Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Goodyear this week. Among them will be reliever/outfielder Michael Lorenzen. Today, though, we’re going to look back at his 2019 season and see how things worked out.
The Preseason Projections
Michael Lorenzen was predicted to have a slightly higher than average season heading into 2019. With three seasons already behind him and coming off a solid season in 2018, he was a lock to be one of the top veteran relievers in the bullpen.
Here are Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections from February 2019:
The 2019 Season
Throughout the entire season, manager David Bell used Lorenzen in multiple scenarios out of the bullpen, as Lorenzen would pitch two innings one game and pitch to get only one out in other games. He started the season strong, giving up just two runs in 15.2 innings while striking out 11 in April. His first couple appearances were a struggle, but then he settled down and didn’t allow a run for the rest of the month.
He struggled in May and June, with an ERA around five in 26.2 innings. However, as is usually the case with relievers, one bad outing on May 29th when he gave up four runs to the Pirates in 1.1 innings ballooned his season ERA from 1.91 to 3.03. Half of the earned runs he allowed in May came in that one appearance. The same thing happened in June, when he gave up three earned runs on four hits in 0.1 innings against the Cubs.
Lorenzen was plagued by the home run ball in May and June. In those two months, he gave up five home runs. In the three months following, he allowed a total of three home runs. After finding a solution to his long ball issues, he became dominant in July and August. He had two different streaks of nine straight appearances without allowing a run. It led him to an ERA under 2.00 in each of those months. In early September, his ERA creeped a little higher when he went through a stretch of allowing a run in four straight appearances. However, he finished the season strong, ending with two holds and a save, while allowing only three hits and striking out eight in 7.1 innings.
Overall, it’s not a stretch to say Lorenzen was the best reliever on the team in 2019. In 83.1 innings pitched, he recorded a 2.92 ERA, a 3.66 FIP, and seven saves while striking out 85 and walking only 28. His ERA+ was well above average at 156.
As for Michael Lorenzen the hitter, David Bell gave him 53 plate appearances in 2019, 36 of which came in September. For the season, he hit only .208/.283/.313 with one home run and six RBI. However, he did have some clutch hits, including a walk-off double, and a two run home run in the bottom of the eighth on September 4th that etched himself into the history books. On that day, Lorenzen became the first player since Babe Ruth to hit a home run, earn a win, and play the field in the same game.
Looking Towards 2020
For most of the 2019 season, Bell talked about finding at-bats and time in the outfield for Lorenzen, but aside from the occasional pinch running or pinch hitting opportunity, Bell really didn’t get him into the game as more than a pitcher until September. In an off season article written by Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, Bell said he needs to find ways to use Lorenzen more as a two-way player in 2020. It will be an interesting storyline to follow as the season starts, especially with the number of outfielders the Reds currently have.
However, even if Bell uses Lorenzen as primarily a pitcher, it’s the role he should be in the majority of time. Last season, his velocity improved on nearly every one of his pitches (the change up stayed about the same), including his four seamer which increased to 97.2 from 95.4 in 2018. It wouldn’t be a surprise if his velocity stayed up or even increased slightly in 2020. Have you seen the guy’s workouts on Instagram? He’s also been doing some work at Driveline Baseball this offseason, also as seen on his Instagram feed.
Lorenzen is entering his age 28 season, so he’s right in his prime as a baseball player. Relievers’ performances are hard to predict because they’re so fickle from one season to the next, but over the last two seasons, Lorenzen has been one pitcher the Reds can count on out of the bullpen, and that isn’t likely to change in 2020.
Wow. It’s good to look at reality and see just how well he’s pitching.
At this point, he’s definitely more valuable on the mound. Although, it would be interesting to look at the numbers on his value as a position player—in order to inform my own bias.
Don’t think we’ll ever know if he would have been the answer in CF today, had the Reds developed him as one, instead of a pitcher.
Lorenzen (along with Strop and Garrett) is going to be a key to bullpen success in 2020.
The 8th inning pitchers usually face batter order positions 1 to 5 (4th or 5th AB of the game) and the 9th inning pitcher usually the 6 to 9 batters and Pinch Hitters (cold coming off the bench).
The “hold” against the best hitters on the other team is more important than the save against the bottom 3rd of the batting order.
Over the last few seasons, Lorenzen has developed into my favorite player on the team. He’s a really good player and seems like an even better dude.
From the looks of his Instagram posts- Lorenzen will be back throwing serious heat. Cant wait
Question: Lorenzen seemed to pitch better than almost all of his predictors. Why then is his ERA+ exactly the same? Granted I don’t understand ERA+ that much but seems like it would have jumped a notch or two.
There was a typo in the table that’s been fixed. Lorenzen’s ERA+ was actually 156 in 2019, not 107.
Thanks, Doug. That is pretty good. One more question, if you don’t mind. How many relief pitchers had a better ERA+?
Bell needs to quit moving players around every game and trying to appease everyone. Players need to know where and when they will play and allow them to focus on the task at hand. Lorenzen needs to stick to pitching only, with some pinch-hitting sprinkled in.
Not sure what you mean about appeasing everyone? IMO, Bell is trying to win games with the roster he has on any given day. Can you explain further? Why would you not play Lorenzen in the outfield as a defensive replacement late in games on days he is not pitching? Again IMO, He is superior outfield defender to everyone on the roster.
Right on. The “rebuild” according to Wally and Bob was theater of the absurd.
Agree. Lorenzen seems like such a team player, I expect he would give his best wherever the team needed or wanted him. (BTW – I can’t say the same about another relief pitcher.) Reds really lost opportunity with his development and underutilization.