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Adam Loewen's Case



"Loewen was pitching against a good line-up and it says a lot about him and the improvements he has made by shutting them down after the first inning."

--Dave Trembley

It's a nice thing to say. It doesn't necessarily make it something that you should put in your pocket and keep close to your heart.

Yes, Loewen was better after the first inning last night. But it would have been hard for him not to be, even given the low expectations he should carry for everyone at this point. He started off the game by giving up a hit to Nick Swisher, walking Orlando Cabrera, and then serving up a three-run tater tot to Jim Thome.

Now, giving up homers to Jim Thome is not something one should be all that ashamed of, of course. Even though Big Jim is aging, Loewen is just one of hundreds of pitchers who have been treated to the Thome big fly meal.

He got through six innings and his line awards him with a somewhat generous Quality Start. Loewen's three starts this season: 

Date Opponent IP H R ER HR BB K Pitches Strikes
04/05 SEA 4.2 4 4 4 2 3 4 83 43
04/10 @TEX 5.0 6 4 4 1 4 4 92 54
04/16 CHW 6.0 6 3 3 1 5 3 109 60

Loewen turned 24 years old on April 9. He is, simply put, ill-suited for a Major League rotation, even one that is fronting a team that is hell-bent on rebuilding and looking toward the future.

The Orioles, though, as many of you are aware, have little choice but to give Loewen this chance. Not only was he drafted fourth overall out of high school, but he got a foolish contract from a foolish front office, which essentially made him a must-have on the roster at this point.

He's in the rotation not because he's ever earned it, but because the team had precious few chances to tell him no. Had Loewen been a phenom, we'd all be on the gravy train right now. That has never, ever been the case.

All through his minor league career, he's struggled with his command, with the highest mark there being that he was "effectively wild" -- while he walked 5.22 per nine innings in the minors (all but 70 innings spent in the Carolina League and below), he did have a respectable 3.72 ERA.

But did he ever dominate? Save for about 20 innings at Ottawa, no, he did not. Not even close. His K-rate was a damn solid 9.08 per nine, but he was always hit a little harder than you'd want a strikeouts-and-walks guy to be, too.

In short, Adam Loewen has had real problems at every single level of his professional career. He's also had more than a couple of scrapes with the injury report.

In Baltimore, he has failed to pitch deep into games frequently, and even in giving us six innings last night, it took him 109 pitches. Does that really instill confidence in him? Be honest.

He was drafted to become a front line starting pitcher. Though he's still quite young, the problems he has are not the type that go away easily. He is a left-handed Daniel Cabrera in many respects. Pitching coaches are always going to get excited to "fix" the kid, but it's probably a quite futile effort. In the majority of cases, you either have it or you don't. The best Loewen might ever be able to offer is being a back-end starter on teams that just don't have enough guys and aren't going to compete.

Here's a list of pitchers taken after Loewen in the 2002 draft: Zach Greinke, Jeff Francis, Joe Saunders, Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels, Jeremy Guthrie, Joe Blanton, Matt Cain... let's stop at the first round.

If you want to believe in fairy tales and happy endings and miraculous turnarounds and magical pitching coaches, then by all means, believe that Adam Loewen is going to turn this thing around and become a reliable, quality Major League starter. Like always in these scenarios, I hope you're right. But I find it painful to watch the O's more or less forced to spend time on Loewen when I think it's so clear that he does not have it. If it weren't for his contract, he probably wouldn't be here. He is no more advanced or ready for this than Olson, Liz or Penn are, and they're stuck in Norfolk.