For this week’s question we asked some of the writers from Redleg Nation about how the team has used relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen.

Question: Would you have used Michael Lorenzen in a different manner than the way David Bell has? And if so, how?

Jim Walker: I would try to get Lorenzen plate appearances more regularly and frequently than he  has gotten this year. Using him for multiple innings in his mound appearances would accomplish this in two ways. First, he is likely  to get at least one plate appearance while in a game as a pitcher, saving a pinch hitter. Saturday night versus the Cardinals was the perfect set up of this scenario. Secondly, this usage would require a down day between pitching appearances during which Lorenzen would slot into the bench rotation.

An additional  benefit of this usage pattern is Lorenzen seems to thrive and do his some of his best mound work when he pitches earlier in games for longer stretches. Thus it becomes a win/ win proposition.

Jason Linden: Lorenzen has been used exactly as he should have been. The time to give him serious time in the outfield and at the plate was when he was drafted, not now. He has 107 plate appearances in the big leagues and for most of those, he’s been pitched to like he’s a pitcher. He strikes out a ton and doesn’t walk. If he were given significant playing time, he’d quickly be exposed. His offensive numbers are almost a carbon copy of those that Micah Owings put up once upon a time.

Don’t get me wrong, Lorenzen is an incredible hitter… for a pitcher. But an occasional turn as a pinch hitter when the situation is appropriate is all that should happen. He’s a pitcher, let him pitch. In an alternate universe, he might have been allowed to develop as a two-way player, but that’s not the universe in which we reside.

Bill Lack: At the beginning of the year, I thought he’d play more in the OF than he has. I don’t think the Reds anticipated Senzel being as consistent offensively, as good defensively, or as much of an everyday player as he’s been. I thought Bell/the Reds thought they’d be switching Senzel out of the lineup more in CF. And I also don’t know if they anticipated Lorenzen being used as much as he has out of the bullpen (leads in appearances and innings), which limits the amount they can use him in other ways.

Ashley Davis: I would have given Michael Lorenzen more plate appearances through the middle of the season. Through May, June and July, it seemed David Bell forgot Lorenzen was an option off the bench, as he received only four plate appearances despite pitching multiple innings 15 times. Yes, every game depends on pitcher matchups and when he pitches vs. when the pitcher’s spot comes up in the lineup. However, it’s a little odd that Bell found a way to get him eight plate appearances in April and hardly any for the next three months, especially when Lorenzen was pitching a lot of multiple innings.

Steve Mancuso: On the one hand, I would have liked to see Lorenzen get more time in the outfield and at the plate. It’s been obvious that David Bell does trust Lorenzen in the outfield — he’s used him as a defensive substitute. On the other hand, it’s not like the Reds don’t have outfield options that have needed to play. Anyone who says Lorenzen deserved more plate appearances should be specific about which position player should have received fewer. That goes for today, as well. Bottom line is I think Bell has gotten it just about right, given the options.

Doug Gray: When the season began I would have said that I expected more at-bats for Michael Lorenzen than he’s gotten. He got two over the weekend, singling in both at-bats, giving him 14 for the entire season. After all of the talk, and even the usage in spring training it sure felt like they’d use him more as a hitter than once every week-and-a-half.

With that said, given how the roster has played out throughout the year, it makes sense. Lorenzen probably hasn’t been option 1, 2, or 3 off of the bench as a pinch hitter most of the time this season. Maybe he could have stayed in a game and hit for himself a few more times than he has, but it seems like David Bell has gone with the guys who hit for a living more than Lorenzen, and it’s tough to argue that he shouldn’t have given how many of his options have performed.

23 Responses

  1. Seat101

    Those are all very reasonable responses. Of course I agree.

    The optimum way to get Michael Lorenzen more at bats is to have him as a starting pitcher. Do any of you think he has the stuff to be a starter, or at least an “opener”?

    • gary

      With Wood gone i would like to see lorenzen and Guasman get a shot at starting next year.

    • VaRedsFan

      IMO….He has the stuff to be a starter, but not the command. He likes to meddle with his entire pitch arsenal in the course of an at bat. His fastball is very good, and he’s had a decent change up at times. Then he tries to work in his curve and slider, which he seems to have trouble locating. Result…hitters can sit on the fastball.

      • Reaganspad

        Lorenzen is a starter. To answer Steve’s question, he would get the ab’s of Disco. Disco is a 2 pitch pitcher at this point and would have been better in the pen this year. And Lorenzen would have been better starting this year.
        I would say the same thing for 2020 just based on their capabilities. I know there are other issues, but Lorenzen has been mis-used since they moved him out of the rotation. And they know it, which is why they are trying to give him extra minutes in the outfield

    • RichS

      Has anyone in the Reds organization asked Lorenson where he wants to play?

  2. RichS

    Jason is the only one who makes sense. He hits like a pitcher and pitches like a bad hitter. You never know what you are going to get. The Reds need consistency, not trial and error.

    • Jim Walker

      For his MLB career, Lorenzen’s OPS is .784; OPS+ 105; wRC+ 104. That’s average range for all hitters, not just pitchers.

      Here are the similar career stats for some Reds bench guys who play a specialty position:
      Kyle Farmer (C) .688/78/77
      Jose Peraza (SS) .688/80/81
      Curt Casali (C) .715/93/93

      If Lorenzen can be managed so that his pitching availability isn’t impinged by offensive appearances, why wouldn’t he a choice over any of them to pinch hit?

