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Wild Card

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Posted on Fri, Jun. 20, 2003

Let's go to videotape: Lowell finds his pitch
COMMENTARY / DAN LE BATARD

Dan Le Batard

Mike Lowell is in a tiny, dark room in the back of the Marlins clubhouse, hunched in front of a small television Thursday. Dozens upon dozens of videotapes are lined up on the shelves above him, stacked side by side like books in a library. Lowell has more home runs this season than Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa or Alex Rodr?guez, and all those home runs are cataloged up there, somewhere. For the last few minutes, Lowell has been trying to explain, without much success, how it is that he has suddenly become a home-run hitter. But now he's just going to show you.

He retrieves one of the tapes, inserts it in the VCR and now he's facing Dan Plesac on the small screen.

''This is a good one,'' Lowell says. ``You'll like this one.''

The catcher is lined up on the outside of the plate. But Plesac makes a mistake. Not a huge one. But not a small one, either. And in this sport, a fraction of a fraction on the bat can be the difference between the baseball ending up 500 feet away or in the shortstop's glove.

The pitch from Plesac, a lefty, slices down and in to Lowell, a right-hander. The pitch is very low, clearly a ball, not a foot off the ground. But it's too close to the spot just about everyone in the league now knows is Lowell's greatest strength.

Lowell pauses the tape as the ball is about to meet his bat. Judging from the way Lowell's body is positioned on the tape, hips open, just about anyone looking at this still picture would assume this ball is going to either be beaten into the ground or lined hard and foul into the third-base dugout. This still shot on the screen suggests that it would be just about impossible to hit that pitch fair, never mind lift it with power.

First baseman Derrek Lee walks into the video room and stares at the screen.

''You didn't hit that out,'' he says.

It is not phrased as a question. It is phrased as a statement of fact.

Lowell giggles and hits the play button. They both watch the ball whistle about 400 feet over the left-field fence in Philadelphia.

''Oh my GOD!'' Lee says. ``That's a 3-iron, dog. That's crazy.''

You can't see how amazing this is in real time, from the dugout or the stands or the press box. Like art, it must be stared it.

Now another pitcher is on the small screen, about to deliver a 3-2 pitch to Lowell. It is a good pitch, up and in, a little out of the strike zone, under Lowell's wrists. This spot is a weakness for most hitters, especially a hitter like Lee, who likes to get his long arms extended. But this spot is most assuredly not a weakness for Lowell.

''Watch,'' Lowell says. ``The pitcher is just missing his spot here by about six inches. We still need the pitchers to make mistakes. Between 80 to 90 percent of my home runs are because the pitcher made a mistake. The difference this year is that, when I get one of those mistakes, more often than ever, it's a home run instead of a single.''

Lowell hits the pause button. The image before the moment of impact seems to indicate that Lowell is, at best, going to get jammed here. But once the tape starts whirring again, Lowell uncoils and another pitch goes flying over the fence.

''Dude!'' Lee says. ``That pitch almost hit you!''

You want to know why Lowell is now tied for the major-league lead with 22 home runs after hitting another one Thursday?

You have to begin on the inside.

Lowell has complete confidence about being able not only to hit the inside pitch but turn and pull it with power. Not the inside strike, which a lot of hitters find delicious. Lowell's favorite pitch is the inside ball.

The ability to hit this pitch is the one gift Lowell has that most hitters don't. Gary Sheffield has the fastest wrists since Hank Aaron. Barry Bonds has the ability to know what a pitch is -- High or low? Inside or outside? 95 or 85 mph? -- the moment it leaves a pitcher's hand. And Lowell has this. The ability to hit this pitch, he says, is the single greatest reason for his success.

Lowell knows that he can hit that pitch exceptionally hard even if he's not looking for it, by reflex, instinctively. So he doesn't look for it, ever. He doesn't even work on inside pitches during batting practice or in the cage. When he approaches the plate, he does so looking from the middle out. So, in his words, ``I have to worry about less of the strike zone. I can get a little closer to the plate and make the outside corner my middle.''

He has made a very complicated game that much simpler.

Lowell has always hit the inside ball well, but what he has done over the last few years of working, sculpting and sweating is refine what he can do with that outside pitch. He has strengthened his weakness, in other words. He can now drive that outside pitch into the right-center-field gap with power.

''If I hit three doubles to right-center my first year, it would be two too many,'' Lowell says. ``And pitchers are creatures of habit, so if they get you out one way, they're going to keep pitching you that way until you prove to them that they can't get you out that way any more. I've learned how to use the whole field.''

Any part of you amazed that you are at the top of baseball in home runs, Mike?

''Almost every part of me,'' Lowell says. 'I'm the guy who hit 12 home runs in three years at FIU. My first year of `A' ball, I hit one home run, and it was in the second-to-last game of a 70-game season. I'm not a home-run hitter.''

