less in control, not more. Lifting my knee and balancing on my back leg helped me feel stable, while the slide step hurried everything. It's possible that Lowe is the same way. Maybe the leg lift allowed him to compose himself in a way that he can't achieve while trying to get to home plate as fast as possible.

But that's speculation. What matters is this: Mark Lowe's delivery has visibly changed, and while his coaches have worked to make him quicker to home, he has missed significantly fewer bats than he used to. Whether or not those two things are related, I can't say, but it's something to keep an eye on, because at this point there's no reason to believe that Lowe's faster delivery has made him any better. Though I'm happy to defer to John Wetteland on stuff like this and am willing to give him and Lowe more time to get things figured out, the early evidence suggests that this is another mechanical tweak that doesn't do anyone any good.