Tag: Felipe Lopez

Rays’ Felipe Lopez Needs to Go When Evan Longoria Returns

Tampa Bay Rays 3B Evan Longoria is expected to return from an oblique injury sometime during the Rays‘ next home stand (April 29-May 5).

This inevitably means that somebody on the current 25-man roster is going to be without a spot. So who should be the man to go? You could make strong cases for Casey Kotchman, Dan Johnson, and Elliot Johnson.

But the player to go should be Felipe Lopez.

It has nothing to do with statistics or his play on the field, but it has everything to do with team chemistry and Lopez’s attitude.

He just isn’t getting it.

Rays’ manager Joe Maddon pulled Lopez from Friday’s game with the Blue Jays for his lack of effort. For the second time this week, Lopez has had to be reprimanded for not running hard to first base.

That is one time too many for a player who has been in the big leagues since 2001. We aren’t talking about a rookie player who needs a little coaching on how to play the game of baseball the right way.

Lopez has been with eight organizations in his 11-year career. Certainly somebody along the way has told him that you always run out a ground ball.

Then again, perhaps his lack of hustle is the reason why he hasn’t stuck with a team. In fact, he was released from the Cardinals last season due in large part because he was late to a game.

Part of the success of the Rays in recent years has been the team’s extraordinary team chemistry and willingness to give maximum effort for nine innings. Game after game.

Lopez just doesn’t fit that mold.

This is the same player who flipped his bat towards the mound after hitting a home run against the White Sox a few weeks ago. He drew Maddon’s ire then as well.

No player should ever try and show up the opposing pitcher. But a player with 90 career home runs in 4,768 plate appearances? Come on.

Lopez has done an admirable job as the primary clean-up hitter in the absence of Longoria and the now retired Manny Ramirez. He deserves a certain amount of credit for that.

Still, if it were not for Sean Rodriguez’s mystifying inability to hit right-handed pitching, you have to wonder if Lopez would even be playing much at all.

The Rays have many hurdles to overcome if they want to contend in 2011. They can’t afford to have a player on the team who doesn’t believe in giving 100 percent.

Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson can do a more than adequate job as the utility infielders.

Lopez needs to go. The team will be better off without him.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Attention Milwaukee Brewers: Ask the Washington Nationals About Felipe Lopez

Zack Greinke got his “Welcome to Milwaukee” press conference yesterday and he seemed genuinely happy to be there. He had made it very clear over the past year or so that he wanted to play for a winner and now he has his wish.

I don’t have a problem with Greinke wanting to play for a winner and eventually forcing his trade; over the years, many star players were stuck on bad teams and several ultimately demanded a trade to get the chance to win.

I get it.

But none of those players gave up on his team because they were losers. None of them saw their numbers decline because they couldn’t give their all for a losing team.

Greinke’s Cy Young season in 2009 was special. He went 16-8 with a sparkling 2.16 ERA, striking out almost 10 batters per game while walking just two. And over the first two months of last season, he continued pitching at that same level.

But by June, he was starting to give up chunks of runs and he seemed less focused. His September ERA was 5.92 and he began to look like he didn’t care.

A year earlier, he told the Kansas City press, “I don’t want to play anywhere else,” but by the end of last season he switched agents so that his trade could come quicker. There were grumblings all summer that he had just given up.

If this is true—and I have no verifiable proof to that end—why would Brewers’ players want him on their team? And certainly, Nationals fans would have had mixed feelings about the acquisition of Greinke because of their experience with a player who not too long ago dogged it for two seasons in Washington.

I was stunned when the Nationals obtained Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez in a multi-player trade four years ago. They gave up just two relievers and a couple of utility players.

Kearns was a rising star who had averaged .265-25-95 over a 162-game season to that point in his career. His difficulties since, though, had nothing to do with desire.

Lopez, however, is another story.

He made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the trade that brought him to Washington, but he was a professional and I believed the attitude wouldn’t affect his performance.

Over his first five major league seasons, Lopez averaged .260-18-72 over 162 games and batted .291-23-85 the year before the trade. He was on his way to a similar season when he was shipped to Washington in early summer.

In 2007, his only complete season with the Nationals, Lopez batted .245/.308/.352 with nine homers and 50 RBI. At the time of his release the following year (at the trade deadline), Lopez was batting .234/.305/.314.

That’s pretty bad.

The Cardinals signed him shortly after his release, and in 156 at-bats he hit .385/.426/.538 with four homers and 21 RBI. That’s twice as many homers and runs batted in with the Cardinals in half the at-bats.

