According to MLBAM, Mark Lowe's average fastball in 2008 was 94.36 miles per hour. In 2009, it went up to 96.22mph. It was one of the largest jumps in baseball last season which caught me by surprise because I have always thought of Mark Lowe as a hard thrower, dating back to his frequent hits of triple digits during his debut season. That he could gain almost two miles per hour on his average fastball in a season intrigued me.
I used a 50-pitch rolling sample to generate the above graph. It is quite clear that he was faster on average in 2009 than in 2008 but what further interests me is how consistent he was in 2008 (aside from the start which may have been injury-related given the ending of his 2007 season) compared to 2009. This past season he was constantly moving around the speed charts.
I don't know why. I cannot even really think of a way to begin thinking of why, no matter what there is going to be too much subjective noise since I cannot quantify how Mark Lowe's elbow felt on any certain day. About the only thing that I felt was worth checking was Lowe's usage pattern. In 2008, 46% of Mark Lowe's appearances came on either zero or one days rest. Last season it was 49% so no big difference there.
Maybe it was just a factor of Mark Lowe being further removed from his surgery and healing up, though that does not offer up an explanation for the increased variance in speeds. No matter why, it will be something worth watching for in 2010. And while on the subject of Mark Lowe, can we take a moment to appreciate just how much of a success story he has been? This guy has come back from unprecedented elbow surgery and not only regained his velocity above and even beyond his 2006 numbers, but has even performed at an above average level for an AL reliever. Two years ago Mark Lowe might never have thrown another Major League pitch. Amazing.