“Filling a current need.”

Bryan Price was asked before today’s game if Michael Lorenzen might be used as a starting pitcher. That’s an idea long advocated by many here at Redleg Nation. Lorenzen himself says he would like to start.

Price’s response was horrifying. He said, in part:

“(Lorenzen’s) not a reliever because we don’t believe he can start. He’s a reliever because he’s filling a current need.”

The Reds – whether that be the front office, the manager or coaching staff – have decided to use Michael Lorenzen as a reliever because they view the bullpen as a current need. That’s consistent with what Price has said about Lorenzen’s role since the pitcher returned from the DL in June 2016. Lorenzen did well in the bullpen. So we’ll keep him there.

/best Seinfeld raised voice/

Have you seen the Reds starting rotation? 

/lowers voice/

If the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation isn’t a current need, nothing is. Let’s review current events. The Reds rotation is:

  • Last in baseball in ERA (6.17)

  • Last in baseball in FIP (6.00)

  • Last in baseball in WAR (-1.1) the only rotation in negative numbers (ever)

  • Last in home runs surrendered

  • 29th in first-pitch strikes

  • 27th in walks surrendered (last in NL)

  • 28th in getting opponents to swing on pitches out of the strike zone

How much worse does the starting pitching have to become before the Reds decision makers conclude it’s a “current need” that maybe Michael Lorenzen could fill?

Worrying about the role of a single pitcher in the Reds bullpen while the starting rotation is the fiasco that it is, is like tuning up the band to play while the Titanic sunk. (How is it that no one in the Reds front office has used that easy cliché to win this argument?)

To be clear, there’s no guarantee that Michael Lorenzen would succeed as a starting pitcher. But this is the year to find out. Right now. Instead of giving useless starts to Tim Adleman and Asher Wojciechowski. Even instead of Scott Feldman. Find out now. Find out about Stephenson and Reed. And Michael Lorenzen.

Lorenzen could be in the starting rotation by the first week of August and make a dozen starts. If he takes to it, the added innings would ease him in to an expanded role next year.

Face it, if the Reds can’t find their way to trying Lorenzen as a starter now, with all the injuries and struggles of the healthy, they never will. Next year, they’ll see Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Luis Castillo and a raft of other possible starters and rationalize that Lorenzen will be a proven fill-in at a “current need” in the bullpen. Creeping Chapmanism, The Sequel.

The last few years, whether it be Walt Jocketty or his old-school assistants, ownership, Dusty Baker or Bryan Price, the Reds have been afflicted with the kind of archaic thinking that robs the organization of crucial increments. Those baseball men have their strengths. But their risk-averse, out-of-date thinking about how to win on the field has also held the Reds back.

Increments matter. Every decision by the manager and front office adds up. The best organizations – in any social endeavor, not just professional baseball – obsess over increments of improvement. As Al Pacino’s character says in Any Given Sunday, the inches that make the difference between winning and losing are everywhere around us.

In baseball, instead of inches, today we measure launch angles, spin rates, exit and pitch velocities, isolated power and more. Playing time and role decisions are an important part of what managers and front offices can control.

Yes, there have been glimmers, even beams, of hope from Dick Williams and his staff. But not enough. The myopia over Michael Lorenzen’s role is a throwback to sluggish and failed decision-making. Putting off consideration of Lorenzen’s role to next year smacks of dinosaurs plodding away to extinction. In the service of what? A 40-55 team?

As we’ve witnessed during the past week, the other teams out there, they’re trying to figure out ways to beat our brains in. Those organizations are loaded with clever people and talented players, too. They make mistakes, but you can bet they’re looking for every last edge.

If the Reds are hobbled by antiquated and irrational thinking, keeping up with or beating them just isn’t going to happen. The Reds are going to have to be smarter before they can hope to get better.

33 Responses

  1. Jack

    Mind boggling. That is the description of this organization. Maybe they should look at the empty seats every game and realize people are tired of the runaround. We get it . You are in a rebuild. But nobody is coming to a game when you run out the retreads. I tune in to watch the kids pitch and take their lumps. Watch them as they succeed. If we were fighting for a wildcard I could deal with Adleman. But we are not. It’s just not rocket science here.

