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  • How the Twins Will Try to Make Pablo López into an Ace (Free Preview)


    Matthew Trueblood

    Trading Luis Arraez for a package centered around right-handed starter Pablo López was no easy decision for the Twins front office. They did it, though, both because of some things López already does that fit beautifully with their organizational pitching philosophy, and because they see some ways in which they can help him get to another level.

    Image courtesy of © Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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    Pablo López , who will turn 27 in March, has five pitches, and he’s tinkered with his arsenal several times in the past few years, as he and the Marlins have tried to accomplish the ascension from mid-rotation starter with upside to ace. The Twins will try to further refine that mix. It all starts, though, with the two pitches that require little in the way of further polish: his fastball and his changeup.

    When it comes to heaters, the Twins have a type, in more ways than one. Firstly, they like four-seamers, not sinkers. Only the Dodgers threw more four-seamers than did the Twins in 2022, and only the Dodgers threw fewer sinkers. 

    Fastball Usage, MLB Teams, 2022

    Highest Four-Seam %

    Lowest Sinker %

    Team

    %

    Team

    %

    Dodgers

    43.9

    Dodgers

    6.1

    Twins

    42.3

    Twins

    6.9

    Reds

    41.7

    Guardians

    8.3

    Astros

    41.1

    Reds

    9.5

    White Sox

    40.1

    Mariners

    10.0

    Source: Pitch Info, via FanGraphs

    López has both pitches, and the Twins aren’t dogmatic about this, so it’s possible they’ll allow him to keep using each. (Sonny Gray , who came over from a team with similar fastball tendencies in the Reds, threw his sinker more than a quarter of the time last year–though he did throw the four-seamer more, for the first time since 2019.) On balance, though, they’re much more likely to have him eliminate the sinker, because (like Gray) he has a four-seamer with the other characteristic they love: a very flat Vertical Approach Angle (VAA).

    In the world of pitching nerds, VAA is all the rage. We'll take a deep dive into why, and also discuss why Lopez's best pitch - his notorious changeup - is such an unusual weapon. Plus, we'll touch on the pitch selection adjustments he is likely to make. But that kind of 1800-word deep-dive analytics-driven story can't be financially supported by ad revenue in this world, so we reserve it for our Caretakers, who support that kind of content. Eventually, we hope we'll have enough Caretakers to provide it on a regular basis for everyone, but in the meantime, you can see it by becoming a Caretaker

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    Pablo Lopez is just coming into his game and should be really good this year. He will have a good defense behind him and a catcher who is excellent at calling a game. Let Vasquez lead Lopez through his starts. I'm excited to have him pitching for the Twins and he will give the team 6-8 innings in most every start.

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    Don't try and "make" him into anything. Imo...he's better than anyone we have in the rotation right now. Good FB and a very good change. Decent complimentary pitches too. First off...I don't think we have the pitching coach(es) to even start to change what a particular pitcher is doing. Second...he wasn't doing too badly for the fish, with what he's already doing. If he's healthy and stays healthy, he'll be a good addition to the staff. 

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    Isn't the sinker, one of the reason why his GB% is so good? It's one thing if he's not comfortable w/ the sinker & encourage him to throw it. And another if he's comfortable w/ it & encourage him to practically give it up. Expecting good communication between the coaches to find a path for Lopez to take an extra step.

    But what do I know. I'll let it up to the pros. Lopez was #2 behind Alcantra in a very good MIA rotation. Hoping for a very good season from him & the Twins.

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