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Thursday, August 12, 2021

How Real Is Nicky Lopez’s Batting Line?

He has posted barrel rates in the second, fourth, and first percentiles and hard-hit rates in the second and sixth percentiles in his three seasons in the big leagues. He has also yielded zone run values per 100 pitches of -4.44, -5.17, and -3.02 in those seasons, compared to 1.86, 2.30, and 2.97 on pitches out of the zone, a product of his excellent approach but lack of punch when pitchers challenge him (average is 2.10 for out of zone and -2.21 for in zone). His career wOBAcon on the balls he puts in play inside the strike zone is just .302, 101 points lower than the league over that span. Through 937 major league plate appearances, he has hit three home runs, none of which have come in 2021. His extreme lack of pop has manifested itself in a 56 and 55 wRC+ in 2019 and ’20, respectively, the latter of which was also a product of his in-zone contact rate cratering to 82.4%. That placed him in the 51st percentile in 2020, not nearly high enough to offset the types of balls he puts into play.

This year has seen a marked improvement in Lopez’s top-level results. His strikeout rate has returned to a level close to that of his debut and minor-league numbers (with the help of an in-zone contact rate about 10% better than league-wide figure), while his walk rate is still at a healthy 9.3%, solidifying the gains he made last year without the corresponding loss of contact. This has enabled him to reach base at a 34.8% clip, the primary factor in his near league-average batting line (96 wRC+). Given his high-end defense (he has 21 career Outs Above Average per Baseball Savant, including 14 just this season), average performance at the plate would make Lopez a good regular who can slot in at either spot in the middle infield. But his extreme approach and batted-ball quality, coupled with his disastrous first 594 plate appearances, do make you wonder: can he be anything close to an average bat going forward? The best way to evaluate the future is to examine the past. Using qualified player seasons in the Statcast era (I left out 2020 due to its brevity), I investigated the feasibility of Lopez’s skills carrying him as a fringe-average bat.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 12, 2021 at 10:45 AM | 1 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nicky lopez

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: August 12, 2021 at 05:59 PM (#6034164)
I'm supposed to hit the pitches IN the strike zone? How come nobody told me this before?!

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