  2. Andy Mace

    Haha love this Steve! I tweeted this to you earlier today and low and behold you were already on top of it, writing a great article about it. I had the same reaction when I saw this quote from Price. I am baffled by the “filling a current need” quote. I just don’t understand the Reds decisions sometimes.

  3. Eric Stauffer

    I am fine with how Lorenzen has been managed this year. I also believe that he should be given the chance in ST next year to see if he can start. If he starts then someone needs to fill his spot as a multi inning late game reliever. I have some names in mind for that. Davis, Herget, Chacin, Weiss. I also think that the Reds should look at Mahle in September and start clearing the roster of the fodder on it. I agree with Doug Gray that we need to find out about Stephenson now.

  4. Clay Marshall

    To me, Price’s comments illustrate that he’s more concerned with winning meaningless games in the short term (and possibly saving his job) than the long-term good of the franchise and its players. To be fair, I’m sure 99.9% of other managers would do the same thing, but at some point, the front office needs to step in and right the ship. If the bullpen ends up being the best role for Lorenzen, so be it, but if the primary goal for the rest of the season is to figure out the team’s best starting pitching options for 2018, isn’t it a self-fulfilling prophecy to postpone giving Lorenzen a look until next spring?

    Here’s hoping there won’t be a sequel to this story when Wojo starts instead of Stephenson on Saturday.

    • Sliotar

      This. x 1000.

      I saw the same image, and thought, “Family member to ownership or not, Dick Williams is navigating deep waters with Jocketty still around whispering in Uncle Bob’s ear.”

  5. Sliotar


    Excellent post.

    The real challenge for the Reds won’t be getting to .500 with some semblance of a MLB starting pitching staff. That seems achievable.

    In 2019 or whenever, the real challenge will be edging out the Colorado/Arizona/NY Mets/Atlantas, most likely, for a wild card spot. Things like not developing a platoon partner for Billy Hamilton, not turning to over the current Lorenzen role to Austin Brice (whose Clutch rating is actually higher than ML) or whoever, etc. will then be more noticeable.

    If all of those tweaks and efficiencies are coming in 2018, great. However, does that mean the rest of this season is about Bryan Price managing as if wins matter to keep his job? If so, what a waste and what poor management by Dick Williams.

  6. james garrett

    Steve,Thanks for the data that supports how historically bad the starters really have been.Comments like Price made are just well I can’t think of a word that would do them justice.Someone said the other night that Price returning next year was kind of like OJ getting pardoned or something to that effect.Welllllll be careful what you ask for or even talk about in jest.

    • CP

      I don’t know why people take Price’s words so literal. Yeah, Dusty was free with his true thoughts (although they were often cloaked in Dustyisms), but Price keeps his cards close to his chest. The stuff he says to the beat writers is meaningless.

  7. hoosierdad1

    If the Reds only plan to use Lorenzen in the bullpen, then they should stop pitching him right now and make him a full-time outfielder again. An everyday player has far more value than a guy throwing 60 or 70 innings a year.

    • hoosierdad1

      My guess is if they’d send hm to Louisville for the balance of the season to play CF he’d be ready to come back in September and play. Per a June 2017 story he still shags balls in the outfield during batting practice using his outfielder’s glove. He hits with the positional players. I’d say 2 1/2 months thus season and a whole winter and spring training and he’d be ready to go.

  8. james garrett

    How about meaningless and clueless CP?

  9. kmartin

    The quote by Price is very depressing but what do you expect from a team that still believes that the fastest guy has to lead off. The Reds also used Reed and Stephenson as long relief pitchers to start the season.

  10. Chuck Schick

    So weakening a known strength to “possibly” shore up a weakness is antiquated thinking? Isn’t that robbing Peter to pay Paul? Is it logical to make yourself worse 2-3 games per week to
    “Maybe” become better 1 day a week? My God, they went about .500 in Arroyo’s starts. Even if Lorenzen were good we have no way to know if it would equate to more wins…especially when there would likely be more losses as a result of blown leads on the backend.

