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  • What Happened to Jorge Lopez?


    Ted Schwerzler

    The Minnesota Twins traded for Jorge Lopez at the 2022 Major League Baseball trade deadline. Acquiring the All-Star closer from the Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota looked to shore up their leaky bullpen. It hasn’t gone well.

     

    Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

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    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine orchestrated a near-flawless trade deadline for the Minnesota Twins. They grabbed a good starter in Tyler Mahle, and netted a bullpen piece in Michael Fulmer. Acquiring an All-Star closer in Jorge Lopez was a great get as well, but it’s hardly gone as planned.

    Lopez came to the Twins with a 1.68 ERA across 48 1/3 innings. He racked up 19 saves for Baltimore and virtually all of his work came in high leverage. He had a strong 10.1 K/9 and a WHIP below 1.000. If regression was going to hit, it shouldn’t have been expected to be brutal given a solid 3.00 FIP.

    Fast forward to where we are now and Lopez has made 15 appearances for the Twins totaling 14 1/3 innings. He owns a 4.40 ERA and an awful 11/9 K/BB. He hasn’t allowed a home run but is giving up more than ten hits per nine innings and every appearance is a tightrope act to get through.

    Before coming to Minnesota, Lopez was allowing just a 19.8% hard-hit rate and was getting whiffs 11.4% of the time. His fastball was being used 55% of the time and clocked in just shy of 98 mph on average. Lopez used the curveball 20% of the time and often twirled it as his out pitch. Since joining the Twins, he has continued using his fastball and the life remains the same. Instead of predominantly going to the curveball as a secondary offering, however, he’s dropped the usage and now is going with his changeup 20% of the time. The hard-hit rate is the same, but the whiff rate has dropped below 9%.

    It’s not at all abnormal for a pitcher to experience tweaks from a new organization, but it could be that the Twins have tinkered too much here. Although the sample size is small, and Lopez will remain in the organization for the next two seasons, swapping out secondary offerings has not produced positive results to this point.

    Lopez was hit around plenty as a starter, and reducing his repertoire has been integral in his advancement as a reliever. He’ll need to advocate for himself though if there’s a better belief in a specific secondary offering. When with Baltimore, it seemed the curveball paired just fine with his heat, and while it’s still there, the changeup replacing its usage may not be the best step forward.

    You can bet both Lopez and the Twins coaching staff will look to get him right the rest of the way, and the hope would be he finds another gear in 2023 as he returns to early-season form. That said, it may be time to reverse course on the current plan, at least through the duration of the season, to see if better results can be achieved.

    I don’t think Lopez has reverted to being a bad pitcher as he was in his starting days, but finding the right offerings to unlock his best self has to be a focus from here on out.

    Would you say that Lopez has been a disappointment in his short time with the Twins? 

     

     

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    1 hour ago, Doctor Gast said:

    If it's not broken don't fix it. That happens to a lot of players, too often when coaches want to tweak a player to their phylosophy. They tried, it didn't work, time to go back what feels right for Lopez.

    Amen to that. See Berrios, Jose.

    So in answer to the question in the article's title: He came to Minnesota.

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    Disappointed? At least short term? Yes. Even with some expected regression...I mean the dude was performing at an almost impossible to maintain ELITE level...he's not been what I expected or hoped for. Period.

    But honestly, we're talking about a human being having the best season of his career and then being traded. He's still in a very SSS with the Twins. Sometimes there's just an adjustment period to a player packing up and moving. Sometimes guys try too hard to impress their new team. Sometimes baseball just happens and a guy has some bad luck and a few bad games. That's magnified for a RP. And yes, maybe the Twins tried a tweak that hasn't worked. Maybe he's suffering through a combination of what I've listed. 

    Long term, I'm excited to have an arm like his for now and the next 2yrs. He's still brand new to his role, and some bumps in the road are bound to happen. It's very unfortunate it's happened right after the trade. And maybe I'm just an optimist, but again, I'm happy to have his arm around for a while. And if he finishes 2022 strong and looks good in 2023, this conversation/OP will be quickly forgotten.

    Along the similar line, Fulmer has been pretty close to what he was in Detroit, a little better, a little worse in areas. But he's almost the exact age of Lopez, and has only been a full time reliever a little longer than Lopez. Unless the Twins really believe they have a better arm for around the same expected $ cost, I think he'd be a perfect re-sign for 2023 to go along with Duran, Lopez, Jax, Thielbar, a healthy Alcala and a number of possible arms to fill the mid roles.

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    On 9/16/2022 at 9:47 PM, DocBauer said:

     I think he'd be a perfect re-sign for 2023 to go along with Duran, Lopez, Jax, Thielbar, a healthy Alcala and a number of possible arms to fill the mid roles.

    Disagree.

    Duran might be the only guy on the list that's getting better with age. The rest of the guys will be older, and in Alcala's case he'll be even further removed from playing at the MLB level.

    The math tells me that the combo of Jax, Alcala, Theilbar, Fullmer, & Lopez will be worse in 2023 - collectively - than they were in 2022.

    IMO the Twins need to part ways with as many arms not named "Duran" as they possibly can.

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