Thank you for not managing
We’ve carped about Hargrove’s instruction of Lopez for — well, it seems like years. I still don’t understand why he ever got it into his head that Lopez would be better off grounding out weakly to the right side every time he came up to bat, but I don’t know anyone who followed the whole saga without seeing their blood pressure tick upwards with each out.
We ranted about this repeatedly here — a random sample from this pre-season Q&A:
Q2: How do you see the next couple years for Jose Lopez panning out?
There are two things that happen. Either he keeps grounding out to the right side to Hargroveâ€™s applause and he sucks, or either he rebels or they let Lopez be Lopez and he hits really well. If you get the latter, heâ€™ll be a pretty good player.
Jose Lopez, hitting for some power, is a really good piece of the team. He gets his power when he really turns on a pitch, which is not that frequent – but it’s never when he’s concentrating on grounding out to the right side.
I don’t know if Hargrove’s been distracted, or if at ground-out 100 he patted Lopez on the shoulder, told him he’d proven himself and moved on to other tasks. I don’t really care. Because it’s meant that Lopez, once again yanking balls over the fence and off the walls in left, is a good second baseman. Offensively, he’s in with the second tier of AL second basemen (Hill/Castillo/Pedroia). He’s not Upton, but then he’s not carrying Upton’s glove. Which is good.
At home, all three of his home runs are dead pull, two of his four doubles are in almost the same location (the other two are down the left and down right field lines). And it’s the same story on the road: almost all his extra-base hits are pull. His singles are better-spread out, and that’s always been the case. It’s interesting that the way he’s doing it aren’t much different – his ground ball/fly ball rate’s about the same, he’s not hitting any more line drives than we’ve seen the last few years. But he’s getting more for his contact dollar at the same time the strikeouts are down and he’s walking more.
Even if he’s been a little lucky on the home runs, this is a far, far more effective version of Lopez, one that plays to his natural ability: Lopez has never been a guy who walks 10% of the time, but he’s always had good power potential pulling the ball (, and a second baseman who can field his position well and hit 30 doubles and 15-20 home runs is quite valuable. Certainly more than a weak-hitting ground-out machine who happens to be “going the other way”.
Having Lopez contribute to the team, rather than just make outs, has been a big part of the team’s improved offense. I’ve been hoping that I’d see some quote explaining what’s going on Hargrove or Lopez to look at and test, but I haven’t seen it. So whatever it is – whether it’s negligence or preoccupation or if the team made a conscious decision to let Lopez be Lopez – I’m glad to see it.