White Sox Secret Weapon: Reynaldo Lopez

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Here is a startling proposition: the Chicago White Sox secret weapon is Reynaldo Lopez. These are words that no Sox fan would ever have conceived as recently as a month ago. In fact, if you had surveyed South Side fans at any point in the last six months, most would have wanted him released. Lopez showed some promise in 2018, but, since then, he has been horrific. Fans will tell you that he has the stuff to compete, but he that just cannot put it all together on the mound. Cutting him would be the best for everybody; fans are tired of waiting for this guy to realize his potential.

Reynaldo Lopez and His Road to 2021

After the 2016 season, the White Sox made the radical decision to blow up the team and go through a total rebuild. A big part of that process was a trade they made with the Washington Nationals. In that deal, the Sox shipped right fielder Adam Eaton off to the east coast in exchange for three young pitching prospects. They obtained Lopez, along with Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning, in the trade. At the time, Giolito was the best prospect, but the Pale Hose also had high hopes for Lopez and Dunning

Reynaldo Lopez: Early Years On The South Side

Lopex made his White Sox debut in the middle of the 2017 season. Pitching for a team that was mediocre at best, his numbers mirrored those of his team. He compiled an earned run average of 4.72 in eight starts. He also produced a WHIP of 1.322 and a strikeout/walk rate of 2.14. His K/9 rate was a meager 5.7, rather low for a pitcher with his stuff. Lopez followed up the 2017 season with his best season as a starter. In 2018, in 32 starts, he pitched a total of 188.2 innings for the Sox. His ERA was a respectable 3.91, while his strikeouts increased to 7.2/9 innings. His other numbers were similar to those he produced in 2017.

A Career Goes South

Unfortunately, 2019 saw Lopez experience a deep regression as a starting pitcher. The one positive area for him that year was his strikeout rate, which reached 8.3. However, in every other area, Lopez saw major drops in effectiveness. In 33 starts, he lead all of MLB in earned runs with 110 allowed. His ERA jumped almost a run and a half, and he allowed 1.7 home runs per 9 innings. This was disappointing, considering the promise he showed in 2018.

If 2019 was bad for Lopez, 2020 was even worse. In eight starts, he barely averaged three innings per start, and his control was the worst of his career. His ERA ballooned to 6.49, his walks went up dramatically, and his home runs per 9 innings skyrocketed to 3.1. Yes, 2020 was an unusual season for MLB, but his numbers were still poor at best. Lopez still had a solid arsenal, a good arm, and the raw ability to be a quality pitcher. For some reason, he could not put it all together, and many Sox fans had seen enough.

Lopez Misses The Opening Day Roster

In spring training 2021, Reynaldo Lopez came in without the guarantee of a spot in the Sox rotation. In Arizona, he competed with Carlos Rodon, among others, for the fifth spot. Lopez fared poorly in the spring, and the Sox sent him to AAA Charlotte to work on rediscovering his form. With no guarantees, he went down to the minors, in search of a career turnaround. However, in 39 innings, Lopez recorded an ERA of 7.62 and a WHIP of 1.897. The struggles continued, and it seemed as if he was on the fast track to early retirement.

A Miracle On 35th Street

Against all odds, on July 16th, the White Sox called Lopez up to the South Side with his 7.62 ERA in tow. This move had many fans scratching their heads. They wondered why the Sox would do something this crazy. Lopez had already been written off, and his performance in Charlotte was their final piece of evidence. Yes, the Sox bullpen was horrible, but there had to be somebody besides Reynaldo Lopez to add to the mix. Yet, there he was. the newest member of a struggling bullpen. This was not going to turn out well; goodbye to any hopes the Sox had in 2021.

Then an amazing thing happened. Manager Tony La Russa called on Lopez to pitch out of that struggling Sox bullpen. The big right-hander came in and pitched well, much to the surprise and delight of Sox fans. Lopez earned more time on the mound and seemed to just throw strikes and get batters out. A pattern started to develop for Lopez, one that White Sox fans had been waiting for. Somehow, Reynaldo Lopez, thought of as a bum by many fans had become an MLB pitcher. He was a revelation!

Between spot starts and relief appearances, Lopez has made 13 appearances in 2021. His numbers are staggering, to say the least. In 34 innings, Lopez has compiled an ERA of 1.59. In addition, he has a WHIP of .70, a K/9 innings ratio of 9.8, and a K/BB ratio of 5.29. In short, Lopez has been incredibly successful in 2021, shocking many South Side fans. Nobody saw this coming, and he has been a major contributor to the beleaguered bullpen. This is the Reynaldo Lopez fans thought they were getting when the White Sox traded for him.

Reynaldo Lopez: The Secret Weapon

At this point, one might suggest that Lopez has been the biggest surprise in a season full of surprises for the first-place White Sox. His roller coaster ride of a career has taken a major turn for the better, and Sox fans could not be happier. It could not have happened at a more opportune time for the South Siders. An under-the-radar callup in July appears likely to be the spark the pitching staff needs down the stretch and into October. If he continues to pitch the way he has, Reynaldo Lopez just might be the secret weapon that will help to propel the Pale Hose into the Fall Classic.

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Mike Fisk is a lifelong baseball fan. For him, there is nothing like being at a baseball game, with the sights, the sounds, the smells. Writing about baseball is a bonus!