The Jorge López approach: Grip it, let it rip and keep it simple

As mostly a starting pitcher the last two years for the Orioles, right-hander Jorge López had an ERA of 6.34 in 2020 and 6.07 during the 2021 season. This year, among all pitchers that have thrown 30 innings or more, he is second in the majors in ERA.

Clay Holmes of the New York Yankees is first at an amazing 0.55 and Lopez comes next at 0.79. He looks good both through the eye test and on the stat and in advanced metrics. He just looks good by almost any standard or measurement.

It is tough enough for any pitcher to get the last three outs of the game, but López is often being asked to get the last four or even five outs.

Heavy lifting indeed.

He’s allowed just 16 hits and no homers in 34 1/3 innings with 13 walks and 34 strikeouts. López has a WHIP of 0.845 that ranks fifth and his opponent batting average of .137 is second among pitchers that have thrown more than 30 innings.

The stats are strong and his performance is All-Star worthy through the O’s first 68 games.

In an interview during the Toronto series López agreed that he has the look of a top closer in the late innings. He has that “you can’t beat me” look. That “this is my game” look.

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” said López about having that look and good feeling when he’s on the mound right now. “I’ve been locking in and doing well with an opportunity I’ve never had before. I had one save in 2019, I think and you know, just never forgot that. It is something where you keep learning and keep the energy level up. I just try to stay healthy out there and do my job out there. I love the energy and the vibe on this team.”

He said this season is the most fun he’s ever had in pro ball.

“Oh yeah. One of my best years. Been so blessed to have this opportunity that Brandon (Hyde) has given me. It is something I appreciate and I will give everything for this job. The last three outs, you have to concentrate and so many guys have been good on this team. Just thankful.”

López’s velocity increased in 2021 and again this year. He averaged 94.0 mph on his fastball in 2020 and that went up to 95.3 the next season. Now out of the bullpen, his average velocity is 97.3 mph which ranks in the top three percent of the majors. He didn’t expect to see such a velo gain this year.

“Definitely not. I worked really hard in the offseason. I went to spring training knowing how hard I was throwing in the offseason but I wasn’t using any type of technology or anything. Did not expect that from my fastball,” he said. 

Of his 11 saves, López’ has six of 1 1/3 innings or more. His last three saves and four of his past five saw him get four outs or more. Hyde said this former starter embraces that challenge and he is providing it for him.

López got all four outs in a save Friday against Tampa Bay on strikeouts and he recorded a save of 1 1/3 innings again on Sunday. He has not allowed an earned run over his last 12 games, covering 15 1/3 innings.

López ranks among the top two percent of MLB pitchers in (least) hard-hit percentage, meaning he is among the toughest pitchers to square up. He was in the bottom 15 percent in this stat in 2021. With this guy in this year, no matter whether you apply the eye test or look at traditional stats or more advanced metrics, he looks good with all of them.

And to think, he is just trying to keep it simple he said and adds that he is just “letting it rip” out there.

“Just try to keep guys off balance. Don’t do too much. Keep it simple and don’t be predictable. I’ve had good concentration and been really focused on my three outs or however many are needed. Just get that team win. Been really, really fun," said López. 

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