    Is it possible that the Reds possess biometric data and other proprietary information that suggest that Lorenzen is not physically and/or emotionally suited to be a starter? Does he even want to start?

    Joe Maddon decided to “stretch out” Chapman in the playoffs and he hasn’t been the same pitcher since. Is that a coincidence? Maybe…maybe not. Some guys are built to pitch an inning and not 5.

    • Indy Red Man

      No kidding man! ML is no lock as a starter, but the guy generates groundballs and has a live arm with a moving fastball. Actually, Peralta might even be a better candidate. He has a change vs righties and destroys LH hitters. THEY HAVE TO DO SOMETHING??? Currently, we’re beat by the 4th-5th inning every other game?
      Most of the young guys have shown next to nothing so far.

      Tyler Mahle might be one of the few exceptions! He pitched well again tonite….6.2, 0 walks, 1 er. If you throw out 1 horrible start last week, then here are his numbers since May 30th!

      49.1 ip, 36 hits, 7 walks, 56 Ks (1.09 era)

      • Indy Red Man

        Run some tryouts for Lorenzen’s spot in the pen as well. Hernandez is taking his lumps but Jimmy Herget is supposed to have real potential. He just pitched 3 games in 4 nights with 4 shutout innings total. If they have to…go find a Cody Allen type for just the 9th and Peralta, Herget, and Iggy can put out the fire in the mid-innings when the game is on the line. Andrew Miller is 10x more valuable then their closer Allen.

    • Chuck Schick

      I put forth a possible premise as to why the Reds don’t use him as a starter. I didn’t write anything even remotely negative about Lorenzen’s emotional stability. I offered no opinion whatsoever on that topic….none.

      It seems likely that a Major League Baseball team would analyze the emotional comportment and physical stamina of a pitcher to determine what role makes the most sense.

      My guess would be they know more about him than you do and they’ve chosen to not use him as a starter. Maybe they have well thought out, valid reasons that they’ve chosen to not publicly disclose or perhaps they’re a clown college.

      You have the right to disagree with their decisions. I have the right to disagree with you.

    • Chuck Schick

      I believe Lorenzen is good. I’ve never suggested he isn’t good.

      My statement was regarding a hypothetical. We don’t know if he would be a good starter….and even if he were a good starter we don’t know if that would translate into more wins.

  11. james garrett

    Never know anything until you try which eliminates the possiblys and maybe’s.Don’t know if starting Lorenzen or even Peralta makes the team better or worse just know it makes sense to try. As you often say and I agree so what if you lose 95 and not 90.

  12. Jack Jepson

    Look up Wallace Hartly (in reference to the Titanic)

  13. Dave

    Haha! I knew this comment would be up here. The Reds are becoming the Montreal Expos of relievers – can you imagine a rotation of Chapman, Iglesias, Lorenzen, Cingrani, and Hunter Greene (we haven’t moved him to the ‘pen just yet).

    I know Iglesias has shoulder issues so okay. Cingrani can’t throw strikes with anything but the heater, fine, but is he that much worse than anything we’re running out there? It seems to me that we’d rather put guys where they’re comfortable and develop their careers so they can star elsewhere (Chapman, maybe Iglesias, as the idea was floated on here, Cingrani if we can get anything for him). Does our front office really not know the difference in a 70 IP closer, a 90-100 IP “fireman” like Iglesias/Lorenzen and a 180+ IP (not that high a bar) starter?! This is getting old…

    • Chuck Schick

      Neither the Cubs nor Yankees used Chapman as a starter either. I don’t believe that was even remotely considered by either team. The other 27 teams in the league all had the opportunity to offer him the opportunity to start over the winter and none did.

      Why didn’t some really smart team offer him an incentive laden contract that would earn him top starter money if he excelled as a starter….and if the starting experiment failed then he would still be the highest paid closer in baseball?

      • Nick Carrington

        Because it had been too long. Starting someone who threw 150 innings in the recent past (Lorenzen) is very different from in starting someone who has pitched 60-70 innings for 5-6 years (Chapman).

        Moving Cingrani to the pen was the right move. I’m worried about Romano because he only has two quality pitches, which usually portends a move to the bullpen. Cingrani has only one effective potch.

