This week the San Francisco Giants completed a sweep of the Detroit Tigers to win their second World Series in the past three seasons. Even though the Rockies were nowhere near playoff contention and are trying to dig out of a gargantuan hole themselves, they still had an impact on the World Series. Here’s how.
Lefthanded specialist Javier Lopez made his Major League debut for the Colorado Rockies in 2003. He was solid that season, posting a 3.70 ERA and a 4-1 record in 75 appearances. As a rookie for a pitching-thin franchise, this was a remarkably successful season. Unfortunately for Lopez and the Rockies, the effectiveness of his submarine style pitching fell off in the next couple seasons. He kicked back and forth between the minor leagues and the big show, starting himself on the path of a “journeyman.”
While it is unfair to Lopez, especially considering his recent success, my lasting memory of him was always that he was awful. That is likely because Lopez had a 22.50 ERA in 3 games in 2005 before the Rockies traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks. At least Colorado was not the only team to give up on him: he was moved on from Arizona to Boston, where he pitched a solid four seasons with a pit stop in Pittsburgh before his current tenure with the San Francisco Giants.
So what kind of pitcher is Javier Lopez now, 10 years into his professional career? He is the prototypical lefthanded specialist out of the bullpen. He nails down lefthanded hitters in key situations and gets enough righthanded hitters that his manager can leave him in for a full inning. He knows himself as a pitcher, locates the ball, and with a unique delivery, he gets the job done. He is exactly the kind of bullpen arm that a championship team needs, which might explain why he has two rings to show for his three seasons with the Giants.
Lopez is a veteran pitcher, steeled in the fires of a long career. That career started in Colorado. Everybody has to break into the show somewhere, right? Furthermore, Lopez got all of his really awful pitching out of his system in Colorado, leaving years of productive baseball ahead of him as he departed.
You’re welcome, San Francisco.