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The Red Report - Michael Lorenzen

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Facts

Position: Pitcher
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6’3 Weight: 215
Age (Opening Day): 25

High School: Fullerton Union High School (Fullerton, CA)
College: California State University, Fullerton

Organizational Information

Drafted: 2013 - 1st round, 38th overall
Debut: April 29th, 2015
2017 Contract Status: 1 year/$0.5165M

Career Stats:

2016 Pitch F/X

Velocity in 2016:

Pitch Usage in 2016

VS. Left-Handed Hitters in 2016

VS. Right-Handed Hitters in 2016

Pitch Outcomes in 2016:

Projections for 2017:

2017 Outlook

Up until yesterday, everyone had Michael Lorenzen slated as a quality innings-eater out of the Reds bullpen. He and Raisel Iglesias — two former starters turned relievers — were expected to anchor the bullpen along with Drew Storen and Tony Cingrani. All four were expected to be responsible for saving games at some point during the 2017 season, with Bryan Price set to determine the best reliever for the job based off of whoever had the most recent bowel movement. If it’s good enough to determine who goes first in Cards Against Humanity, then why couldn’t it work for the Reds bullpen?

That sounded like a solidly thought out plan, but then news broke yesterday that Anthony DeSclafani is headed to the disabled list and will be sidelined until at least the opening week of the season. Initially it was thought he could start a game during that first week of the season, but now the plan is for him to rest for the next four weeks and then re-evaluate.

The loss of DeSclafani could mean a return to the rotation for Lorenzen. It seems unlikely, but when questioned about how to fill the spot, Price totally ruled out moving Iglesias back to the rotation, but wouldn’t do the same for Lorenzen. For the purposes of this article, let’s just assume Lorenzen stays in the bullpen, and either Disco returns on time, or the Reds give someone like Amir Garret or Robert Stephenson a shot to prove they can get big league hitters out consistently.

Lorenzen flourished out of the bullpen in 2016. After missing the first couple months of the season due to an elbow injury, he finally saw his first action against the Padres on June 24th. While he promptly gave up a two-run homer to Melvin Upton in that game, he eventually settled into a groove come July. Lorenzen had a 0.98 WHIP during July, and allowed only three earned runs in 13.1 innings pitched. While he didn’t quite replicate those numbers in August and September, he was still very effective and for the first time, he truly established himself as a quality big league pitcher.

As you can see from the charts above, Lorenzen relies heavily on his cutter and sinker, which in turn, generates a ton of ground balls. In fact, 83.6% of Lorenzen’s batted balls were either line drives or grounders. This makes him especially well-suited to pitch in Great American Ballpark where pop-ups have a habit of nearly hitting Toyota Tundras. As the season wore on he became even more reliant on his cutter. He used it just around 20% of the time in July, but that number ballooned to over 40% by September. Throw in the fact that his fastball was the third best pitch in baseball in 2016 and you have the type pitcher you can build a bullpen around.

All of that said, here’s a video by former big league pitcher David Aardsma where he rocks a tank top and talks with a guy that likes to chew on his nails and then spit them out on camera. Aardsma and the nail spitter discuss Loenzen’s pitching mechanics and make a very strong case that he’s using too much arm force on his pitches and is a significant injury risk. They note that his workout regime is likely protecting him for now, but that he’s going to need adjust his mechanics for a better long-term outlook.

The Reds starting rotation is shaping up to be somewhere between awful and very bad in 2017. They’ll undoubtedly have to rely on Lorenzen to pitch between 2-3 innings several times throughout the season. If he’s able to continue the success he had in 2016, and stay healthy, then he could potentially develop into the most important piece of the Reds bullpen. While most of the attention has been placed on who will pitch the ninth inning for the Reds, Lorenzen could be the pitcher that actually makes the ninth inning matter.