        Iglesias would be such a big help to the rotation, but the Reds seem confident that his shoulder can’t handle it, and I think we need to give them the benefit of the doubt there.

        Maybe the Reds wanted to see how Lorenzen’s elbow held up for a while longer first before extending his innings. That seems reasonable. But of course, DW wanted him to get 100+ this year, which seems like a lot if you were protecting his arm.

        The need thing doesn’t make sense after starting Arroyo, Bonilla, Wojo, and a not close to ready Rookie Davis. But I’m sure there were more factors than just need. If they started stretching him now and gave him 7-9 starts, they could get a good feel for what they had going into Spring.

      • Dave

        He was a closer who refused to start before he left Cincy. The Yankees and Cubs acquired him as such, so nothing against their use. But we signed him as a starter, then didn’t really give it a try before he was locked in. ..

  14. Eric Stauffer

    At the end of the day this team needs starting pitching to win. What needs to be done in the offseason is decide which young guys are the future and figure out what can be traded for a front line starter. If this team wants to be competitive in 2018-2019 then Price is not the answer. Williams needs to figure out who the manager of the contending Reds will be and hire him this winter and leave him alone to manage the personnel.

  15. 2020WorldSeriesChamps

    The Reds will never win a World Series or even compete for one with Bryan Price as the manager. Our window is opening as soon as next year for a legitimate 5 year period of chances to compete at a high level. From his mismanaging of Lorenzen and the rotation as a whole this season to an apparent lack of understanding of how to construct a consistently effective lineup, its time for a change. If not now, then after this season. Price has got to go.

    • Eric Stauffer

      As I have said I do not believe Price is a winning manager, but if not Price then who?

      • jazzmanbbfan

        Eric: I’ve asked that question here and elsewhere but so far no one has an answer. There are people I wouldn’t mind but they are currently employed. I like Showalter and Bochy. I wish the Reds had been in a position to hire Francona when he was available and the Indians hired him.

        I don’t believe that Price is making all the decisions on “mismanaging” Lorenzen and the rotation. If DW had wanted Lorenzen starting this year, I believe he would be starting. The lineup is an issue in my opinion but unfortunately, I’m guessing the apparent thinking of Price on lineup construction isn’t any different from many/most of the other managers in MLB.

  16. Nick Carrington

    In his last 10 appearances, Lorenzen has had 9 scoreless with the lone exception being the Washington debacle. His FIP is most of those outings was outstanding so pitching pretty well. But if the shoulder thing is true, that’s concerning.

  17. IndyRedMan

    That was Tom and that was incorrect. Way off…I checked Lorenzen’s game logs

    • IndyRedMan

      Tom is delusional. His bird friend probably told him that stat about Lorenzen.

      June 5th and June 18th = 3 up & 3 down. Nobody reached by error or hbp either

  18. IndyRedMan

    Lorenzen’s stats from 2016-17. 169 to 109 groundball to flyball ratio. 15 double plays in 99 total innings. I don’t have everyone’s stats but if he could do that as a starter then that makes him one of the better groundball pitchers in mlb. For example…Dallas Keuchel is one of the best groundball pitchers in the game and he had 21 doubleplays in 233 ip in 2015.

    HRs allowed are just ridiculous with our staff and gabp. They need to really monitor these groundball/flyball ratios in the minors. They have to give Lorenzen a shot in the rotation….its that simple.

  19. big5ed

    I have thought since spring training that the Reds have a medically-related reason to restrict Lorenzen THIS YEAR to the bullpen, and they just do not want to announce that reason to the world. They appear to be sticking to that decision, which is almost certainly an organizational one that Brian Price did not make himself.

    I am confident that Brian Price knows full well that his starting pitching has been atrocious. With respect to Lorenzen, he is doing his job as employee by saying what he has said about “filling a current need.” But yesterday and in the past, Price has said that the organization will consider giving Lorenzen the chance to start, so I am going to take him and the Reds at his word and assume that Lorenzen will be given that chance next year in spring training.

    Rather than worry about Lorenzen, I would like to see them go to a 6-man rotation, give most of the starts to various young guys, and find out who has the sack to pitch at this level.