Lowell fast-forwards the tape to an at-bat against Danny Graves. On another TV, behind Lowell, ESPN's Peter Gammons is talking about how the Marlins will soon trade Lowell. Lowell hears this, shakes his head and resumes looking at Graves.

''I've never kept detailed notebooks of how pitchers throw me because I can remember exactly how Graves pitched me even when he was at the University of Miami,'' he says.

How much do you remember, exactly?

''I'm not Rain Man,'' he says. ``But I know if a guy has thrown a first-pitch strike on a curve seven out of the eight last times with a runner on second.''

He adds, ``You are just trying to get in the zone with your swing for a week or two weeks at a time, maybe a month. Or, if you are Barry Bonds, for two straight years.''

Lowell laughs. He's trying to be modest in a terribly humbling game.

''Sometimes the home runs just come in bunches,'' he says with a shrug.

Lee, viewing some tape at another television, harrumphs.

''Mike,'' he says. ``They don't come in bunches of 20.''
 

xdannyx25

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dam that guy writes liek crap, to much BS, that right there is an article any 12 year old can make in 5-10 mins, and this guy make a career off of it?!

lowell - he can hit pitchers all around the strike zone, even some balls for homers, he says hes not a home run hitter, in FIU and A he barely hit any homers

thats basically the whole article in one sentence

but if anyone knows baseball, most young hitters dont go out and hit crazy amount of homers, they hit a good amount of doubles, which is predicted in the future for many of those doubles to turn in homers, thome for example
 

Wild Card

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I bet you, if I had the opprotunity to do what he did with Lowell, I would've had a better story...

But it wasn't negitive...
 

xdannyx25

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I bet you, if I had the opprotunity to do what he did with Lowell, I would've had a better story...

But it wasn't negitive...
yeah it wasnt negative, but you have to admit, if you had an interview with lowell and you did this for a living, that was a stupid article
 

AJBurnett34

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Yea he writes bad but his articles are good. Lowell has shown his power because he is putting good swings on the bat and they are giving him his favorite pitch (inside)....i hope he continues playing like an All-Start because he really is carrying this team.
 

CapeFish

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-FYI, newspapers have an unspoken rule to write at an eigth grade reading level, to make it easier for those less educated readers.
-LeBatard follows the popularity train like every reporter! He is just very negative and nasty following the train.
-Last time he was this positive was October 27, 1997, if i recall correctly.
 

Wild Card

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-FYI, newspapers have an unspoken rule to write at an eigth grade reading level, to make it easier for those less educated readers.
I believe it... ;)

And although I was ust in eigth grade, I read at a 12th grade level... :shifty :thumbup
 

Hotcorner

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the article isn't positive on the Marlins per se, just on Lowell. It would be pretty difficult to write a negative article on Lowell anyway. When he writes a positive article on the Marlins, then I'll be shocked.
 

Shamrock

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I enjoyed the indept look at pitcher vs batter...I don't think enough fans get to see this extremely cerebral side of the game and thats why attendance and interest is waning. Most fans just think its see ball, hit ball.
 

Mephisto

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He could not help write in the article that is rumored Lowell will be traded. Is sick is an avg. fan reads this they will think "man, this guy is one of the best baseball players, and he will be traded. No wonder no one goes to see them play." Thats a positive article for lowell. But is negative for the team.
 

Mephisto

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Well the article is about Lowell and how great he is. An avg. fan is thinking man maybe I should go and see this guy play, but then he writes that in another T.V. Gammons is saying how Lowell will be traded soon. So that fan now thinks does this team ever keep any of their good player? Then this fan gives up any hope and decides is best not to waste any time going to the park.
 

Ramp

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Why would it be ridiculous is true.
so people wont go to the park to see Mike Lowell, for fear he may not be there tomorrow?
 

Mephisto

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Well yes because whats the use of cheering him on to carry this team if he's going to be traded?
 

Marlins2003

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I wasn't going to weigh in on this media debate but I can't ignore the thread having just heard Fat Hank for a few minutes. He starts by saying (paraphrasing) "hey Phelps pitched a good game last night and so did the Marlins other pitcher Mike Hampton". Then he goes on to mention Cabrera and tees off on Loria and the FO for being cheap and he doesn't believe they should even be in baseball and its all Selig's fault because he let sleazeballs like these guys in. The, the frosting on the cake, he thinks its okay that Wayne gets all the parking and concession money because it wouldn't matter anyways, the iteam is undercapitalized (like no one else is in this economy) and no one likes baseball in this market anyways.

Click.

Just another reminder of what kind of media scum we have here. Just another day for the scummiest of the football-lovin' scum, doin' their thing, not caring a hoot about you and me or baseball for that matter.

And he has the temerity to wonder why fan support is at the level it is.
 

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