That’s pretty good.

Since then, Lopez has batted .280/.351/.392 for the Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Brewers and Red Sox, averaging 10 home runs and 60 RBI.

So in the five seasons before playing for the Nationals, he was a solid offensive shortstop. And in the two-plus years after leaving the Nationals, Lopez was a solid offensive shortstop.

But in parts of three seasons with the Nationals, he sucked big-time.

The only difference was that he didn’t want to play in Washington. And because of that, he didn’t give his teammates 100 percent.

Oh, I don’t think he realized that is what he was doing. I’m sure that in his mind, he was playing as hard as ever.

But he wasn’t.

The same thing applies to Zack Grienke: He was Cy Young himself when he felt content, but the moment he was someplace he didn’t want to be, he became the most mortal of pitchers. Beginning in June last season, his ERA was 4.92. He gave up four or more runs in 11 of his last 21 starts.

For four months, he was just another pitcher.

If the Brewers play well next season, Greinke stands a good chance of winning another Cy Young award. Over the last five seasons, he has a 3.32 ERA, which translates to about 2.82 in the National League.

He’ll be dominant.

But what if the Brewers aren’t in a pennant race? How long will it take before he loses focus and his numbers again become mediocre? Will he ask—once again—to be traded to a contender?

Zack Greinke, Felipe Lopez or any one player just isn’t worth it.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fixing the 2011 Seattle Mariners: Jack/Josh Wilson

The shortstop position is one that the Mariners have been trying to patch since Alex Rodriguez left Seattle following the 2000 season.

They used Carlos Guillen there in 2001, but his relationship with then-ace Freddy Garcia appeared to be damaging to the pitcher in the eyes of the front office, and he was sent packing to Detroit in 2003.

They signed Rich Aurilia in 2004; he was supposed to be the answer after coming off of a handful of productive seasons in San Francisco, but flamed out quickly posting a .641 OPS in 292 plate appearances with Seattle and was traded to the Padres later that season.

Then in 2005, the Mariners began what would be a tumultuous Mariners career for Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt showed some impressive skills with his glove, making some very difficult plays on occasion but seemed to struggle very frequently with routine plays and had major lapses in concentration. According to UZR/150, Betancourt’s defensive production began at about league average and steadily declined until he was traded in 2009.

After his departure, Betancourt’s then-vacated position was filled by Ronny Cedeno. Later, Cedeno would be traded to the Pirates in a trade that would bring Jack Wilson to Seattle, and he and Josh Wilson would combine to finish the season at shortstop.

This year, the Mariners boasted the latter duo as their answer at the shortstop position. They assumed they’d need the former Wilson, Josh, because Jack was injury prone.

Knowing that, they’d signed Jack to a two-year, $10 million extension. They figured that Jack’s elite defense, while missing some games, combined with Josh’s near-average defense at short to fill in the gaps was worth the money.

Jack’s season went about as poorly as it could have: He posted a wRC+ of 62, with a -2.8 UZR/150 at shortstop in 61 games; he battled a hamstring injury earlier in the season, an ailment he’s dealt with throughout his career, but ultimately ended his season after fracturing his fifth metacarpal after “slipping in the shower.”

Josh hasn’t been much better, just healthier. In 101 games, he’s had a wRC+ of 72 and a UZR/150 of 5.0 at shortstop this season. He’s been worth a half win above replacement, riding strongly on the positional adjustment for shortstops.

So going into 2011, the Mariners will have a shortstop making $5 million (Jack) who will have missed almost half of the games his teams have played in the last three seasons, and a shortstop (Josh) who has played his career, which has totaled 880 plate appearances to this point, at a level slightly below replacement level.

The Mariners likely can’t trade Jack, as his value hasn’t matched his salary since 2007, and he’s coming off of an injury shortened season.

So while the Mariners could easily upgrade over Jack offensively, it may not be cost-effective to do so via free agency.

If Wilson would have qualified for the batting title this year, he’d have been the shortstop with the second-lowest wOBA in all of baseball (ahead of only Cesar Izturis). Josh would rank ahead of only Izturis and Alcides Escobar.

A few months ago, it looked like J.J. Hardy was almost sure to be non-tendered by the Minnesota Twins. After coming over to the Twins in an offseason trade, and eventually signing a $5.1 million pact for 2010, avoiding arbitration, Hardy struggled to start the 2010 season. He wRC+’s of 78, 64, and -34 in the first three months of the season (only four games in June).

