In baseball, it's not often that people who overreact to small sample sizes, confirmation bias or misleading statistics are proven right. But in the case of Wilton Lopez? Give every jaded Colorado Rockies fan a first-place ribbon for their prediction of the Nicaraguan reliever's demise.
I present to you a lot of, at the time, unnecessary hand-wringing over the Rockies' decision to pay $2.2 million to bring back Lopez and his perfectly decent 110 ERA+ for 2014:
Instead of avoiding arbitration with Wilton Lopez, I'd have preferred the #Rockies just avoiding Lopez.— Renaud L. Notaro (@RenKnowItAll) January 17, 2014
@TroyRenck That's a lot of money for a guy who was a walking time bomb (and often exploding) last year.— Brad Reed (@MrTitleist) January 16, 2014
@Rockies OMG why do we keep garbage like him? ! ? !— Clinton Hemphill (@clinthemphill) January 22, 2014
Anyway, you probably get the point by now. All of these people were completely overreacting about a guy who, when it was all said and done, was above average in 2013 and had walked fewer than two batters per nine innings while inducing ground balls at a near 55-percent clip. Of course, since Lopez melted down in a few situations for a team that had much larger issues, what you see above was the result.
But to those jaded fans' credit, Lopez did not prove their assessments wrong in 2014.
Lopez happened. The 31-year-old right-hander got off to just about as bad of a start as imaginable, surrendering a pair of runs on six hits in the Rockies' season-opening loss to the Miami Marlins. After a couple of outings in which he gave up multiple hits but no runs, things really blew up for Lopez. He allowed six runs on eight hits -- including three home runs -- in just two-thirds of an inning in a 15-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
By the numbers
Wilton Lopez, 2014
The Rockies didn't lose many games in the early part of the season, but they did come out on the wrong end of three of the four games in which Lopez pitched. Perhaps that, combined with the blow-up against the White Sox, prompted the club to option Lopez to Triple-A on April 9.
Some lost velocity contributed to Lopez's struggles, no doubt. By the end of his 2014 cameo with Colorado, Lopez's heater was down more than two full mph from where it was during his final season with the Houston Astros. But Lopez also failed to adjust and, as they say, buck up and get hitters out. He at times appeared to be battling with his psyche, and perhaps that's the reason why he didn't really get any better after his demotion; Lopez allowed 58 hits in 43⅓ innings en route to posting a 4.53 ERA for Colorado Springs.
Lopez was granted minor league free agency at the end of the season by the Rockies. It's hard to imagine that he won't end up in camp with another team when spring training rolls around, but it's also entirely possible that his days as a major league regular are over. Then again, there's always a place for pitchers who attack hitters (as in, rarely issue walks) and possess heavy sinkers, so who knows?
2014 Grade: F
Lopez managed to be ranked this "highly" only because his low innings total. It's actually pretty special (read: bad) that he was able to accumulate that much negative rWAR in so little time.