One of the more intriguing quirks of the young 2010 season has been Jose Lopez. A full time second baseman for the prior four seasons, Lopez earned a reputation as a visually unappealing glove man who made frequent lapses on routine plays and exhibited little horizontal range. A variety of numerical systems tempered that judgment, painting Lopez as a roughly average fielder at second.
Given his set of skills though, he was never a perfect fit at second base. He moved best forward and back, not side to side and owning a strong arm there was always a sense that he profiled more as a third baseman. Lopez never got that opportunity however as Adrian Beltre, one of the best fielders in recent memory, reigned over third base.
Once Beltre departed to the land of free agency, it seemed that Lopez was too entrenched at second base to change positions. That notion was only further reinforced when the Mariners signed Chone Figgins this past winter. Figgins is a versatile player but he had settled into a majority role at third base and performed quite well there. It was surprising to many then when tidbits began to leak that the Mariners were considering moving Lopez to third and Figgins to second. It was more surprising still when it actually happened this spring.
However, those surprises have nothing on the surprise over the actual results. Jose Lopez has looked fantastic and the numbers agree. Coming off five years of Adrian Beltre, Mariner fans steeled themselves all winter awaiting the inevitable downgrade in defensive performance. Instead, Jose Lopez has undergone a renaissance at the position. His UZR numbers are off the charts, well ahead of any other player in baseball and DRS also has Jose Lopez leading the league.
It’s not all cheery news however. While Lopez may pace the entire league in defensive rankings at the moment, he also trails the entire league in hitting value. Seriously. According to wRAA, Jose Lopez has been the least valuable hitter in baseball. We have all heard the term ‘all glove, no bat’ before, but this is insane.