Reynaldo Lopez isn’t your typical power pitcher. If you haven’t watched many White Sox games this year, you’ll be able to find this in his low strikeout-rate, superb command, and overall polish. Reading an interview published by FanGraphs’ David Laurila a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a feel for a smart pitcher. One who puts hard work into his craft to become better. Among many interesting nuggets in this piece, I found the overall summary of his repertoire interesting.
According to Cooper, that’s only partially true. Explaining that the slider has “supplanted the curveball” as the youngster’s primary breaking ball, he added that Lopez “has three out pitches: a chase slider, a fastball — elevated fastball, pound [the zone] — and a changeup below.”
Particularly the slider too.
In terms of intention, “wipeout” is somewhat of a misnomer. Coming off a game in which he threw a large majority of his sliders for strikes, Lopez told me that he isn’t looking for swings and misses with the pitch. What he’s looking for is weak contact.
Reynaldo Lopez is now coming off the best month of his major league career. Over the past 30 calendar days, he posted a K-BB% triple the size of his April-August rate. The strikeouts are up, the command/control is better than ever. We might be seeing a blip thrown in the middle of a larger sample size, yet we might see a tantalizing arm growing into its potential.
Nowadays, we like to associate velocity and strikeouts together, which most of the time ends up correlating directly. Here and there are a few outliers though, including one of the bigger ones in Lopez. Ranking near the bottom sixth of baseball in K-rate, he stood out among soft-tossers such as Mike Leake, Dallas Keuchel, and James Shields.
And this is what brings me to Lopez’ improvements. For the month of September, he’s striking out batters at a 33.8 percent clip with his four-seamer. Prior to this, the previous monthly high he posted for a four-seamer K-rate was 15.7 percent, which happened to be this August.
He seems to be attacking with more confidence in his fastball. As a pitcher with a wide variety of options in his secondaries, he put primary reliance on them deep in counts. But during the past couple of starts, he’s been darting it by hitters with two strikes, increasing his usage in said counts. You could say he’s flipped his script and is now pitching backwards, to the tune of much success.
Recently, he’s been going to the slider and changeup in early counts. This can be used to help set up the fastball, or as he’s done very successfully so far, induce quick and easy soft-contact outs.
Here he freezes Shin-Soo Choo on a four-seamer. Choo expected something breaking, instead he got 97 with movement on the edge.
And then he can blow 98 right by you!
The changes that Reynaldo Lopez has made this month have brought quite the intrigue to me. It’s easy to forget not too long ago he was one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. He’s still only 24-years-old. He could still consistently hit upper-90s with his heater. And most importantly of all, he might have just figured out how to harness all of his raw ability.