“Filling a current need.”
Bryan Price was asked before today’s game if Michael Lorenzen might be used as a starting pitcher. That’s an idea long advocated by many here at Redleg Nation. Lorenzen himself says he would like to start.
Price’s response was horrifying. He said, in part:
“(Lorenzen’s) not a reliever because we don’t believe he can start. He’s a reliever because he’s filling a current need.”
The Reds – whether that be the front office, the manager or coaching staff – have decided to use Michael Lorenzen as a reliever because they view the bullpen as a current need. That’s consistent with what Price has said about Lorenzen’s role since the pitcher returned from the DL in June 2016. Lorenzen did well in the bullpen. So we’ll keep him there.
/best Seinfeld raised voice/
Have you seen the Reds starting rotation?
If the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation isn’t a current need, nothing is. Let’s review current events. The Reds rotation is:
Last in baseball in ERA (6.17)
Last in baseball in FIP (6.00)
Last in baseball in WAR (-1.1) the only rotation in negative numbers (ever)
Last in home runs surrendered
29th in first-pitch strikes
27th in walks surrendered (last in NL)
28th in getting opponents to swing on pitches out of the strike zone
How much worse does the starting pitching have to become before the Reds decision makers conclude it’s a “current need” that maybe Michael Lorenzen could fill?
Worrying about the role of a single pitcher in the Reds bullpen while the starting rotation is the fiasco that it is, is like tuning up the band to play while the Titanic sunk. (How is it that no one in the Reds front office has used that easy cliché to win this argument?)
To be clear, there’s no guarantee that Michael Lorenzen would succeed as a starting pitcher. But this is the year to find out. Right now. Instead of giving useless starts to Tim Adleman and Asher Wojciechowski. Even instead of Scott Feldman. Find out now. Find out about Stephenson and Reed. And Michael Lorenzen.
Lorenzen could be in the starting rotation by the first week of August and make a dozen starts. If he takes to it, the added innings would ease him in to an expanded role next year.
Face it, if the Reds can’t find their way to trying Lorenzen as a starter now, with all the injuries and struggles of the healthy, they never will. Next year, they’ll see Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Luis Castillo and a raft of other possible starters and rationalize that Lorenzen will be a proven fill-in at a “current need” in the bullpen. Creeping Chapmanism, The Sequel.
The last few years, whether it be Walt Jocketty or his old-school assistants, ownership, Dusty Baker or Bryan Price, the Reds have been afflicted with the kind of archaic thinking that robs the organization of crucial increments. Those baseball men have their strengths. But their risk-averse, out-of-date thinking about how to win on the field has also held the Reds back.
Increments matter. Every decision by the manager and front office adds up. The best organizations – in any social endeavor, not just professional baseball – obsess over increments of improvement. As Al Pacino’s character says in Any Given Sunday, the inches that make the difference between winning and losing are everywhere around us.
In baseball, instead of inches, today we measure launch angles, spin rates, exit and pitch velocities, isolated power and more. Playing time and role decisions are an important part of what managers and front offices can control.
Yes, there have been glimmers, even beams, of hope from Dick Williams and his staff. But not enough. The myopia over Michael Lorenzen’s role is a throwback to sluggish and failed decision-making. Putting off consideration of Lorenzen’s role to next year smacks of dinosaurs plodding away to extinction. In the service of what? A 40-55 team?
As we’ve witnessed during the past week, the other teams out there, they’re trying to figure out ways to beat our brains in. Those organizations are loaded with clever people and talented players, too. They make mistakes, but you can bet they’re looking for every last edge.
If the Reds are hobbled by antiquated and irrational thinking, keeping up with or beating them just isn’t going to happen. The Reds are going to have to be smarter before they can hope to get better.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.