      Yes, the sample size for Lorenzen is very small; but, I think the debate is whether this is his offensive ceiling.

      • RichS

        Why not see what they can get on the trading block? Your comps are for below average players. Is that what we want to continue to harvest here in Cincy?

      • Jim Walker

        I think there is a real possibility Lorenzen could be traded in the off season. He is an arbitration eligible player (3rd year of 4; was a super 2) and won’t be cheap to sign.

        With the new rules governing the number of pitchers a team can carry and how they can be used, he would have plus value for a team which could qualify him as a 2 way player, i.e. eligible to pitch but not counted against the pitcher limit. That’s more likely to be in the AL due to the DH.

      • Grand Salami

        I concur. Lorenzen ceiling is that he is a capable two way player. Playing OF and coming in every other day to the mound.

        Love to try it.

    • Mason Red

      I think they are in the perfect position for “trail and error”. Forget the playoff nonsense because it ain’t happening. Try Lorenzen as a starter and give him some ABs too. The Reds need to find out as much as possible about what they have so they hopefully will make the necessary moves needed to take things to the next level.

  3. Pete

    If ML does not start to throw pitches inside, he will probably greatly limit his success. If you look at his heat maps, it’s obvious. Joel Kuhnel isn’t hesitant to throw high and inside and his heat map will make it obvious. If ML can’t make the adjustment, I have no problem getting him PT in ST 2020 as an OF.

    • Jim Walker

      Why not offer him the opportunity to go play winter ball as OF?

      • Pete

        Absolutely. A guy who can put two balls in play in one game at +105 mph can hit. Pitcher or not. He is a far better hitter than Jose Siri right now without the focus on it. What do we have to lose?

        There will always be some people who say, “he’s a pitcher so he will hit like a pitcher”. Bunk, two examples:

        Madison Bumgarner in the mid 2010’s https://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=5524&position=PB

        Don Robinson, former Pirate Pitcher
        https://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1011061&position=PB

        Either of these guys could have made it as MLB hitters, they could hit without focusing on it. Neither could field another position. Lorenzen can and field it well.

  4. Ed

    I actually think the reason he has been left in to play the outfield goes beyond his defensive abilities- I think they leave him in the OF to potentially rotate back to the mound if Raisel or a different pitcher is unable to end the game, to spare an additional bullpen arm. I could be wrong- but Bell started using him in the OF right around the time the bullpen really imploded.

    • Colorado Red

      The concern I would have is warming up.
      If he has played an inning or two in the OF, how does he warm up.
      I doubt he would get more tosses.

  5. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I believe it’s been about right. If anything, I don’t believe it’s as automatic a decision to pull Lorenzen for a pinch hitter.

    Someone mentioned that Lorenzen has been put into the OF as a defensive replacement. I don’t see that, either. 16 times this season Lorenzen was put in the OF. 10 of those times had the Reds winning the game by 3 runs or more. I would think that, if Lorenzen was a defensive replacement, he would have gotten into more games and more close games.

  6. Klugo

    I think his talents can be utilized even more in late game situations. I’ve seen him pinch hit for late in the game and I cant make any sense of that. I’d also like to see them utilize the rule where you can switch him in and out of his fielding and pitching positions while in the game.

  7. TR

    I think Lorenzen has been used as expected this season. I don’t see him as a starter since he seems to be an on-again off-again type pitcher, although he’s had a number of multi-inning relief appearances that have been positive. Lorenzen seems to be stuck in a grove in an indecisive role with the Reds. The trade route could be the way to go.

  8. AirborneJayJay

    This just goes into the huge MO file for 2019. It has defined the Reds 2019 season and defined David Bell as a field manager.
    “Missed Opportunities”.
    MO’s are at the heart of Bell’s performance.
    Bell is doing an awesome job though, making all the right moves. He has the Reds at 16-33 in Day games, 6-15 on Sunday games, 23-35 Away games, 18-24 in 1-run games, and 11-17 vs. PIT and StL. Leads MLB in manager ejections.
    Bell has a lot to work on over the off-season. He needs to learn how to get out of the team’s way and let them play and quit with all the excessive tinkering.

  9. Jefferson Green

    Given his late game usage and other factors like Senzel and others playing well, I think the usage has been about right. The place I would probably look to change would be making him less of a late inning pitcher and get him into the middle of games where multiple innings and a regular plate appearance or two would be the norm. He is not a better hitting option than most on the Reds bench, but he is a much better hitting option than all the other pitchers.

  10. KDJ

    The “little bit here, little bit there” approach the Reds have taken with him has just seemed to waste his physicality. I wonder how he would have developed if they had either committed him to outfield and hitting or to starting pitcher. Instead, they developed an incredible athlete into one who is major league level at several skills rather than exceptional at one or two. With his speed, base-running skills, and defense, a focus on hitting could have made him an outstanding replacement of BHam.

  11. CI3J

    I think too much hand-wringing has been done about Lorenzen. He’s a decent hitter, he can handle himself in the outfield, but he’s not an ideal option for either. He’s the 5th or 6th best option in the outfield, and maybe the 4th or 5th best option as a pinch hitter, depending on the situation.

    For someone so low down on the pecking order, people sure seem to obsess over his usage a lot. To answer the question posed by this article, he’s been used just fine. If he’s used more, ok, fine. If he’s used less, ok, fine. It doesn’t really matter either way.