When the Cincinnati Reds drafted Michael Lorenzen out of Cal State Fullerton he had mostly been a starting center fielder. But he also would come in to close games out as a relief pitcher. In 2014, his first full season as a professional, the Reds moved him into the rotation full time and sent him to Double-A. It was an aggressive approach, but Lorenzen made 24 starts and posted a 3.13 ERA in 120.2 innings with 44 walks and 84 strikeouts. The next year he jumped up to Triple-A, and made his Major League debut in the Cincinnati rotation before April was over. He would make a few appearances in the minors later in the year, but almost the entirety of his rookie season was in the rotation with the Reds.
That 2015 season was also the last time that Michael Lorenzen made more than three starts in a season. Back in 2018 he appeared in 42 games as a reliever and made three starts. In 2020 he made 16 appearances as a reliever and also made two starts. That’s it – five starts in the five seasons that have taken place since his rookie year. And during most of that time he’s made it known that he hoped to one day start again.
On Wednesday afternoon he again went public with that desire, telling MLB Network Radio’s Jon Morosi and Jim Duquette that he’s preparing to be a starter for the 2021 season. With Cincinnati potentially needing to fill spots in the rotation with free agents Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani hitting the market, a spot could be there for the taking.
“My expectation is to show up as a starter, and finish the season as a starter,” said Lorenzen when asked about showing up in spring training as a starter. “That’s where my mind is at and I’m excited for it. Just everything that I’ve learned through the coaching staff that we have – with DJ (pitching coach Derek Johnson), with Caleb (Cotham, assistant pitching coach), and with Lee Tunnell, (bullpen coach and with Trevor being there as well being another type of coach for me, just the stuff I’ve been able to take from these guys and learn. I’m excited to take that to the rotation and do what I can do. I think I have a lot to prove and I’m excited to be able to do that. ”
The Michael Lorenzen that started in 2015 is not the Michael Lorenzen that exists right now. Let’s look at his pitch usage and velocity from the two seasons:
Despite turning into a reliever, in the five seasons since making his debut, Michael Lorenzen has added two pitches. He’s throwing his fastball harder than before, significantly, and his pitch usage is a lot more even than the heavy fastball usage he showed as a rookie. But it’s not just the velocity and usage that’s changed – the pitches are moving quite differently, too.
His 4-seam fastball hasn’t changed it’s movement. The cutter barely existed in 2015, but when he would throw it every so often, it’s moving in a similar fashion to the cutter he threw in 2020. The change up, slider, and curveball, though – very different movements.
Using Brooks Baseball we can see the difference in movement in the pitches. His slider has become more cutter-like. The curveball has become a bit more slider-like. And the change up has a bit more 4-seam-like action to it than it did.
None of that information says that Michael Lorenzen will have more success as a starting pitcher now than he did as a rookie. But all of that information does say that he’s a very different pitcher now than he was when he struggled as a starting pitcher as a rookie. His walk rate was higher in 2020 than you’d like to see from anyone, but particularly from a starter. His strikeout rate, though, climbed to a career high – granted in just 33.2 innings pitched.
While nothing has been announced by the Reds as far as a plan for Michael Lorenzen in 2021 – it feels safe to assume they will at least give him a look in the spring as a starter unless they go out and fill the rotation in free agency or in trades. He’s likely competing with the likes of Tyler Mahle and Tejay Antone as things stand now for a spot in the rotation behind Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and Wade Miley.
There could be 5 guys competing for 2 spots if Hunter Green and Nick Lodolo have strong springs. Then again maybe Bauer comes back. Maybe Miley goes to the pen. Competition is good, and there should be a lot of it this spring for Red’s starting pitchers.
Gray, Castillo, Miley, Mahle, and Lorenzen or Antone would be a formidable group. Would just have to fill the hole left in the pen. A pretty big hole, at that, no matter who makes the transition to starting.
The walks are problematic, but the low HR rate balances it out. I think Lorenzen absolutely should be preparing to start. While he’s doing his thing to get ready the front office should be exploring an extension offer to him and Mahle.
I like the new pitch arsenal and mix, even if it is a small sample and very recent. Our eye test saw the results at the end of #embracetheweird 2020 season.
