During spring training, Reds manager David Bell made it known that he wanted to use Michael Lorenzen in more situations than just as a pitcher. Through the first 22 games of the season, Bell has stuck to what he said. Figuring out ways to use him is a difficult task for the Reds, as Redleg Nation’s Doug Gray wrote back in February.
But Bell has found ways to make it work, for the most part. Lorenzen has played in all different innings and scenarios. He’s come into a game when it’s been tied, when the Reds have been losing, and when the Reds have been winning.
The most common way Bell has used Lorenzen is in pitching multiple innings. Three of his nine appearances have been at least two innings. Lorenzen is no stranger to this situation, as he pitched in multiple innings 29 out of his 45 appearances in 2018 and 21 of his 70 appearances in 2017. The way Lorenzen has been used this season is similar to the way he was used towards the end of last season.
Taking a look at the Inning/Score Appearance Matrix on Baseball-Reference.com, interim manager Jim Riggleman used Lorenzen in many different scenarios in 2018, mostly in the sixth and seventh innings. It didn’t matter if the Reds were up by two or down by four. Lorenzen rarely pitched in a close game in the eighth or ninth. He also started three games and got regular pinch hit at-bats, more so towards the end of the season (nine in August and eight in September).
Two years ago, in 2017, Lorenzen made 70 appearances, mainly in the seventh and eighth innings. Bryan Price used him in a more traditional role, as he pitched 25 times in the eighth and 22 times in the seventh. He only received 12 at-bats, but did hit one home run.
However, in nine appearances in 2019, Lorenzen has entered games in every scenario. He’s already pitched in the fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and in extra innings. He’s been used when the Reds are down by four runs, up by one run, and in a tie game twice.
Lorenzen has pitched two innings three times in 2019. In every multiple inning appearance except one, the pitcher’s spot has come around in the batting order at least once. Bell makes sure Lorenzen will bat as well, thus not wasting another pinch hitter. Lorenzen’s been decent at the plate too, going 1-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI double.
As for the center field experiment, it has worked out exactly how most fans thought it would. He’s not going to play center every day or even semi-regularly. In 2019, he has played there twice for a total of three innings. The first was on Opening Day, when he entered as a pinch runner when the Reds were threatening to score. It proved to be a good move, as he did score, and then stayed in center the next half inning. The second time was a double switch in the ninth with the Reds up 5-0, likely to get him more experience in a low-leverage situation.
It might be too early to determine, but it seems like Bell won’t put him in center very often. He also won’t hesitate to use Lorenzen’s versatility when the timing is right. But Lorenzen is a pitcher first and will be used as such.
Looking at his numbers this season, Lorenzen has been solid. In 10.1 innings, he has a 1.74 ERA and a 4.06 FIP, with nine strikeouts. However, it’s been a struggle for him to get through innings clean. He’s walked five and given up 12 hits, including one home run. It could be that his BABIP is quite high at .344. His BB% is also at 12.5%, over three percentage points higher than previous years. While Lorenzen has struggled to pitch easy innings, his LOB% sits at 96.2%. He’s putting runners on base, but he’s getting himself out of trouble too.
So, what is the ideal situation for Lorenzen? It’s exactly what Bell is doing. He’s trying to get multiple innings out of one of his better relievers and still maximize as many spots in the lineup that he can. However, Bell also gives him plenty of rest between appearances, as he’s only pitched in back-to-back games once this season. Lorenzen will continue to get many opportunities to pitch if he stays healthy this season, both on the mound and at the plate.
All stats current as of Sunday, April 20, 2019. Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs.
Very smart reply Grand Salami. I agree with you completely.
I think he’s onto something with the cutter he’s throwing. Like Mahle’s fastball, Lorenzen’s fastball is too straight and on plane. Using the cutter more frequntly and commanding it should lead to more swings and misses.
I’m a big fan of the merry go round in CF this year. Analytics is enabling guys with fewer innings there to be at least adequate defenders. I’ll gladly sacrifice one or two doubles per week that Hamilton or Stubbs would’ve caught for the upgrade on offense.
Lorenzen has caught everything hit his way in CF. Still has a total of 0 chances, though. He is a ball-repellent, and the opposite of “the ball will find you.”
I’m a huge Lorenzen fan, but what if you packaged some younger guys like Lorenzen together and picked up Trey Mancini from the Orioles? TM is hitting .351 with 10 doubles and 6 hrs and he’s only 27. The Reds need some right-handed thump badly and Kemp can’t provide it. Mancini might be a better then hitter then Puig and they don’t know if they can keep Puig anyway?
Well you’re not going to gain alot of pitch recognition with 2 atbats a week? They don’t know what he can do unless they turned him loose. Last week he had a nice at-bat ending with a rbi hit vs Mikolas who was an AS last year.
Lorenzen is who he is at this point…. a meh reliever who has a MLB job mainly because he is a great athlete.
I see this opinion of Lorenzen on RLN alot. I beg to differ. Yes….he’s had some “meh” results, but he’s got the kind of arm and athleticism that can always turn it around. Does a “meh” pitcher give up 6 hrs in 81 ip when gabp is his home park? Lorenzen did it last year! I doubt Max Scherzer could pull that off? Lorenzen rolled up 10 double plays in 50 ip in his first season as a reliever. He has 2 dp’s in 10 ip this year. If he gets that bite on his power sinker then he could be nasty! Look at Charlie Morton. He’s much better in his 30s then he was in his 20s. Lorenzen has rare type of ability, but can he harness it? He’s an above average talent thats had a few average years.
As long as the Reds insist on carrying 13 pitchers on a 25 man roster there is absolutely a place for Michael Lorenzen. He pitches multiple innings, capably if not brilliantly. He can play center field (and, presumably, left or right if needed) and it’s not a risky experiment. He can pinch run and is an upgrade on the base paths. He can hit for himself, again capably meaning a bench bat can be saved. And he can pinch hit, one more time – capably. As he is even with the high walk rate (which needs to drop) he’s a valuable asset. If he does drop that walk rate and the ground ball rate returns to career norms he’s a very valuable, very versatile part of the Reds roster. Nice summary Ashley. Thanks.
A little early to put too much stock in xFIP. In Lorenzen’s second appearance, he had a 32.53 xFIP. He walked two guys and let up a homer in 4 batters. That’s throwing numbers way out of whack. Since then, he has the following:
Those are respectable numbers. Again, the ERA predictors probably don’t mean anything this early, but the walk, strikeout, and groundball numbers are encouraging.
Lorenzen’s season will likely come down to whether he has developed a put away pitch. He had a really bad swinging strike percentage last year (6.8). So far this year, that’s nearly doubled (12.1%). If he keeps that up and limits the walks, he’ll have his best season.