Why Do They Always Get Better

Late last night, in a game against the Diamondbacks, Jose Lopez pinch-hit for Huston Street in the bottom of the ninth. Lopez struck out, and the Rockies lost. Just a few minutes later, it was announced that Lopez had been designated for assignment, as the Rockies are shaking things up yet again in their infield.

This is not a celebratory post, nor is it an I-told-you-so post. I'm not happy that Jose Lopez failed; quite the opposite, in fact, and I thought things had a good chance of working out in Colorado. Lopez is a good person and a talented player I wanted to see succeed somewhere other than in front of my eyes 160 times a year.

But Lopez didn't succeed. Despite being put in an excellent position, and despite homering in his third at bat and singling in his fourth, Lopez failed, and he failed in large part because he didn't make any changes. Lopez kept on swinging his way into easy outs, and it looks like he'll end his Rockies career with a .233 OBP.

I don't know what comes next for Jose Lopez. He's still only 27 years old. He'll get a chance somewhere, even if it isn't a chance that lets him start in the bigs right away, and he's by no means run out of opportunities. He's a decently versatile young infielder two years removed from hitting 25 home runs in a pitcher-friendly park. Someone'll bite.

But - think back to 2005. You'll remember that 2005 was the year the Mariners were planning on using Pokey Reese every day at shortstop. But Reese got hurt, and the Mariners had to scramble to add Wilson Valdez as a last-minute stopgap. They grabbed him off waivers on April 1st and played him through May, and for as long as he was around, Valdez was exactly what we figured he'd be - pretty sharp in the field and godawful with the bat. Valdez was the kind of shortstop you can grab off waivers on the first day of April.

Valdez disappeared in early June, and it didn't look like he'd go on to have much of a big league career. Within a couple weeks, Jose Lopez arrived in the Majors for the second time. Lopez didn't take Valdez's job, because Lopez wasn't a shortstop, but it signaled a transition from a dull, pointless middle infield to a young, exciting middle infield. Valdez was 27. He was nothing. He wasn't part of the future. Lopez was 21. He was one of the better infield prospects in baseball, and we were looking forward to having him as a building block for the better part of the next decade.

Now fast-forward. Some numbers:

Wilson Valdez, 2010-2011: .255/.299/.346, 74 OPS+
Jose Lopez, 2010-2011: .234/.264/.330, 64 OPS+

Baseball is the weirdest game.

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