Regal Blue

Wait, who’s Felipe Lopez?

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 1, 2009

UPDATE:  It appears the Dodgers are unlikely to offer Orlando Hudson arbitration.  Bad decision by the Dodgers but it makes this post slightly more relevant.

***

It’s been far too long since I’ve written anything baseball-related and even longer since I wrote anything Dodger-related.  The Dodger news is slow.  No real trade rumors to speak of.  Because we’re not in the market for any big name free agents, we’ll probably have to wait awhile before we see what sort of bargain free agent starters Colletti picks up.

That being said, one name has been tossed around a little and it’s an interesting one:  second baseman Felipe Lopez.  He played for the D-Backs and Brewers last year and the Nationals and Cardinals the two years prior.  The short returns from those years are that he was average to lousy in 2008 and all years prior (except for a remarkably productive 2005), while posting an awesome year in 2009.

His 2009 was truly very good.  He OPSed .810, but the striking feature was the .383 OBP.  Considering you can never really expect much power out of a second baseman, that’s pretty much the money stat.  He won’t steal you any bases:  6 SB, 6 CS and no real speed to speak of.  Not typically a power guy, his .427 SLG was made out of a career-high LD% of 22 and a career-low FB% of 25 to produce 9 HR and 38 doubles.

Felipe Lopez is, however, an inconsistent fielder at best though again he had a great 2009 in that regard.  UZR has him at a 7.8.  Before that, he was either mediocre or bad.  He lead the league in errors by a second baseman this year with 17.

Regardless of the fielding, this all sounds pretty good when compared with the other 2Bs on the market not named Orlando Hudson.  He would seem to be cheap, despite a career year, considering he’s 30 and only made three and a half million last year and never more than four in any year.

Yet Christina Kahrl from BP is skeptical:

It’s interesting how quickly some seem to have forgotten Lopez’s wild inconsistencies in performance. Getting into a funk as a National might seem forgiveable, but it’s not exactly to his credit, and the vagaries of his performance hasn’t been a question of his position—Lopez’s carer walk rate at second is lower than when he was tasked with playing short. I guess I see inconsistency, a lofty line-drive rate in ’09, and the virtues of playing in a bandbox for a good chunk of the season, and take all that as cause to moderate my enthusiasm for him. If it’s a low-end deal, a year-plus-option deal, that works, but a peek into the periscope says, “thar be dragons.”

I concur and write separately to add to that another reason why Felipe Lopez is probably destined for League Average-ness.  His BABIP last year was a big .360.  For a guy with little power who walks about 10 percent of the time, this should be alarming.  This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that Lopez’s BABIP is typically a bit on the high side.  The career average before 2009 was a healthy .312 but the difference between last year and the rest of his career is far too striking to ignore.

What are the odds that a 30 year old second baseman suddenly discovered the secret to lacing line drives between outfielders?  Not very good.  That doesn’t mean that he isn’t worth a look.  A one year plus option would probably end up a decent value in the end.  That is, as long as the per annum doesn’t exceed four mil.

We’ll all have to wait to see how the market shakes out before determining whether or not Lopez can be had on such a deal.  Career-year players go overvalued all the time.  Marco Scutaro will likely get far more than he’s worth coming off of a stellar 2009.  But as we saw last year with Hudson, productive players may be had at a bargain for a watchful GM.  Let’s see how Colletti handles it.

***
Thank all that is holy, for Vin Scully shall return in 2010.  We already knew he would but the confirmation makes me feel better.  Sure there will come a day, sooner rather than later, when we’ll have to live without him.  But it’s best not to think about for another year.

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