Pablo Lopez was Spinning it vs Astros… Like Really Spinning it

Pablo Lopez, Minnesota Twins at Houston Astros
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This season has been anything but a consistent path for the Minnesota Twins, and while the record has gone all sorts of different directions, their ace Pablo Lopez has been all over the place as well. He got back on track Friday against the Houston Astros, but did he figure anything out?

Although the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros met up during the American League Division Series last season, the two teams are hardly in the same place thus far during 2024. In Houston, Dusty Baker retired and Joe Espada took over. Rather than a seamless transition, they’ve struggled.

Pablo Lopez spins a gem vs Houston Astros

Last year, Pablo Lopez was the Twins’ ace. But they need him to be much better than he has been of late, if he was going to beat them on Friday night. Following a dominant 10-strikeout performance against the Seattle Mariners on May 9th, Rocco Baldelli has watched his ace take lots of lumps.

Over his last three starts prior to Friday, Lopez had given up 16 runs on 25 hits in just 16 innings. Despite a strong 14/2 K/BB, he allowed five longballs and wasn’t able to dominate the opposition like we’ve become used to seeing him do.

But at Minute Maid Park against the Astros on last night, all of that changed. He turned in seven innings of one-run baseball, striking out six, and walking just one. The home run wasn’t ideal, but limiting the damage to a solo shot made it hurt less. Peeking under the hood, it appears that while the velocity remained largely consistent with yearly averages, significant spin rate jumps were seen across the board.

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PitchMax Spin vs HOUAvg Spin vs HOUSeason Avg Spin+/-

Working on a daily basis to get himself out of the slump, Lopez could have made slight tweaks to his grip or positioning for the arsenal he already owns to play up. Although the Astros aren’t exactly a juggernaut lineup this season, he shoved in a way we haven’t seen for weeks.

Ronel Blanco regresses vs Minnesota Twins after sticky substance issue

Coming into the matchup, Houston’s starter Ronel Blanco was primed for a bit of regression. While his ERA was solid, he has a few underlying metrics that suggested a bit of smoke and mirrors. Add to the a recent suspension for using sticky substances, and the quality of his no-hitter earlier this year could be called into question.

With Blanco experiencing negative regression, it was Pablo on the other side. The 5.25 ERA was certainly gaudy, but a 3.26 xERA, 3.80 FIP, and 3.03 xFIP suggested that the results didn’t tell the whole story. Again, a tweak to the stuff Friday made a big difference, but better results coming from a sound process was bound to happen at some point.

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It has been great to see Joe Ryan take a step forward this season, and Bailey Ober has been solid when not facing the Kansas City Royals. Still, the Twins legitimacy into the postseason largely relies upon Pablo Lopez being an ace, and the Astros found themselves staring down the barrel of that at home in a 6-1 loss.

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