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9/19: Open Game Thread

First Pitch: 5:05pm PDT


Ichiro CF Matthews CF Beltre 3B Young "SS" Johjima C Teixeira 1B Ibanez LF Lee LF Sexson 1B DeRosa 3B Broussard DH Blalock DH Betancourt SS Barajas C Snelling RF Kinsler 2B Ballgame 2B Cruz RF ---------- ----------

Washburn (8-14, 4.58)       Volquez (1-5, 6.15)

A self-explanatory chart:

(Note that the sharp peaks and valleys towards the left of the graph are due to early-season small sample sizes. League average: .161.)

As pretty much all of you are well aware, Jose Lopez's power has completely disappeared - after hitting nine home runs through his first 55 games, he's hit zero in his last 84. It's not just the longballs, either, as the doubles and triples have also come down. Since the All Star Break, Lopez is hitting a pathetic and positively Willie Ballgamian .290/.327/.329, becoming a sucking hole in the everyday lineup despite an inflated batting average.

The culprit? As Dave Cameron brought to my attention a little while ago, groundballs. Again, since the ASB, Lopez's GB% is 54.7%, which would rank seventh-highest in baseball over a full season. It's hard to rack up the extra-base hits when you aren't putting the ball in the air, as evidenced by other hitters with similar groundball rates (Willy Taveras, Juan Pierre, Dave Roberts, etc.). It's not impossible - Miguel Tejada and Carl Crawford certainly get the job done - but it's extraordinarily difficult. For the sake of comparison, Lopez's GB% through June 2nd (the day of his last home run) was 45.4% - still high, but way more average and way less extreme.

This isn't simply a case of a guy not getting the bounces; Jose Lopez is a different hitter than the one he was earlier in the season, certainly in results, and most likely in approach. Presumably pitchers were able to find holes in his swing and Lopez has tried to compensate by waiting a little longer, sacrificing bat speed and power for more consistent contact (his strikeout rate has dropped in the second half). And this is what he looks like.

It's up to Jose Lopez to make enough adjustments that he's back in control of his at bats, rather than having to take defensive swings all the time.  And that could take a while. By no means am I trying to criticize him or downplay his ability, since this is something almost all young players go through in their first full seasons, but clearly Jose isn't good enough to establish himself in the Majors without fighting through an extended make-or-break transition period, like some people thought he might've been back in April.

Jose Lopez is a good prospect who's eventually going to be a good player. But right now, the pressure's all on him. We'll see how he responds.