Cincinnati Reds: Michael Lorenzen is becoming the best relief pitcher

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JUNE 28: Michael Lorenzen #21 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates after the final out of the 6-3 win against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on June 28, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - JUNE 28: Michael Lorenzen #21 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates after the final out of the 6-3 win against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on June 28, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Reds bullpen has been a bit shaky of late, but Michael Lorenzen has been dealing. Mikey Biceps has become the Reds best relief pitcher.

Michael Lorenzen is one of the most unique players on this year’s Cincinnati Reds team. While Lorenzen has played all over the field this season, seeing time as a defensive replacement in the outfield and a pinch runner on the base paths, his biggest role on the ball club is that of a relief pitcher. Of late, Mikey Biceps has emerged as the Reds best pitcher out of the bullpen.

Now, before you bemoan the fact that the Reds bullpen isn’t any good, especially of late, Cincinnati’s relief corps is right in the middle of the pack in terms of ERA at No. 13. Collectively, the Reds pen has 4.31 ERA, which is sixth in the National League.

Yes, the bullpen has definitely struggled of late and Lorenzen has been part of those struggles, but as a whole, the Reds relievers are doing their part. Though shaky at times, David Bell has a handful of players that he can turn to in the pen during high-leverage situations.

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Unfortunately for Bell, the Reds have played so many close games this season, that he’s had to rely on his bullpen a little more than he’d probably like. Though Reds relievers rank just 24th in all of major league baseball in terms of innings pitched (380 IP), no one in the Cincinnati pen has been called upon more than Michael Lorenzen.

The hard-throwing right-hander has made 54 appearances out for the Reds this season and tossed 59.1 innings. The next closest reliever is Raisel Iglesias who’s thrown 49 innings this season. Left-hander Amir Garrett has pitched 43.2 innings in 2019.

While Garrett leads the Reds in K/9 (strikeouts per 9 innings) at 13.19, Lorenzen is climbing that ladder and has improved in that metric this season. Last season, Lorenzen’s K/9 was sitting at 6.00, but this year, he’s grown that number to 8.85. Quite the jump from 2018 to this season.

Speaking of strikeouts, did you watch what Lorenzen did to the best player in the game during his last two outings? With Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels visiting Great American Ball Park, the Reds needed a way to shut down the game’s best. Enter Michael Lorenzen.

With one out and one on in the top of eighth inning on Monday night, Lorenzen was called upon out of the bullpen to face Trout with the Reds hanging onto a three-run lead. Lorenzen, down 2-1, dropped a changeup that fooled Trout and had the AL home run leader out in front. With a 2-2 count, Lorenzen cranked up a 98-MPH fastball and Trout swung and missed.

Last night, it was like deja vu all over again. Once again, in the top of the eighth inning with the Angels trailing by three runs, Michael Lorenzen was brought in to face Mike Trout. With a curveball followed by a changeup, Lorenzen got ahead of Trout 0-2, only to run the count full three pitches later. After fouling off back-to-back changeups, Lorenzen blew away Trout again with a 98-MPH heater.

Though he walked in a run during the previous series against the Atlanta Braves over the weekend, that runner was not charged to Lorenzen. In fact, the 27-year-old hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last seven appearances. Over his last 15 games, Lorenzen has tossed 15.2 innings, allowed just 3 runs while striking out 17. His ERA during that span is 1.72.

With Amir Garrett likely to be suspended in the near future (he’s facing an eight-game suspension for involvement in the fracas with the Pittsburgh Pirates), Michael Lorenzen will be the guy that David Bell turns to in the highest-leverge situations during the upcoming series against the Chicago Cubs. Garrett has allowed just one hit this season when facing the Cubs.

The Cubbies have knocked Lorenzen around this season. Lorenzen is allowing Cubs hitters to get on base 39% of their at-bats. Having faced 38 Chicago hitters this season, Lorenzen has allowed 15 hits including 2 doubles and 2 home runs. However, Mikey Biceps has also struck out 10 of those opposing batters, so it’s not all one-sided.

Lorenzen has held his own against the likes of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Jason Heyward. Combined, those three are 3-for-14 (.214) with only one extra base hit. The Reds will likely miss Garrett’s dominance in the upcoming series, so Lorenzen must step up.

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The Cincinnati Reds bullpen has been knocked around quite a bit lately, but Michael Lorenzen has held his own. Don’t look for any gimmicks from David Bell during the upcoming series. Lorenzen is too valuable as a reliever to see much, if any, time in the outfield. Lorenzen is battling Garrett for the title of best reliever in the Reds bullpen. He’ll have a chance this weekend to prove that he’s the guy.