Although the season is still very young, Jose Lopez is looking like a changed man. He's taking pitches, pulling the ball in the air, and generally doing all the things we want out of him. Let's look at some numbers.
In 2008, Jose Lopez has seen 74 pitches in 16 plate appearances, good for a 4.63 P/PA. Out of those 74, he has swung at a grand total of 26 (and one was a sacrifice bunt!). Here's the breakdown:
74 pitches seen
44.6% (33) balls
20.3% (15) strikes looking
20.3% (15) in play
13.5% (10) foul balls
1.35% (1!!!) strike swinging
The numbers are from his B-Ref page, if you're curious. Anyway, his career numbers look something like this:
17.4% strikes looking
22.8% in play
16.1% foul balls
7.37% strikes swinging
Normally, I'd look at this data and shrug it off as a sample size thing. However, scouting -can- give you valuable information when your data set's not as large as you like, and Lopez has certainly looked a different player so far this season. You can grab two things from the numbers: he's taking waaaay more pitches than the has in the past, and he's going to start striking out more often than he has so far this year (seriously, 1 swinging strike in 74 pitches? Even Barry Zito would be depressed if a lineup did that to him).
Watching him, it certainly seems like he has a plan. He takes the first pitch, takes anything he's unsure he can hit until he gets to two strikes, then he fouls things off until the pitcher gives him something tasty, which he tries to yank. I'm honestly not sure how well this will work when we start facing good pitchers (because taking the first pitch will leave him in a hole an awful lot of the time), but for now Lopez is perfectly content to force the pitcher to come to him rather than hacking away and getting himself out. It seems to be doing wonders for his confidence, too - he's actually looking like he knows what he's doing up at the plate, which is a refreshing change from last year.
This whole 'taking pitches' thing is a pretty cool development, and while Lopez isn't going to look this good all year (mainly because he can't possibly maintain his swinging strike %), taking this sort of approach is going to make him a much better baseball player. If he's playing like this as a result of being moved to the #2 spot in the order... well, it's nice to know that McLaren gets something right once in a while.
Keep it up, Jose. This is making you a lot more fun to watch.