For the first four years of his career, Lopez was one of the finest all-around catchers in the game, using his rocket arm to bust base-stealers, scooping balls from the dirt (he led major-league catchers with a .995 fielding percentage in 1998) and becoming the second Braves catcher to hit double-digit home runs in six consecutive seasons since Joe Torre
(1963-68). But the grind of catching every day wore on Lopez, and assorted injuries culminated in a partial tear of his right ACL in 1999, ending his season after just 65 games.
Still showing the effects of the injury, Lopez's fielding skills declined as he became more reluctant to block balls in the dirt and only managed to cut down 21% of hostile base-stealers in 2000. His plate production followed a similar downward spiral in 2001, as his average plummeted to .267 (down 20 points from the previous season) as he tallied just 17 homers. (EPW)