Thank you for not managing

DMZ · June 13, 2007 at 8:54 am · Filed Under Mariners 

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 Hargrove’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, he’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.


74 Responses to “Thank you for not managing”

  1. Jeff Nye on June 13th, 2007 2:43 pm

    If the M’s were out of contention, I’d be rooting for Sexson to bunt, just because I think it’d be hilarious to watch.

    In the context of the season going reasonably well, though, I cannot imagine what possible case you could make for that being a good idea.

    Unless you want him to hurt himself and get benched so that they can move Broussard into 1B, Ibanez to DH, Jones to LF, and Vidro to the bench…

    Heck with it, I’m behind that idea, too. BUNT RICHIE BUNT

  2. Mike Snow on June 13th, 2007 3:03 pm

    Along those lines, a thought experiment: Suppose Vidro had come into home with a slide, like everyone thinks he should have, allowing Barrett to keep his eyes on the ball and make the tag. Meanwhile, Vidro gets hurt in the collision, and the Mariners go on to lose when O’Flaherty finally gives up a run in the bottom of the inning.

    After the game, the team determines Vidro will be out for months with a broken leg, so they call up Adam Jones to replace him. Jones becomes the regular left fielder with Ibanez taking Vidro’s spot as DH. Even though the Mariners lose the game instead of winning it, are they better off?

  3. Manzanillos Cup on June 13th, 2007 3:11 pm

    52: I’d have a tough time seeing that happen, because if someone goes down, we already have supersub Willie Bloomquist – who needs ABs!

  4. Steve Nelson on June 13th, 2007 3:14 pm

    Not only did the Mariners state it was a goal for Lopez to learn to hit to right, they sent him back to Tacoma until he learned to do it.

    The contrast with the team’s approach to plate discipline is a stark contrast – despite the Mariners talk about how they believe plate discipline to be, the Mariners will never hold a player back at a level until he learns better pitch selection.

  5. bhsmarine on June 13th, 2007 3:30 pm

    I think there is a middle ground to this whole argument. Lopez does not have enough power to only be a dominate pull hitter, like Ortiz or Griffey. He needed to learn to spread the ball around the field, he needed to know when to knock that outside pitch for a single or turn on that inside one for a XBH when he gets it. Hargrove’s intention was not to have him hit every single pitch to the right side.

  6. Gomez on June 13th, 2007 3:55 pm

    What bhs said. Hargrove wasn’t teaching Lopez to hit to the right side just because: there was a lesson to that whole exercise that is now beginning to manifest itself in a better rounded Jose Lopez.

  7. DMZ on June 13th, 2007 4:23 pm

    The “better rounded” Jose Lopez is *exactly the same hitter he was in the minors*.

    Really. When he was in the minors and people raved about his bat, he pushed singles all over the place and most of his power was pull. He came up, Hargrove decided he didn’t like Lopez’s approach, and turned him into the ground-to-the-right-side guy.

    The Lopez you’re seeing now has the same approach, the same strengths and weaknesses he had when he enjoyed success hitting in the minors. There’s no pitch he’s hitting now consistently that he couldn’t hit consistently before the futility training. I don’t know where this is coming from, but there isn’t.

    So now, I guess, the argument is that he wouldn’t be the same hitter as he was before if Hargrove hadn’t decided it was in his best interest to flail at the plate for however long. I disagree.

    This is like… I decided to drive to New York, but for no reason thought it would be a good idea to get out and push the car all the way through Montana. When I get back in and start clocking along at 60 again, that’s not because I got out and walked before.

  8. The Unknown Comic on June 13th, 2007 4:24 pm

    I am happy if Lopez hits like Edgar Martinez, not quite there yet but getting closer.

  9. DMZ on June 13th, 2007 4:26 pm

    And Hargrove – Hargrove’s career line is .290/.396/.391 – he was a singles hitter with a good eye. Getting a hitter like Lopez to emulate him isn’t helpful to Lopez, since Lopez already can hit for contact, but doesn’t have the eye, and drives the ball a lot better than Mike did.

  10. DMZ on June 13th, 2007 4:27 pm

    You’d be happy if he hit like a borderline Hall of Famer. Yes. Who would not be happy?

  11. The Unknown Comic on June 13th, 2007 4:28 pm

    Mike still wants Lopez to hit to the opposite field, I heard him say it on an interview a week or two ago. I don’t know if Lopez is just doing his own thing or what.

  12. davepaisley on June 13th, 2007 4:38 pm

    #55 “Lopez does not have enough power to only be a dominate pull hitter”

    The word is dominant.

  13. The Unknown Comic on June 13th, 2007 4:43 pm

    Ichiro could be a dominate pull hitter I think. That guy is amazing in batting practice and I am not sure I have ever seen anyone better than him.

  14. The Unknown Comic on June 13th, 2007 4:44 pm

    oops sorry dominant.

  15. Brian Rust on June 13th, 2007 5:01 pm

    Here’s basically what I remember about the early José Lopez, particularly near the bottom of the comments in a delightfully well-written exchange between Dave and Bela Txadux covering the prospects for Lopez’s development. I can see where learning to hit the other way has been a key to resolving some of these issues.

