Cincinnati Reds review: Grading Michael Lorenzen’s 2020 season

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 15: Michael Lorenzen #21 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 15: Michael Lorenzen #21 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Michael Lorenzen had an up-and-down with the Reds in 2020.

It was certainly a roller coaster year for the Cincinnati Reds. There were many highs and lows. That much can certainly be said for Michael Lorenzen, whose 2020 campaign was a whirlwind of a journey that nobody could have expected. In fact, it’s rather difficult to grade the right-hander’s season because of how he was utilized during the abbreviated season.

Lorenzen’s season started…Off The Walls. When the season finally started at the end of July, Michael Lorezen came out in what appeared to be Vans-style spikes. It was pretty radical, man. Until they were associated with a 16.88 ERA. In the Vans spikes, Lorenzen gave up a home run in two-thirds of an inning. The next day he came back to give up another home run after a walk.

The righty looked like he might return to form through the first week and a half of August. Although he was up in the zone less, Lorenzen wasn’t necessarily in the strike zone. Through his first four appearances in August, he did not give up a home run and actually would go the rest of the season without conceding a homer. But his control was becoming inconsistent.

B-. . RHP. Cincinnati Reds. MICHAEL LORENZEN

In those four early-August appearances, Lorenzen gave up four walks in 2.2 IP with only three strikeouts. Add five hits to the mix and the runs will start to pile up. Lorenzen gave up five earned runs, the same as in his three appearances in July. Through seven total appearances, Lorenzen still had a disastrous 16.88 ERA hanging over him. His opponent’s batting average was a damaging .375. That was Michael Lorenzen’s breaking point.

After that disastrous day versus the Milwaukee Brewers, Lorenzen never looked back. From August 13th through September 10th, Lorenzen pitched eight times, covering 15.1 innings, allowing just two earned runs on three hits. By the end of this stretch, Michael Lorenzen’s ERA was down to 5.23.

By the time of his last regular season relief appearance, good ol’ Mikey was back. He pitched a great 3.1 innings in Minnesota. And while he got himself into a corner, he confidently got himself out. That relief effort saw Lorenzen sit down four via strikeout, giving up only one earned run after a walk and three hits. This continued into the postseason.

Lorenzen’s postseason numbers would make you believe he had no trouble at all this past season. 2.2 innings pitched over two appearances. No walks. No runs. Only two hits and six strikeouts. That’s the Lights Out Lorenzen we’re used to. Lorenzen would end the season with a 4.28 ERA.

But that’s not all, folks! In September, Lorenzen made his first Reds starts since 2018. Not only did Lorenzen work to amend his early season woes, he had worked hard enough to get a spot in the rotation.

Starting on the hill for the Cincinnati Reds at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox, in two vital games down the stretch, Lorenzen pitching 9.2 innings. He struck out 14 while allowing three earned runs off seven hits. Only two walks and an ERA of 2.93 as a starter. Not too shabby.

There’s also the curious case of Lorenzen at the plate– or rather, not at the plate. You’d think a guy who slashed .241/.302/.468 in the previous two seasons as mostly a pinch hitter would have been given a chance in this offense. In these times, no?

Michael Lorenzen doesn’t have incredible numbers at the plate. But, from 2018 to 2019, Lorenzen’s slash line easily rivaled those of Matt Davidson, Josh VanMeter, Travis Jankowski, Brian Goodwin, Kyle Farmer and Phillip Ervin in that time frame.

His .468 slugging percentage bested them all. If VanMeter got 34 at-bats while hitting .059 this season, why was Lorenzen never given a chance? It seems particularly peculiar after making such a big deal about Lorenzen’s at-bats last year– often successful at-bats, I might add.

It was universally harped on in early July– the Cincinnati Reds could not open the abbreviated 2020 campaign skidding out of the gate like they did in 2019. Lorenzen directly contributed to the team getting off to a rough start.

The command issues, walks and opponents slugging percentage against him early in the season were a shock to many. However, taking a 16.88 ERA down to a 4.28 ERA is no easy task for an MLB reliever. It takes a lot of work to regain confidence like that.

Further to the contrary, Lorenzen directly contributed to the team’s winning streak at the end of the season. You have to give considerable amount of praise and respect to Lorenzen for earning a spot in the rotation and stepping up on the hill in two huge starts, his first since 2018. Plus, his postseason performances were all you could ask for with six strikeouts and no runs allowed.

Next. Williams sees Bell returning in 2021

While the beginning of the season was rough, Lorenzen owned his mistakes, got himself right and made major positive contributions at the end of the season. One has to think, had he been given the chance, Lorenzen would have also made contributions at the plate. Heck. The guy had 16 RBIs and four homers last year. The 28-year-old right-hander will now head into his final year of arbitration.