Michael Lorenzen has made some headlines this year as a hitter. He hit a home run! He has a 232 wRC+! Wow! But here’s an interesting tidbit about him you may not have known — he also pitches occasionally! As I’m typing this, he has pitched 11 innings with a 9.82 K/9 and a 2.45 BB/9, a pretty good start which suggests that his 5.73 ERA will come down soon. The most interesting part to me, though, is that he is getting these results in a completely different manner than the way he pitched in 2016.
We took a look at Michael Lorenzen’s 2016 season a little while back and noted that while he was throwing his sliders very hard, he simply wasn’t getting any results with them. Thanks to the Statcast search at Baseball Savant we can take a look at his 17 sliders this year. The first thing that jumps out is the velocity — he is averaging 86 MPH on his slider, significantly down from the 91.5 MPH average in 2016. In fact, he’s maxed out at 89 MPH this year, which means his average slider velocity from a year ago is two ticks higher than his maximum slider velocity this year. And that’s with everyone’s velocity looking higher this year.
But the second thing that you’ll notice is that the results when he throws the slider are really good:
In 2016 Lorenzen threw 67 sliders of 94+ MPH and got four swinging strikes. He already has that many swinging strikes on his sliders in 2017, in only 17 pitches. He’s yet to allow a base hit on the pitch, and has only missed the zone three times. This is a pitch that’s really become a weapon for him, after being a serious liability last year.
Now if that were the only thing that’s different about Lorenzen, it would be fairly interesting. But it’s not. Based on results alone, he looks like a completely different pitcher than last year:
Last year his cutter was his best pitch; this year it’s been his worst. Last year his slider was his worst pitch; this year it’s been slightly above-average. Now, just like in every other baseball article you’ll read this month, I will include the caveat that it’s early. But to see this kind of a swing in results is intriguing. I would suspect he’ll be going to his off-speed stuff a bit more in the coming months. It’s working for him, and it might help make his fastball look even faster. Don’t get distracted by his hitting — his pitching is the thing to keep an eye on. He’s put bits and pieces of it together in the past, and if he can put it all together now, watch out.