It should go without saying that any analysis of a Reynaldo López revival also includes the availability of high-90s velocity. Look up his best games by game score, and there’s no real secret to his pitch mix: hard fastballs, and a lot of them.
The last game — an eight-inning loss to the Miami Marlins — looks a little bit different than the others, but it’s only because there was a middle-inning dalliance with a slider-first. He resumed throwing his fastball afterward, averaging 96-97 over his final three innings.
Otherwise, the games in which his fastball sat below 96, it’s partially because he lasted long enough for his velocity to tail off. Even then, in his complete-game, 11-strikeout victory over the Indians, his final fastball hit 97. The concept of a successful López includes above-average velocity when he needs it because he’s seldom succeeded pitching backward.
Therefore, the mechanical changes that we discussed on Thursday take a bit of a back seat when he struggles in the manner he did that night, at least per the eyewitness reports of the untelevised game. In the 7-4 loss to the Reds, López gave up five runs on six hits (two homers) and a walk, striking out two. I can imagine that Arizona isn’t the best place to regain a curveball, but more concerning are the velocity reports:
Carlos Rodón made his first official appearance behind López and similarly started underwhelming with the scoreboard gun, but he found 94 by the end of his two scoreless innings.
There’s some solace to be found. López struggled with his velocity all last season, so Ethan Katz can’t be accused of fixing something that wasn’t broken. In fact, the attempt at restoring his curveball might go further than hoping he has 96 on a given day. I just can’t buy a mechanical change compensating for 92-93. Lucas Giolito is the guy to point to with a shortened arm, but even he gained a couple ticks after ironing out his levers.
At least it’s less of an immediate concern since Rodón is healthy at the moment. Rodón can’t be counted on being available, but López’s struggles are easier to take when he doesn’t have the inside track to the fifth starter job.
I still think the success from that rotation spot rests on limiting each candidate’s flaws, whether on a strict piggyback arrangement or something less formal, which is why it’s nice to see Rodón not treating it as a zero-sum competition.
“I’m glad you asked that,” said Rodón of the López question. “Reynaldo and I play catch together. We are throw partners. We are like brothers. It’s a friendly competition. I’m always pulling for him, and I know he’s pulling for me. So that thing will take care of itself and whatever it is, it is.”
In the end, they might be able to help each other more than they cost each other.
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Don Cooper appeared on 670 The Score to the consternation of some White Sox fans who didn’t find it necessary to hear from him anymore. To me, it’s so unusual to hear from a non-player White Sox who lost his job because of higher ambitions for the position. Ozzie Guillen arranged his exit to Florida, and Robin Ventura and Rick Renteria quickly faded from public view, with Ventura only opening up a little just this winter. The Sox have swapped out hitting coaches and bullpen coaches, but none of them approach fixture status.
Cooper’s ouster is still relatively fresh, and his plainspoken nature makes him a natural interview candidate for sports radio. Somehow, he only sounded marginally bitter.
“I spent more than half my life there,” Cooper said on the Parkins & Spiegel Show on Thursday afternoon in his first public comments since his dismissal. “It’s not fun when people you really look up to and admire and care for — care for, that’s the best way to put it — don’t care for you quite as much. It’s not fun. That’s my whole thing with the White Sox. Half my life with the team. That’s my statement.
“I was happy and grateful for my opportunity, but it’s sure no fun going through something when you really care for a lot of people that don’t seem to care for you as much.”
I suppose I expected worse, mostly because he’s spent the last year on Twitter calling Peter Gammons a liberal traitor. This qualifies as “rolling with the punches” by that measure.
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Merch note: For those of you interested in getting a Sox Machine hoodie in the second batch, I’m planning to put in the order early next week. You can still order one through the Sox Machine store to reserve your size:
I’ll be ordering a handful of extra hoodies just to have on hand, but a third batch probably won’t be in the works until after the season when hoodie weather returns.
(Photo by Goodyear Ballpark by Christopher Rosenberger.)
Sorry, Coop. It’s time to face the music. Its not that the Sox didn’t care for you. They didn’t care for the fact that you weren’t keeping up with changes in the approach to pitching.
How much of Lopez’s performance can be chalked up to “working on something” in spring training? If he (and more importantly, if Katz) knows he can hit 95-97 consistently, then maybe the goal was to work on his curveball and not worry about fastball velocity. Assume the radar is right and he sat at 92-93, but maybe he also only through 50% fastballs (or whatever) and he just used the fastball to set up the curve without worrying about the distinction between a “good” fastball and a “bad” one. I’m sure it sounds like the first stage of grief, but without video or more detailed stats I’m not sure I’d read too much into this outing. If those dingers were hit off a sandbagged fastball, then meh. If they were hit off a curveball he was working on, then there’s more data for Katz to work with when trying to find Lopez’s optimal pitch mix.
Edit: all that said, if they were hit off of what were supposed to be plus fastballs, *gulp*.
It doesn’t seem like fastball velocity fluctuates all that much even during working-on-stuff times, generally because mechanical consistency demands a certain effort level. Armspeed should more or less be the same across all pitches.
That said, there’s a commonly accepted dead arm period during spring training where the body is getting used to recovering, so the sample size needs to get a little greater for precise panic.
I feel for Reynaldo. Poor guy was taught out of what made him successful up to that point in his career. I know it’s cliché, but I wouldn’t put much stock into the ST results for Mr. Lopez. He has literally been instructed this off season to restructure his arm pathing in his mechanics. Not as easy as flipping a switch. I wonder if this is the reason we have yet to see Dylan Cease in an A game. A lot to clean up mechanically in a short amount of time.
I sure like how Ethan communicated with him in that bullpen session. And after the bullpen, Jonathan Lucroy mentioned to ReyLo something about nobody being able to touch that fastball up and away. He’s not saying that to someone throwing 92-93, guarantee you that. He’s prolly been told to throw 85% to focus on execution and to not worry about results in game.
Would be interested to see if arm slot has changed at all v 2018-19 (and also v 2016 w/Nats). Shorter arm action predicated a higher arm slot for Giolito. Plus if he’s focusing on tailoring his delivery to the curveball, that’s also going to push him towards a higher arm slot as he tries to get on top of the ball.
If he’s not compensating for the new arm slot with his torso, he could be losing power behind the fastball.