DH or no, this is about leveraging the best of Mikey Biceps abilities. I think he still has some value as an extra OF’er when needed and I know he’ll keep those skills sharp. I hope he gets the shot he wants and then backs it up.
Honest question. Why is Miley being penciled in? Bc of invested $? He looks like he might be washed up physically.
+1,000,000 what did Miley show last year that says he is a starter? I thought when he was signed it was a waste of money. I would take Lorenzen or Antone and even Sims over him.
I really think that with his velocity and mix of pitches that Lorenzen could actually move into the #3 spot of the rotation if given the opportunity. Hopefully he can lower the walk rate.
And the homerun rate.
I agree with you, Lorenzen will be the #3 if the Reds give him a real shot. Mahle and Miley should be locked in the rotation as well. Antone will probably be available to piggyback Lorenzen, Miley, and Mahle.
Having said that, I’d rather put Miley in the pen, and Antone in the rotation.
Regarding the rotation, I still have this faint hope (perhaps misguided) that Bauer could be back. He mentioned last night about how much his friends on the team mean to him, and that he really feels at home with the Reds. How much is that worth (in terms of maybe accepting a “hometown discount”)? We’ll see. There’s a lot we don’t know, like how much the Reds are willing to spend on Bauer and others.
Regarding Lorenzen, he certainly is a candidate for a starting pitching role. Mahle should go into the season as a front-runner based on the amazing improvement he showed over the last month and a half of the season. If I’m David Bell, I open up the fifth spot in the rotation for competition between Lorenzen and Antone. Then, presuming you don’t sign Bauer, go get a stud reliever for pennies on the dollar that you’d pay a starting pitcher. Build a Rays-like bullpen and then take your chances.
For the sake of discussion, let’s say $6 million for Brad Hand. Put him in with Iglesias, Archie Bradley, Amir Garrett, Lucas Sims and either Lorenzen or Antone. If you hold on to Robert Stephenson, he becomes the long reliever.
If someone (NYY, NYM, LA?) offers Bauer silly money AND 3 yrs.+, good for Bauer. If it’s 2 yrs. or less the Reds better be very aggressive. If Bauer leaves, I suppose it makes Disco likely to return, but it still feels like 10+ guys get starts next year.
I like it Tom.
I am bigger on signing Hand, than signing Bauer. I’d love Bauer back, but I’m not expecting a 2020 (cy young) repeat, but I’d expect a very good season for him.
Iggy, Hand, Bradley, Garrett: Any lead after the 5th would be very safe. Not to mentions Antone and Sims contributions. With the likely starters Miley, Mahle, less likely Lorenzen, it would be great to have those 4 Horses to turn the game over to.
A nasty bullpen reminiscent of 1990.
Not worried barring injury about the Reds starters next year.Its impossible to replace Bauer and everything he brought to the Reds but the issue for the Reds will be hitting.I am concerned they will just go with the same guys as last year and HOPE they hit.However since the article is about Lorenzen,I have always felt he should start.I have said and still believe he and others would get 25 or more starts on other teams and find success but the Reds seem to find reasons not to do it.I would have never signed Miley with Mahle.Mikey,Garrett,Iggy and even Bob Steve already here that have starter experience but were never given a real chance beyond a handfull of starts.Unless you give a pitcher 40 or 50 starts you never will know what you have got.
I believe there are two things with pitching, though:
1) Can you hit your targets? For example, if the target is inside high, you don’t want to be outside and low.
2) Can you keep the batter off balance? If the batter is expecting a fastball, can you get a changeup past him?
The first one, you can’t even use a chart of where the pitches “end up”, because that may not be where the pitches were “intended to go”. On the second one, how can you actually chart that at all? I would think the closest would be how many weakly hit batted balls the pitcher gets.
I could understand Lorenzen wanting to be a starter. And, healthwise, I believe he could take it. And, that’s where the money is. But, it’s different “wanting to do it” and “being successful doing it”.
One thing we will hopefully be able to look forward to. With Boddy, hopefully in a season or two, we will start to see products of his work with his minor leaguers.
Another part is strategy in pitching/defense. For instance, I can’t stand seeing when the defense shifts to pull, but the pitcher pitches outside. Why? You are encouraging the batter to push the ball, away from the majority of the defense. Why do that?