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Saturday Rockpile: What's wrong with Wilton?

So far in 2013, Wilton Lopez has not been what the Rockies bargained for when they acquired him from the Astros in exchange for Alex White.

Wilton Lopez took his third loss of the season last night, and has struggled throughout 2013.
Wilton Lopez took his third loss of the season last night, and has struggled throughout 2013.
Doug Pensinger

Coughing up two runs while recording just one out last night, Rockies reliever Wilton Lopez took his third loss of 2013. It was the sixth time in Lopez's 36 appearances in which he gave up multiple runs, something he did only four times in 64 appearances last season with Houston.

Lopez's 4.25 ERA in 2013 is nearly double the 2.17 ERA he posted last season with the Astros, and he has certainly not been the shutdown late-inning reliever the Rockies thought they were getting from Houston when they traded away Alex White. He has earned just four holds this season and the Rockies are 15-21 in games in which he appears.

There are certainly signs that Lopez has been unlucky in 2013, his BABIP against is up more than 40 points from 2012 at .339 and his FIP is a much more respectable 3.28 (though that is a fairly significant step down from his 2.70 FIP in 2012).

However, Lopez's K-rate stands at just 13.6%, his lowest since his rookie year of 2009 (it was 20.8% last year), and looking at PITCHf/x, his velocity is significantly down across the board. The velocity on all of Lopez's pitches is down over one mile per hour from 2012 to 2013, with his fastball taking the most significant hit, dropping from an average of 93.6 MPH last year to 91.2 MPH this year. He has also thrown significantly more splitters this season at the expense of using his fastball.

Before being moved to the Rockies in the offseason, Lopez was nearly traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, who called the deal off after failing Lopez's physical due to concerns about his elbow. However, the Rockies passed Lopez in his physical when they acquired him a week later, showing little concern over the MRI on his elbow. It could well be that the elbow is causing the slip in Lopez's stuff and performance in 2013.

Whatever the issue is, it is clear based on both stuff and results that Lopez is not the same pitcher he was in Houston.


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