Aaron Loup, an 11-year veteran reliever, signed with the Los Angeles Angels on a two-year deal after a terrific 2021 season with the New York Mets.
Loup’s contract with the Angels includes a club option for the 2024 season worth $8.5 million. Dating back to 2020 with the Tampa Bay Rays, he began to turn a corner in the latter part of his Major League Baseball career.
His 2.52 ERA in the shortened 2020 season was his lowest since 2013 and he followed that up with a 0.95 ERA in 2021. His turnaround coincided with a change in his sequencing and increased the usage of both his sinker and cut fastballs.
Of course, repeating a full season with a sub-1.00 ERA is a difficult task even for the most elite bullpen arms, but Loup took a slight step back in 2022 when he struggled to miss barrels at the same rate as in recent years.
Loup sat in the fourth percentile in fastball velocity and generated a 20.3% whiff rate on his sinker in 2021, but that number falling to just 9.5% meant his primary pitch was getting swatted around with relative ease. The Angels needed a left-handed reliever outside of José Quijada to be a lockdown guy in the bullpen, and at times Loup could not fit that bill.
Once general manager Perry Minasian decided to pull the plug on Raisel Iglesias, the bullpen shuffling began as they attempted to find the perfect deployment for each guy. The second half was much kinder to Loup as he figured out more ways to limit hard contact (38.3% in the first half, 27.4% in the second half).
In 58.2 innings pitched he carried a 3.84 ERA with 52 punchouts while registering 18 holds, the third-highest innings mark of his career.
Aaron Loup 2022 highlight
On Sept. 17, Loup was called on to close out a 2-1 ball game against the Seattle Mariners. He was able to induce a quick two-outs after Carlos Santana lined out and Jesse Winker flew out to center. In a 1-2 count, he snapped off a changeup and was able to punch out Cal Raleigh for his only save of the season, he would end up blowing five saves throughout the year.
Year two for Loup with the Angels should be more productive from an output standpoint, but as he enters his age-35 season, the expectation for a soft-tossing lefty that relies on pinpoint accuracy and deception should be capped.
The second-half positives are what he should ultimately build off of, but a significant drop in his strikeout rate is quite alarming.
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