By: Big Rygg
Unlike some people and places, I don’t like to analyze many things at the spur of the moment when a little thought is warranted.
Don’t get me wrong, breaking news is fun to slice and dice and there are definitely times when that is appropriate if not downright fun. And breaking a story with analysis or not is always fun. I broke Salomon Torres’ retirement last year. Yup, I had it first. But that’s beside the point.
The point that I’m getting at is that now, after a few hours, it is time to analyze exactly what the newest member of the Milwaukee Brewers brings to (and takes away from) the ball club.
Felipe Lopez – 2B/SS/3B – DOB: 5/12/1980 (29 years old) – B/T: S/R
.301/.364/.412, 345 AB, 104 H, 44 R, 18 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 34 BB, 59 K, 6/9 SB
Okay, so there are the season-to-date numbers. That includes an 0/4 in today’s game against St. Louis. Lopez has, even with that 0/4, amassed 8 hits in his last 20 ABs. That’s .400 over his last 6 games. What’s better, over the last 10 games, his batting average has gone from .305 to .301.
How is that better, you ask? It displays consistency. In those 10 games, he has been shut out of the hit column three times (though did still manage to score a run) but he manages to bounce back. It’s a quality that has been sorely missing at times from Brewer hitters this year for the most part.
Lopez is a switch-hitter and has hit LHP at a .313 clip while handling RHP as well to the tune of .298. Unfortunately for the Brewers, the most negative split Lopez has in his hitting is his split between night and day games. The Brewers have lost a lot of day games in a row, and Lopez only hits .237 in those games as opposed to .327 at night.
Okay, here’s a bottom line paragraph (there will be a couple of these in this post). Lopez doesn’t blow away any offensive category, but he contributes across the board. He plays solid defense, at multiple positions, and hits well from both sides of the plate. He can lead off effectively as evidenced by his .350/.411/.510 line in 143 ABs from the leadoff spot. What’s more, against the NL Central team not named the Brewers this year overall, Lopez is hitting 26/68 which equates to a .382 batting average. Sounds good to me.
Enough about Lopez’ individual batting numbers. Let’s move on to what his presence adds to the team.
Lopez will, by all accounts, start every day at 2B. This will either put Casey McGehee and Craig Counsell into a hard platoon at 3B or, more likely, will allow Craig Counsell to go back to what he was excelling so greatly at during the first two months of the season…coming off the bench and providing days off here and there for the starters at second, third and short.
McGehee has been handling RHP more than well enough (36/113, .319) while also hitting lefties just fine (14/43, .326) so there should be no issues offensively with starting McGehee as the main 3B. His defense has been suspect at times at the hot corner, but late-inning defensive replacement work is what Bill Hall is best-suited for at this point anyway, should you need to take advantage of it.
If there is a tough righty on the hill, maybe Counsell gets the start at SS or 3B. It stands to reason that Lopez will be starting every day unless he needs a day off. No real reason to platoon an effective switch-hitter.
So what does Lopez cost this team?
The most glaring, direct consequence of the addition of Felipe Lopez is the demotion of Mat Gamel back to AAA Nashville. Gamel hasn’t been playing a whole lot, to be fair, and when he has he’s only been midly effective.
I am still very much in the camp that believe Mat Gamel will hit, and hit a lot, when it’s all said and done. Really, though, with an everyday 2B in Lopez, forcing McGehee, Counsell and Hall to find time at 3B (and Counsell some at SS as well), it just made too much sense to have Gamel playing every day down in AAA. He needs to continue to develop, and playing maybe twice a week isn’t going to accomplish that.
Lopez also cost the Brewers that which they sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks in order to complete the trade. Milwaukee sent two minor league players to the desert in OF Cole Gillespie and P Roque Mercedes. Personally, while I had tempered hopes for Gillespie, and didn’t know a lot about Mercedes, I think it’s a fair bounty. The last place D’Backs gets some potential down-the-road help and the Brewers get what has been missing since Rickie Weeks was lost for the season with his wrist injury.
(And I’ll be honest, I think I like that we didn’t pick up Doug Davis from Arizona as well. We need a bigger pitching piece in order to help solidify our rotation and by not getting Davis we are that much more in the market on those bigger names. I’m not saying that we’ll end up with Roy Halladay, but it’s nice to know that we still could, right?)
And finally, looking down the road, Lopez is only on a one-year contract. He is also only 29 years old. This leads to the best thing in a General Manager’s arsenal come the offseason: Options. (And I mean that as in choices.)
If Weeks rehabs well in the offseason and Lopez wants to sign elsewhere, so be it. If Weeks struggles to come back and we want coverage at 2B and Lopez enjoys the remainder of 2009 in Milwaukee, then perhaps he resigns here. There’s also the possibility that maybe Craig Counsell decides to retire. Lopez can play all of the positions that Counsell can as well, though ultimately that’s probably the least likely scenario as Lopez will no doubt be in line for a starting job next year should he want one.
Lopez is set to join the Brewers later today in Pittsburgh and will no doubt be starting and leading off against Ross Ohlendorf in the top of the 1st inning. Can’t say that I don’t like the way that sounds.
Let’s see what he can do right away. What do you say?