    That he made it from there to here, while spending most of the time on the big club, evidences some pretty good development work. You can believe Mike Hargrove’s management played a part, or you can believe it happened all by itself. I simply choose to give the manager some credit.

  16. gwangung on June 13th, 2007 5:38 pm

    That he made it from there to here, while spending most of the time on the big club, evidences some pretty good development work. You can believe Mike Hargrove’s management played a part, or you can believe it happened all by itself. I simply choose to give the manager some credit.

    If Hargrove STILL wants Lopez to hit the other way, and if Lopez’s hitting pattern now is the same as it was in the minors, I can’t see how you can give the credit to Hargrove.

    And the discussion you’re citing doesn’t have that much to do with the discussion right here.

  17. Jeff Nye on June 13th, 2007 6:20 pm

    I have no idea how you would read that discussion as being supportive of Lopez needing to learn to hit the ball to right, on either side.

    It was a discussion about whether, in 2005, Jose Lopez had any business being in the major leagues or not. Most of it had to do with his defensive shortcomings at shortstop, which is why he is now at second base, and pitch recognition/knowing pitchers. In what I read, him being primarily a pull hitter is mentioned very peripherally, if at all.

    Maybe I missed something?

    Discarding that for the moment, the salient point that has been repeated in this thread multiple times is that the recent improvement in Lopez’s hitting is that he has gone back to his prior approach of NOT worrying about hitting the ball to all fields, and instead doing what he’s always done well.

    The only thing you could possibly give credit to Hargrove for would be recognizing that he was trying to force a square peg into a round hole, giving up on that, and letting Jose hit how he is naturally inclined to; but that not only presumes that that is what has happened, which we have no idea about, but also absolves Hargrove of responsibility for trying to force the square peg into the round hole in the first place.

  18. gwangung on June 13th, 2007 6:53 pm

    but that not only presumes that that is what has happened, which we have no idea about, but also absolves Hargrove of responsibility for trying to force the square peg into the round hole in the first place.

    I don’t think it unreasonable for Grover to try; I do think it unreasonable to be happy trading 20-30 points in batting average for 80-120 points in slugging.

  19. Jeff Nye on June 13th, 2007 7:26 pm

    I don’t mind him trying to do his job; but part of doing his job, or at least being good at it, is recognizing when he’s wrong.

    And he’s never really shown any ability to do that, at all.

  20. Edman on June 14th, 2007 1:23 am

    Hargrove was correct to get Lopez to think about hitting the other way. Only a handful of major leaguers succeed as extreme pull hitters, because they can be pitched around. The idea that it was bad to teach Lopez how to hit the other way is insane.

    Perhaps…..Hargrove is smart enough to help him round out his game by getting him to concentrate early in his career to use the opposite field.

    I do find it funny that when someone fails, it’s because of Hargrove. When someone succeeds, it’s in spite of him.

    Kinda sounds like the crazy guy pointing fingers at everyone else, calling them insane.

  21. DAMellen on June 14th, 2007 1:56 am

    Yeah all his power is to left, but he has to be able to hit outside pitches too. If he couldn’t slap an occasional outside pitch to right, pitchers would just throw him all outside pitches and he’d start grounding out to the left side of the infield 4 times a game. Look at JJ Hardy. Once pitchers realized he couldn’t slap it the other way, they started throwing him all outside pitches. If he took it to right every now and then he’d still be batting .325 and my fantasy team would still be in first place.

  22. DMZ on June 14th, 2007 7:55 am

    Well, if you think we never give Hargrove credit for success, you’re not reading us closely enough.

    Hargrove didn’t teach Lopez to think about hitting the other way. Lopez can, and always has, gotten his share of hits to the right side. My point was that having Lopez focus exclusively on it, to the utter destruction of his offensive game, did nothing for him, because now that he’s hitting for some power again, he’s exactly the same hitter he was before.

  23. Edman on June 15th, 2007 12:12 am

    He hit for power in the first half of last season…..while he was having success hitting to the opposite field. His trip to the All-Star game was aided by those extra hits he got to right field. So, I’m just a little confused. Are you saying that Hargrove told him to hit EVERYTHING to right field, AFTER the All Star Game?

    Maybe Lopez himself, in trying to make himself a more complete ballplayer, concentrated on it….but why not, he was having success early on.

    Also, hitting behind Ichiro using traditional baseball tactics, means sacrificing at bats to move him over. That’s why I have no problem with Vidro being here, because it allows Lopez to move down in the order and work more on driving the ball, than getting Ichiro moved down to second.

  24. DMZ on June 15th, 2007 12:35 am

    Lookout Landing did a great job tracking Lopez’s changing approach last year. We’ve put a couple pointers out there to Jeff’s outstanding stuff on it, and if you want, you can check it out. I’m not going to parrot everything Jeff did, but it’s a persuasive case.

    Or you can keep believing what you wish. Whichever.

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