However, in part due to a regression to mean of Hardy’s BABIP and a shift in his batted ball profile, Hardy came back big in July, posting a wRC+ of 142. He stumbled a little in August, posting an 85 wRC+, but has responded with a 126 wRC+ in September so far.

Combined with a league transition, it’s easy to rationalize that this recent version of Hardy is a fixed version, and that the improvement should carry over into 2011.

Unfortunately for the Mariners, that greatly decreases the chances that he’ll be available in free agency this offseason.

Apart from Derek Jeter, who will likely remain with the Yankees, the rest of the free agent class of shortstops seem to possess their own set of fatal flaws: be they offensive production, poor defense, or age.

So unless the team takes a look at Felipe Lopez, who is likely best equipped defensively to play either second or third base but would be a valuable bat to occasionally plug in at shortstop, they may be best off attempting to solve their shortstop woes either internally or with unproven, undervalued prospects from somebody else’s farm system.

The team presently has Nick Franklin, who will rank very highly on prospect lists next year, who is a switch-hitting (probably eventually lefty only) shortstop who was drafted, at least in part, because of his defensive ability. Franklin absolutely torched the Midwest League this season to the tune of a .283/.354/.486 slash line.

He’ll be only 20 years old next year though, and A ball to the bigs is a pretty big jump. Look for Franklin to start the year in AA or AAA next year.

Carlos Triunfel has long been among Seattle’s top prospects. However, a transition to second or third base is likely for the formerly highly-touted prospect, and his expected power has never materialized into production.

While a hot spring and a few hot games for Matt Tuiasosopo have made some believe that he should be receiving more playing time, the reality is that Tuiasosopo simply isn’t a shortstop. While two errors in 28 innings at shortstop in the pros certainly hurt Tuiasosopo’s UZR rating, a -23.3 is hardly different than what one could expect from the shortstop turned utility man.

The Tacoma Rainiers had a revolving door at shortstop this season, and without a valid option close to the majors, the Mariners may need to look outside the organization to fill the position, be it free agency or via trade.

Other Fixing the 2011 Seattle Mariners profiles

Ted Lilly

Ramon Hernandez

Michael Saunders

Colby Rasmus

Adam Dunn

Chone Figgins

Dustin Ackley

Felipe Lopez

Willy Aybar

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fixing the 2011 Seattle Mariners: Felipe Lopez

In the past two entries in an attempt to repair a broken team, we looked at Chone Figgins and Dustin Ackley. The two make up a reasonably probable combination of second and third basemen for much of next season.

However, if the Mariners attempt to avoid paying Ackley another arbitration year, they’ll need someone to hold his place until he is ultimately called to the big club, likely in mid-June.

The problem is that with limited budget space, the Mariners will have to find a guy who can competently play both second and third base, and won’t embarrass the club at the plate. But what the last two offseasons have shown is that players with league average bats, and average-below average defense at multiple positions simply aren’t as marketable as they once were.

Felipe Lopez is one of those guys. After a 2008 season where he lost an arbitration case that gave him a $4.9 million salary, and Lopez coming of a 0.9 WAR season in 2008, Lopez signed a $3.5 million deal to play for Arizona for a year. He’d flourish in Arizona, and later Milwaukee after being traded in July, en route to a 3.9 WAR season.

According to Fangraphs, in 2009 Lopez was worth $17.5 million. He wouldn’t receive close to that in the offseason.

Also, in the face of a recession, teams have been less willing to sign Type A free agents. Teams don’t want to exchange a draft pick for a player who won’t make major contributions, or in the case of many utility players, won’t have a truly defined role on the team.

Having a league average bat that can be plugged into multiple positions holds some value with clubs, but that value appears to be trending down. Lopez was one of many who have been victimized by the recent emphasis on avoiding marginal Type A free agents.

It appears that won’t be the case for Lopez going into the 2010 offseason, as his 2010 performance appears to have dropped him to Type B status, which means that his signing team will not have to give up a draft pick, and that the team he comes from (St. Louis Cardinals) will be awarded a compensatory round pick.

The major downside, obviously, of sliding down to Type B status, is that it comes at the hands of a poor 2010 performance. So while teams may be more willing to discuss bringing Lopez in, the chances of him receiving a large raise on his $1 million 2010 salary are not very good.

So how can Lopez help the Mariners?

