Player Profile: Wilton Lopez

With Mark Melancon out of the picture Wilton Lopez might be the favorite to take over as the Astros closer in 2012. But with plenty of live young arms ticketed for Kissimee this Spring, Lopez will not simply inherit the job. He will have to outperform the competition which consists of Fernando Rodriguez, Juan Abreu, and Brandon Lyon, among others.

Last season Lopez missed his chance to become the closer when Brandon Lyon went on the disabled list. Lopez was recovering from an elbow injury at the time and skipper Brad Mills chose to go with Mark Melancon instead. Melancon held on to the job and Lopez stayed in his familiar setup role for most of the year.

Although Lopez doesn’t have “lights out” stuff, he does possess a couple of valuable qualities for the ninth inning. Lopez throws strikes. In 2010 he walked only five batters in 67 innings. Last season Lopez walked 18 hitters in his 71 innings pitched. That equates to 2.28 BB/9 IP or 6.0 percent. That’s not nearly as impressive as his 2010 numbers, but still rates much better than league average. Lopez has also consistently induced two ground balls for every fly ball throughout his career.That 2:1 ratio puts Lopez among the league’s elite.

With the exception of the increased number of walks, Lopez pretty much duplicated his breakout 2010 season in 2011. His 2-6 record made it feel like Lopez was a bit of a disappointment. That record could be partially attributed to the fact that the Astros managed only 56 wins for the year. One discouraging trend did develop for Lopez in 2011. I can’t find the data to back it up but I know Lopez struggled to keep inherited runners from scoring, something he seemed to excel at in 2010. If anyone knows where I can find that data please let me know.

If inherited runners continue to be a problem for Lopez the role of closer may actually make sense. Modern-day closers generally enter the game to start the ninth inning, thus eliminating the inherited runners scenario.

If healthy, Lopez is one of the only relievers on the roster that is pretty much a lock to break camp with the team. Unless the Astros surprise me by going outside of the organization for a closer, the job should be his to lose. But the Astros could very well go with a “closer by committee” approach if some of the young arms step up and deliver.

Topics: Astros, Baseball, Brandon Lyon, Mark Melancon, Wilton Lopez

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  • LEXthePEX

    To be honest, I’m not a fan of Lopez. Decent ERA but he doesn’t pass my eyeball test. He pounds the strikezone but his stuff is so fringy that if hitters guess right, he’ll get crushed. I’d rather have him in the 7th inning and give the younger guys a shot and Lyon a shot.

  • astrosince1975

    I was impressed with Lopez in 2010. But last year he seemed to take a step back. I can’t find the inherited runners stat but one stat that indicates a regression is his FIP (fielding independent pitching.) In 2010 Lopez had a 2.59 FIP, which was 19th best in the majors among pitchers with at least 50 IP. Last year Lopez had a 3.43 FIP which is still good but not nearly as impressive.

  • LEXthePEX

    To be honest, I’m not a fan of Lopez. Decent ERA but he doesn’t pass my eyeball test. He pounds the strikezone but his stuff is so fringy that if hitters guess right, he’ll get crushed. I’d rather have him in the 7th inning and give the younger guys a shot and Lyon a shot.

  • astrosince1975

    I was impressed with Lopez in 2010. But last year he seemed to take a step back. I can’t find the inherited runners stat but one stat that indicates a regression is his FIP (fielding independent pitching.) In 2010 Lopez had a 2.59 FIP, which was 19th best in the majors among pitchers with at least 50 IP. Last year Lopez had a 3.43 FIP which is still good but not nearly as impressive.

    • Stroscrow

      @astrosince1975 From what I could tell from Baseball References player index, Wilton Lopez inherited a total of 34 runners this year, and allowed 16 of them to score, which equates to about 47%.

      He was a lot better at keeping inherited runners from crossing home plate later in the season. He really struggled with this in May.

      • astrosince1975

        @Stroscrow Thanks for the tip. I went back and looked at his 2010 game logs and Lopez only allowed 1 of 30 inherited runners to score.

        • Stroscrow

          @astrosince1975 That’s a big difference from one year to the next. That showed how impressive 2010to was.

          His numbers in 2011 were definitely deceptive because of his inherited runners scoring. That 2.78 ERA is better than he actually was.

  • Stroscrow

    @astrosince1975 From what I could tell from Baseball References player index, Wilton Lopez inherited a total of 34 runners this year, and allowed 16 of them to score, which equates to about 47%.

    He was a lot better at keeping inherited runners from crossing home plate later in the season. He really struggled with this in May.

  • Its Gonna Happen

    2 things about Lopez last year…

    1, he had his elbow injury early on and was still played pretty regularly, resulting in him getting tore up.
    2, He was out for, I think 2 weeks?, on the DL, but still managed only like 2 innings less than Melancon. He was used WAY too much, mostly because he was one of three steady arms for the late innings. (F-Rod, Melancon, Lopez)

    I like Lopez, I like his stuff, I like his command, and I like his composure. He has my vote to replace the shark.

  • astrosince1975

    @Stroscrow Thanks for the tip. I went back and looked at his 2010 game logs and Lopez only allowed 1 of 30 inherited runners to score.

  • Its Gonna Happen

    2 things about Lopez last year…

    1, he had his elbow injury early on and was still played pretty regularly, resulting in him getting tore up.
    2, He was out for, I think 2 weeks?, on the DL, but still managed only like 2 innings less than Melancon. He was used WAY too much, mostly because he was one of three steady arms for the late innings. (F-Rod, Melancon, Lopez)

    I like Lopez, I like his stuff, I like his command, and I like his composure. He has my vote to replace the shark.

  • Stroscrow

    @astrosince1975 That’s a big difference from one year to the next. That showed how impressive 2010to was.

    His numbers in 2011 were definitely deceptive because of his inherited runners scoring. That 2.78 ERA is better than he actually was.

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