(Note: All stats are correct as of April 26)
Quick, without looking it up, which starting pitcher is leading the MLB in ERA this season so far? Believe it or not, it isn’t preseason Cy Young candidates Max Scherzer, Corbin Burnes, or Carlos Rodon, but rather the Miami Marlins third starting pitcher Pablo Lopez. This career 3.86 ERA pitcher currently has an ERA of 0.52 to go along with no losses on his record (three starts, two wins, and one no decision).
His impressive stats don’t stop there, as he is also top 10 in the majors in WHIP (6th with 0.75) and opponent batting average (7th with .164) while also sporting a 17/3 strikeout to walk ratio. Can Lopez keep up his impressive start, or will he fizzle out as the season goes on? Let’s dive deeper into his advanced stats of him to find out.
Not surprisingly, this Marlins pitcher has a high whiff percentage of 33.1% so far, which is common for elite pitchers and much higher than his average of 25.1%. What is surprising is his chase percentage of him is n’t that much higher than his average of him (34.6% compared to his average of 32%), meaning batters are n’t getting fooled often, they are just swinging and missing more .
Further proving this point is the fact that he is actually pitching into the strike zone more than in previous years. Batters seem to be struggling to see and react to these pitches for some reason, though, as his opponent zone swing and contact percentages are much lower than his average (60.3% vs 67.7% and 72% vs 79.9%, respectively).
This isn’t due to increased velocity either, as his fastball is actually 0.4 mph slower than it was last year. This change is not due to increased spin rate either, as only one pitch has increased in both horizontal and vertical break compared to last year (his changeup of him) out of pitches he has thrown at least 5% of the time this year.
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If anything, this change is likely based off his ability to hit the edges of the strike zone more often, as his edge percentage of 51.5% is over 7% higher than his average (44.3%). However, when batters do connect with his pitches from him, the results have not been too good. His opponent barrel percentage (balls with an exit velocity of 98 mph or greater) of 9.1% is over 2% higher than his average of him (7%) and is even below average in the MLB this season. Usually, the harder you hit the ball, the better of a result you get, so this is certainly a sign of worry for Lopez.
As most can probably tell, it will be difficult for Pablo Lopez to maintain his hot start throughout the rest of the season. However, if you are a Marlins fan, there’s no need to fret yet. If Lopez can continue to maintain his extremely high edge percentage, he may be able to maintain his low zone swing and contact percentages, which will therefore lead to fewer hits.
This might be the best way to do this is through turning his changeup into his main pitch. As mentioned previously, this is the only pitch that he has improved both his horizontal and vertical break on. However, the majority of his whiffs from him are coming from this pitch as well, as Lopez has an insane 50% whiff percentage on this one pitch (for reference, none of his other pitches from him have a percentage above 30%).
Currently, Lopez throws his changeup 35.3% of the time, which is the second most out of his arsenal. If Lopez raises this percentage to at least 40%, then he may have a chance of continuing his success. Otherwise, expect somewhat of a dropoff for Lopez that leaves all Marlins fans thinking “what if.”
Overall, it’s just incredible that a player that’s been solid suddenly figured it out and became one of MLB’s best pitchers. Let’s see how Lopez finishes out the 2022 season. He has been on fire.