Minnesota Twins Pitching Coach Puts Struggling Pablo Lopez on Blast a Little Bit

Pablo Lopez, Minnesota Twins
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Pablo Lopez was supposed to be the bedrock of the 2024 starting rotation, the guy who NEEDED to be dominant, if the Twins were going to have any shot of being a legitimate World Series contender, after the Pohlad family chose to cut payroll during the offseason, instead of re-signing Sonny Gray.

Nearly halfway through the season, the (41-34) MN Twins do find themselves in the thick of the American League playoff race, but it certainly isn’t because of Pablo Lopez’ brilliance. In fact, they are hanging onto an AL Wildcard spot, despite their Ace pitcher being one of the worst starters in their rotation so far.

Pablo Lopez can’t get off the struggle bus

Pablo’s is the most given up by any AL pitcher. His 16 home runs surrendered is the most of any pitching in Major League Baseball. He currently boasts a 5.63 ERA (70 ERA+), the highest of his career, to go with a 1.250 WHIP and -0.5 bWAR. Lopez’ record is .500 (6-6) and the Twins are somehow 8-7 in the 15 games he has started.

For the optimists out there, hope is available. A deeper dive into Pablo’s numbers tells us that he is pitching better than what his numbers show. His Expected ERA is 3.56 and his FIP is 4.35. Not great, but much better than his actual Earned Run Average.

I found this clip from Lopez’ start on June 6 to be very interesting. He earned the win in this game, but gave up seven earned runs in just four innings of work. Notice the location of these (successful) fastballs, before you continue reading…

Minnesota Twins pitching coach doesn’t mince words on Pablo Lopez’ struggles

Minnesota Twins pitching coach Pete Maki isn’t interested in looking at the ‘bright side’ of Lopez’ struggles. When they were mentioned to him following his last brutal start, Maki’s answers were very blunt. Pablo Lopez “needs to be better”, also noting that it’s “not head-scratching” why some of his pitches are getting rocked.

“Runs are still scoring. The ball is leaving the park too much. Our job right now is looking at what pitch types, what locations, what counts are we seeing the damage. We’ve got a pretty good handle on what locations, pitch types via hitter-handedness are not serving him well in terms of the long ball. We feel like we have a pretty good plan to limit the damage moving forward, but it’s something he needs to do a better job at.”

“Most of [the homers] are not head-scratching why they are hit well. We’re looking at certain pitch types and the counts to see if there are any trends here or is there anything standing out. We have a decent idea of how to attack it moving forward.”

Pete Maki (via Star Tribune)

In other words, Pablo is leaving pitches over the middle of the plate, many of them fastballs. And when you do that in the big leagues, balls get smacked (over the fence many times). Lopez’ pinpoint location on his high-90s fastball, has been his superpower, and the secret to his devastating sweeper/changeup combination.

But instead of being able to pepper the top of the zone with heat, whenever needed, he’s either missing badly or thinks a change in location will eventually lead to better results. If that’s the case, it isn’t working and it’s time to change things up.

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