Well apart from a wRC+ of 96 for his career, Lopez has 5156 innings at shortstop, 2636.1 innings at second base, and 1231 innings at third base for his career. According to UZR, his defense gets closer to league average respectively. He’s a -10.8 UZR/150 for his career at short, -1.3 at second, and 3.4 at third. In terms of WAR, Lopez is only 1.9 behind Jack Wilson for his career, while amassing over 300 less plate appearances, though both of their careers began in 2010.

Utility is great, but there is a reason why teams have shied away from signing utility men to big dollars: because while they may act as insurance, limiting the deductible on the premium has become more important.

That stated, in the case of the Mariners, where Lopez’s successor is waiting in Tacoma, the same guy that plays second base for the first two months of the season will need to have a function on the roster after Ackley is brought up.

An interesting fact about Lopez, and a surprising amount of the league’s switch hitters, is that he actually hits better from the right side than the left. Logic would dictate that player who hits better right handed would be a poor switch hitter, as he’d see a disproportionate majority of right-handed pitchers, and thus deviate from his strong side of the plate on most at bats.

But since Ackley is left-handed and has performed poorly against lefties so far in the minors, Lopez could become a viable platoon partner. Also, while his defense is far from stellar at shortstop, he’d be an offensive upgrade over both Jack and Josh Wilson against even right-handed pitchers. Lopez’s 76 wRC+ tops Jack’s 64, and Josh’s 72.

However, Lopez’s ugly 2010 can’t go unanalyzed. Is Lopez really as bad as his 2010 season?

It’d be easy to look at Lopez’s career .316 BABIP, and his 2010 BABIP of .272, and dismiss 2010 as bad luck. Lopez had long been a guy with a ton of physical tools, but one who rarely put them all together for a full season.

But in most seasons, Lopez has done some things really well. That hasn’t been the case in 2010.

It’s interesting to examine Lopez’s peripheral stats from 2005, a year when he hit 23 home runs for Cincinnati, compared to his 2010 stats. Lopez line drive percentage in 2010 is 18 percent, the lowest output of his career, though his numbers have remained pretty steady between 19 and 20 percent for most of his career. 2005 however, was a season where Lopez hit a career-high 53.2 percent ground balls.

Why would a season where Lopez hit so many groundballs also yield his highest home run total?

Well, despite hitting a lower percentage of fly balls than he has in any other year, Lopez boasted an eye-popping 18.3 HR/FB percentage. It would be really easy to again dismiss the deviation in production as luck, as Lopez hasn’t topped 10.1 percent in any season apart from 2001, when he hit only 63 fly balls. However, one must wonder how much playing in Cincinnati helped Lopez that season.

According to Baseball Reference, Great American Ballpark had a park factor of 103 that season (anything over 100 favors hitters), while Busch Stadium III boasts a 98 park factor this year. However, the environment was different that year, as homeruns have decreased by about seven percent since then.

So in a hitter’s park and a more friendly home run environment (ahem, the tail end of the steroid era), Lopez hit more home runs.

But last year, fueled by an inflated BABIP, Lopez managed to produce in Arizona (110 park factor) and Milwaukee (95 park factor). So what gives?

Well, Lopez’s already inflated .348 BABIP in Arizona rose to .372 in Milwaukee.

So while his 86 wRC+ in 2010 comes in part as a result of bad luck, his great 2009 shouldn’t receive a disproportionate amount of credibility, as his luck was incredibly good that season.

Either way, if Lopez is willing to take a one year deal, or even a minor league deal with the opportunity to start for two months and play considerable time afterwards, he’d be a good fit for Seattle’s needs.

Other Fixing the 2011 Seattle Mariners profiles

Ted Lilly

Ramon Hernandez

Michael Saunders

Colby Rasmus

Adam Dunn

Chone Figgins

Dustin Ackley

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

St. Louis Cardinals: 10 Reasons World Series Hopefuls Became Wild Card Outsiders

Coming into the 2010 baseball season, there was no clearer choice than the St. Louis Cardinals as National League Central Division champs.

They had Albert Pujols, the best player in baseball, and possibly the best 3-4 combination in Pujols and Matt Holliday.

Their starting rotation, led by co-aces Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, was thought to be one of the best in baseball.

However, even after a win against Cincinnati on Friday night, the Cardinals trail the division leading Reds by seven games, and are looking more and more like a team struggling to stay in the Wild Card race, where they trail the Phillies by five games.

So how did such a promising season get to this point? Here are 10 reasons it’s gotten this way.

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