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2022 Marlins Season Preview: Pablo López

The Marlins need their stirrup king to be healthy if they want to compete in the NL East.

Pablo Lopez #49 of the Miami Marlins poses for a photo during the Miami Marlins Photo Day at Roger Dean Stadium on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 in Jupiter, Florida. Photo by Scott Audette/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Visit this page for Fish Stripes’ full preview of the 2022 Miami Marlins season.

RHP Pablo López

Pablo López’s performance in the first half of the 2021 season showcased why he belongs at the front end of the Miami Marlins’ pitching rotation. His fourth big league season proved to be his best one yet until a shoulder injury caused him to miss nearly all of the 2021 season.

Pablo López’s 2018-2021 MLB pitching stats via FanGraphs show his improved performance in 2021 with career highs of a 3.07 ERA, 10.08 K/9, and 2.3 WAR.
Pablo López’s MLB career pitching statistics
FanGraphs

I reviewed López’s 2021 season right here at Fish Stripes shortly after the playoffs wrapped up, so I won’t go into too much detail except to point out a few nuggets from last season:

  • April and May provided many strong performances (April 24 vs. Giants: 6 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 7 K; May 22 vs. Mets: 7 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 8 K), but each month also saw a poor start where he gave up a lot of hard contact and allowed six earned runs.
  • Compared to April and May, López’s strikeout rate in June and July jumped from 23.2% to 33.5%. This included his July 11 game vs. Braves in which he struck out nine straight batters to begin the game, setting a Major League record.
  • He hits the injured list with a right rotator cuff strain and returns on the final game of the season to pitch 1 23 innings.
  • López’s run support was almost non-existent in 2021.

2022 Spring Training

Overall, López’s 2022 spring training did not go well. In three Grapefruit League games (8 total innings), López allowed nine earned runs on 12 hits, two home runs, five walks, and 11 strikeouts. Spring training statistics are not something we should rely on too seriously, so please don’t jump to conclusions.

His first start, a two-inning outing, wasn’t bad. He allowed one hit, struck out four, and showcased all of his pitches (four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, curveball, cutter). He also touched 95 mph with his fastball, exceeding his average fastball velocity of 94 mph in 2021.

López’s second and third spring starts did not go as well, however. He left a bunch of pitches over the heart of the plate in the second game, and struggled with his control in the third. In both starts, his fastball velocity was down which is not something you want to see in a pitcher with his injury history. In his last two starts combined, he pitched 6 innings while allowing eight earned runs on 11 hits, five walks, and struck out seven.


What’s Next?

Pablo López’s 2022 ATC Projections: 3.69 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 143 K, 39 BB, 17 HR in 145.0 IP

Again, the actual spring training results aren’t something we should blow out of proportion. Spring training was extra condensed because of the owner-imposed lockout, so they mean even less to me than they usually do. The biggest thing, for me, is hoping López goes into the season healthy and can sustain that health over the next 187 days.

López has shown his ability to use his fastball and changeup effectively. He commands his fastball well, using it mostly up and in against right-handed batters and on the outer half of the plate against left-handed batters. The changeup is his signature pitch, one that opposing batters chase at the fourth-highest rate (46.8%) out of every pitch in baseball.

Beyond those two pitches, López hasn’t developed a third that he can rely on consistently.

Last season, his cutter out-performed what was expected. He used the pitch 13.5% of the time which had a .282 wOBA; the cutter’s expected weighted on-base average, based on the quality of batted balls he allowed, was .363 xwOBA. The sinker he used 12.6% of the time had a .396 wOBA vs. and xwOBA of .355. Although it was expected to fare better, both numbers are far too high.

The other pitch López has worked with is the curveball, but only sparingly (7.0% in 2020, 9.6% in 2021). It’s not a pitch he’s thrown well...at least not in meaningful situations.

Although the fastball-changeup combo has worked well for López up to this point, developing a quality third pitch would help him take another step forward. For now, the lackluster elements of his pitch mix are limiting his ceiling. He did use the sinker often in his starts this spring, more often than his changeup in those first two games. Is that something we’ll see in 2022?

Poll

Will Pablo López deploy a third pitch with a usage rate above 15% in 2022?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Yes, the cutter.
    (3 votes)
  • 26%
    Yes, the sinker.
    (4 votes)
  • 13%
    Yes, the curveball.
    (2 votes)
  • 40%
    No, he’ll stick with the fastball/changeup combo.
    (6 votes)
15 votes total Vote Now