My latest for Cincinnati Magazine:

Recently, The Athletic published a poll of big league players on a variety of topics. It was mostly just an entertaining piece of light-hearted All-Star break content, but the final question in the poll reminded me of something I’ve been asking myself: Aside from Shohei Ohtani, which pitcher could make it as a full-time hitter? Top result: Michael Lorenzen (45%).

It’s no secret why his fellow players think so highly of Lorenzen’s hitting ability. This season, Lorenzen—who has a 2.30 ERA in 21 appearances on the mound—is hitting .400/.455/1.300 with three home runs in 12 plate appearances. One of those home runs was a pinch-hit grand slam a few weeks ago.

Lorenzen only has four hits this season, actually; as noted above, three of them were homers. The other hit was a single back in early June, but even that otherwise-forgettable single was a spectacular feat. The exit velocity as the ball came off Lorenzen’s bat, as measured by MLB’s Statcast system, was 116.5 miles per hour. That’s the highest exit velocity ever recorded for a pitcher. Even more fascinating: It’s the hardest hit ball ever recorded by any Reds hitter. Sure, MLB has been recording exit velocity for only the last four seasons, but Lorenzen hit that ball harder than any recorded by Joey Votto, Adam Duvall, Eugenio Suarez, or Scooter Gennett.

And it’s not like Lorenzen just learned how to hit this season. In his career, he’s hitting .254/.277/.524 with a 110 OPS+. That effectively means he’s been 10 percent better than a league average hitter at the plate over the course of his career (only 70 plate appearances, so all the usual caveats about small sample size apply). It is becoming increasingly clear that Lorenzen has an idea what he’s doing with a bat in his hands.

So let’s go back to that question I mentioned above, a question Reds management should be trying to answer as well. Could Michael Lorenzen be a full-time two-way player? It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.

Read the whole thing, and let me know what you think. What do the Reds have to lose?

37 Responses

  1. Alex

    Love the work you guys do but I do not understand the fascination with Michael Lorenzen. (And I was going crazy behind the Reds dugout after his GS.)

    • Ghettotrout1

      Alex I agree the people of this great RLN love Lorenzen. I think he is just mehhhh.

    • Indy Red Man

      I don’t understand why ML has so many haters? He always has. I’ve defended him like crazy ever since 2015 when he arrived. Personally I’m agnostic, but I think there is a Tim Tebow love/hate thing going in with him that clouds peoples opinions.

      A guy has 12 atbats and owns the hardest hit ball on the entire team….and that wasn’t one of 3 Hrs. He’s pitched 41 ip so far with 2 HRs allowed. Name a pitcher….any pitcher that could beat that with gabp as his home park? Reports are that he would’ve went in the 3rd round as a hitter and he also runs like a deer. It just so happens that the Reds are in dire need of a RH power-hitting outfielder.

      That’s why we’re fascinated with ML!

      • Jack

        Defend him to the point of man crush. Lol

      • greenmtred

        Lorenzen is an intriguing talent. SSS really does apply to the hitting, and great exit velocity alone doesn’t make a competent hitter, but why not take a more extended look? His pitching, per Indy, is more effective than it looks, also. The results are there. I don’t understand the negativity.

    • Bill

      I have serious questions on if he could actually be a two way player, but I think the fascination is the “what if” Just like the fascination with Senzel, Greene, or Trammell. They may never amount to anything, but until they are given a shot you won’t know. The same applies to Lorenzen, maybe he can’t do it, but the small sample size of this year shows potential to be a power hitting CF, which is something the Reds haven’t had very often. Other than Stubbs the Reds have mostly had light hitting speed guys in recent years.

    • KDJ

      The fascination and frustration is that he is likely the best athlete on the team, is extremely fast, and has talent has a hitter, pitcher, and outfielder. Yet, the way he has been used has not been conducive to finding out what his potential could be.

  2. mike rapaport

    his pitching is just average. I would look to trade him. the reds fans rate him too high as they do with garrett.

  3. CP

    I think the Reds would be more likely to get creative with Lorenzen if they had the DH to work with like the Angels do. I think the Reds could maybe a little more aggressive in getting Lorenzen some ABs, and maybe he could get some time playing in the OF here and there, but you do wonder about risk/reward if he is playing a position like CF. It is difficult to say what Lorenzen could really do without getting him consistent ABs for a reasonable sample size. It stinks that they don’t really have the means to do so.

    Along with guys like Jesse Winker and Dilson Herrera having to ride the pine more than they should, it is the price we pay for the privilege of watching Jim Riggleman’s strategic brilliance every day. Or maybe its the privilege of watching Sal Romano hit .034/.034/.069 or Matt Harvey hit 056/.105/.05…

    I don’t know, who can really tell why old farts hate the DH so much? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Scott C

      Because we all hate change. Its human nature. We like to look at “the good old days.” But you are right the NL needs to adopt the DH. Us old guys will get used to it. Eventually.

