Making oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s major league debut has to be that much more daunting for a starting pitcherÃ¢â‚¬â€not only are you facing the highest level of competition, but you have nowhere to hide if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just not your day. Every at-bat is an examination of oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s competence, every pitch is a step further on the tightrope. It can go from the most exciting moment of your young life to a real crap day in short order.
Yesterday, Michael Lorenzen battled through five innings of work and surrendered three runs on eight hits. At first glance, his outing was a mixed bag. On the positive side, he showed great stuff (a fastball that routinely came in between 94-95 MPH, flagging a little bit down to 93 come the fourth inning when he had already thrown 65 pitches, and a tight slider which lingered around 87 MPH most of the game), an aggressive pitching approach heavy on the heaters (62% of his pitches for the whole game, but 33 of his first 47 pitches were fastballs before mixing in the off-speed offerings more starting in the third), and four effective pitches in total, though his curveball was only thrown nine times (four of which were to pitcher Matt Garza).
On the other hand, if it sounded like the Brewers were hitting the ball hard off Lorenzen, they were. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a fun chart to show what can happen when a major league lineup looks for fastballs and gets them:
A lot of line drives, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what happens. Of the 15 fastballs the Brewers put in play, the tally goes three singles, three homers, three ground outs, two fly outs, and four line outs. Most of the damage occurred from pitches in the middle of the zone excepting LindÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s home run (which was below the strike zone and on the inner third). However, Lorenzen stuck to and executed his game plan to keep the ball low with all of his pitches:
Ideally, in future starts weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll see Lorenzen work on the lower third and just off the corners, but for his major league debut thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pretty much how you draw it upÃ¢â‚¬â€keep the ball low and if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to miss the zone, miss low. The other thing to keep an eye on in his next couple of outings is his usage of the curveball. Lorenzen just started throwing it last year and it complements his slider well, coming in around 80 MPH with heavy vertical break.
Really, all of his secondary pitches will determine if he can get comfortable in the rotation. After the first two innings to get his sea legs, Lorenzen was unafraid to throw any of his off-speed options either for the first pitch in an at-bat or during counts when the batter wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ahead. His slider was the weapon of choice against rightiesÃ¢â‚¬â€throwing it at least once in any situationÃ¢â‚¬â€while his changeup was utilized heavily against lefties. If he demonstrates the confidence to work them in earlier in a game, Lorenzen should be able to keep hitters from sitting on his four-seamer.
It was never going to be an easy debut for Michael Lorenzen with Joey Votto having the day off, Devin Mesoraco still unable to play his natural position, and a Brewers team which already canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t afford to lose many more games facing him. Despite the end result, his first start displayed his exceptional ability but maybe moreso his focus and rapid maturation as a starter, particularly when he worked out of jams in the fourth and fifth innings. Now with the jitters and uncertainty of his first start out of the way, we can sit back and watch a young, talented pitcher learn and improve at the highest level.