    • WVRedlegs

      Why do hopped-up Millennials on their ADD and ADHD meds hate the National League and all the drama with strategic moves where every pitch the strategy can change? Why can’t Millennials sit still for 3 hours and watch a good pitching game?
      American League baseball bores the crap out of most people. Might as well do away with pitching altogether and set the ball up on a tee. That is probably the next change the ADHD Millennials will seek.
      Why can’t the American League return to real baseball and remove the DH for good?

      • CP

        I don’t understand what millennials have to do with it but okay….

        I understand your memory is a little fuzzy because you are getting up in years, but the DH was adopted in the AL about a decade or so before any of the millennials were born. Which generation is more responsible for the DH again?

        If anything, baby boomers are ultimately responsible for why the quality of pitchers’ hitting has gone down so precipitously…baby boomer coaches ultimately encouraged young GenX/Millennial pitchers to specialize earlier, resulting in them hitting less, resulting in the current futility we see from NL pitchers trying to hit. Hey, it turns out baby boomers are once again the source of their problems, and now the kids have to clean it up. Shocking, I know.

        By the way, we’re all Reds fans here, what would a “good pitching” look like? 3 of the top 5 teams in pitching in baseball are AL teams, we should ask them.

        As for whether American League bores the crap out of most people, what you really mean is that it bores the heck out of you, and maybe a couple people you know. Tv ratings and attendance are the best way to measure that, and they ebb and flow with wins/losses just like it does in the NL.

        This isn’t really a baby boomer versus millennial thing, but I guess you made it a boomer thing when you started whining about the younger generation.

      • greenmtred

        Maybe it’s just my memory getting fuzzy, kid, but I don’t recall pitchers ever hitting much. A few exceptions, sure, but mostly not. Millenials aren’t responsible for the DH, of course, but they share some responsibility for the generally declining interest in baseball. People whose teams have a good DH candidate predictably favor the DH. Sort of a non-sequiter there, but that’s what fuzzy old minds do sometimes.

      • CP

        You might keep in mind that all millennials aren’t “kids”. Depending on what study you reference, you’re talking about people born as late as 1978-1981 Some of you are so old that you’re not even complaining about the right generation anymore…

        Pitchers were never “good” at hitting, but now they are hitting worse than ever. Fangraphs published an article a few years ago that showed pitchers wRC+ declining from around 40 in 1920, to -40 in 2015. From not good levels to barely holding a bat.

        I don’t really see how anyone in any age range have any responsibility for the decline in popularity of baseball. That’s like saying iPod owners were responsible for the failure of the Zune. It’s MLB’s responsibility to adapt and evolve to attract consumers, not our responsibility to give them money.

        I think expansion, plus realignment and uniform adoption of the DH are three obvious changes the league could make that would generate interest. You gain some fans, you lose some fans. It’s only a matter of time…

      • greenmtred

        I’ll keep that in mind. You should keep in mind that, old and fuzzy as we are, we invented music, beer, color, baseball and other good things too numerous to list. The evident decline in attention span seems to be multi-generational, I’ll give you that, but it probably isn’t a positive development and, as such, shouldn’t be accommodated without a lot of serious thought. Baseball, as now played, requires attention from its fans. Changing it so that fans who require distraction and extra stimulation every few minutes would make it…football. I’m waiting for,and surprised not to have seen, a proposal to have offensive (pronounced with the long “o”) and defensive (long “d”) teams in baseball. Stay tuned.

      • greenmtred

        Oh, and I forgot that we invented the DH, too, but you’ll note that we only infested the AL with it.

      • Chris Miller

        I just want to say, I loved this reply. It is so true. I hate the American League; it’s boring, and there is no strategy to the game whatsoever.

      • greenmtred

        By God, WV!! I think you must be in my age group. A shot across the bows if ever I saw one!

      • Streamer88

        Let’s get the 3 point line off the basketball court too. And why not get those helmets and face masks off those football players while we’re at it.

        Most importantly, take those lights down at New Crosley field. Baseball was made to be played with sunlight.

        See? I can be a cranky curmudgeon too.

    • Jeff Reed

      As an oldie, I’m in favor of the DH since both leagues play each other on a three year cycle. Offensively all the teams should be on the same page. Nothing stays the same. Ultimately offense wins out over strategy.

  4. Mason Red

    Unfortunately neither professional sports teams in Cincinnati are known for being “creative” with players. It is a different animal playing in the NL instead of the AL with the DH but the Reds also do a poor job of finding out the true talents of players in the second half of seasons that are essentially lost.

  5. Bill

    I really like the idea of using him for multiple innings and hitting for himself. Then on days when unavailable have him in the dug out to pinch hit. I really don’t think he is ever going to be a starter. Defensively he can most likely play the OF and possibly be above average. The question is how would he do getting 4 at bats a game. His scouting report predicted above average defense in CF but questioned his bat. As others will note he has gotten physically stronger, but muscles don’t make a hitter. I would love for him to hit 40 HR a year and play CF, but it is probably more likely pitchers would figure out his weaknesses and the production would be something less.

    Maybe some time in spring training in the OF and use him as the 5th OF if needed during the season. I wouldn’t want to put so much focus on hitting and playing OF that it impacts his pitching performance

  6. Aaron Bradley

    The Reds were trying to land Ohtani, so that means they were willing to let him be a two-way player. Why they can’t do this with their own in-house talent is anyone’s guess. They will probably box in Hunter Greene as well, and if his arm breaks down under the stress of power pitching they will have nothing to fall back on. In short this team is dumb, and Walt is still participating in all the meetings and probably holds a tie-breaker vote on all issues.

    • Bill

      If Greene can’t pitch he could always switch back. If Lorenzen can do it after five years of pitching then why would Greene be any different? There is a reason only one guy is a two way player in the majors. It is tough to do. Maybe Lorenzen and Greene can both do it, but the alternative might be trying to do both and failing at both as opposed to picking one and being succesful

  7. Jeffery Stroupe

    I see a last place club going forward. Still root for them the same as always though. Winker was a freak thing, Schebler uhh learn to protect yourself. Hunter Green is not Nolan Ryan. I said this before, i think the next good team has not reached the majors yet. Votto has become a slap hitter and that blow to the knee is going to come into play in a big way. Play Williams everyday, If I were Hamilton I would be ashamed to get my check. Riggleman will not be the manager in 2019. That is about a dumb of a thought as Scooter in the outfield. Or Senzel for that matter. I looked at the 1989 roster, which gave me some hope for this team but they made some really key additions going into 1990. This team has made none to this point. This winter will tell the tale.

    • Mike C

      I think this team needs a big bat. in the future. I don’t think Ervin is that guy, though his hitting has been nothing short of impressive since his return. I just question whether or not Ervin is going to be starting OF material long term. They’re out of contention and spots are open due to injuries, so why not give Lorenzen a look now? They have nothing to lose by trying him out. I don’t expect him to turn into a 30 HR every day outfielder, but he has shown enough potential to earn a serious look. Billy should be seeing less ABs so that Ervin, Williams and Ervin have more audition time.

      • Mike C

        Ervin, Williams and Lorenzen that is…

  8. Dave Roemerman

    I don’t hate the idea…a DH slot sure would make it easier, though. That said, I’d put money against it right now. This is an organization without a plan for Senzel (position), Scooter (contract), Garrett the starter, or BobSteve the big leaguer (last two no opportunity in a weak rotation).

    I think the Reds should focus on a starting 5 (and 8), work up from there. If this were the Rays, I think he starts 2-4x per week at DH/OF. This isn’t a vote of “no confidence” in the idea (a good one in a lost season) but, rather, the organizational leadership.

  9. J

    As soon as I saw the words “get creative” in the headline, I knew this was an article about something the Reds will never do. Hitting Votto second every 40 or 50 games is about as experimental as they ever get.

    • Bred

      I would say that batting Hamilton at #9 is experimental, but it is really because they don’t bat 10 guys.

      • roger garrett

        That is a good one but I was thinking maybe we could just skip him all together.I mean when they pitch around the pitcher to get to him welllllll

  10. Steelerfan

    There is a fangraphs article containing similar information I could not find, but hopefully including a link below on how pitchers’ hitting ability has declined rapidly in recent years. Doug Gray and others have suggested pitchers just do not have the time to practice it anymore, but IF the NL keep pitchers hitting, it does feel like a creative team could steal a couple of wins by improving their ability in this area. Most of these kids grew up being the best hitters on their teams through high school, so it feels at least possible to get them back to more historic levels.

    As more ML, if you wanted to be creative, he feels like a candidate for the Rays tandem starter approach. Start a reliever with favorable matchups, bring ML in where he will get at least one Ab, and if you can stretch him out to pitch enough to get a couple, great.

  11. lwblogger2

    It’s something that could be done, with the exception of Chad’s idea that he start a game in CF and then just come in from CF when needed to pitch. The issue with that would likely be him not getting a chance to get properly warmed up to pitch. Just not enough warmup pitches would be awarded from the mound. He’d have the advantage of already being a little loose from playing CF but that’s not nearly the same as getting loose in the pen.