Michael Lorenzen may be a swiss army knife on Detroit Tigers staff.
The Detroit Tigers poked the bear and finally got Scott Harris to make a move. There is still work to be done, but the team went out and made a signing. They agreed to terms of a one-year contract that brings right-handed pitcher Michael Lorenzen to the Tigers organization.
The deal is worth $8.5 million and could get up to $10 million with incentives and performance bonuses available for Lorenzen to earn. The Detroit Tigers will likely use him as a starter, but he has spent most of his career as a reliever.
That said, let's dive into the signing a bit more and analyze what the Tigers' new pitcher will bring to the table.
Body, Delivery, Mechanics
Lorenzen is 30 years old and has been in the league for eight seasons. He's got a 6-foot-3, 217-pound frame with a bit of length to his build. He puts that length to use in his delivery as well. Speaking of, let's talk deliveries...
From the wind-up, he starts with a side-step towards first with a step onto the mound as he goes over the top of his head with the hands. As the hands come back and get set between the letters and shoulders, the leg lifts and coils up for him to explode down the mound. The hands do not come set and continue to move downward as he splits and begins to ride the slope down the mound. There's some hip-shoulder separation as the front foot lands, and he begins to let his body loose. He follows through and allows his weight to carry onto the lead leg.
From the stretch, it's a simpler start and overall delivery. He faces the mound and gets a leg lift up around the letters. The hands start just above the belt and rise up even with the letters, just above the knee, as his leg lifts. Similar hip-shoulder separation as from the wind-up. As expected, Lorenzen seems to have a little less extension and momentum out of the stretch.
Either way you look, he's got a long arm swing. He goes down through the back, out, and around for his arm stroke. This is partially due to the length in his larger frame, but Lorenzen has found ways to be efficient over an eight-year big league career. With Pitching Coach Chris Fetter and Assistant Pitching Coach Robin Lund at his disposal, he may even be able to fine-tune his delivery and mechanics to be even more efficient.
Lorenzen has several offerings according to his Baseball Savant profile, but I think it is a bit misleading due to the way they are tagged. It's similar to when I was with Miami Baseball, and one of our pitchers would tell me he was throwing a fastball, curveball, and changeup, but his curveball grades out to be a slider in terms of metrics. Given that, the Tigers are getting Lorenzen, who, according to Baseball Savant, threw a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a cutter, a slider, a curveball, and a curveball.
Realistically, I think it's more of a fastball (sinker profile), slider, and changeup. But given he's been a starter, he's throwing a cutter-like pitch, another variation of the fastball but thrown with cut and less velocity. His go-to fastball just simply varies from the four-seam/sinker profile, which could be a simple grip change. But we'll call it a plain fastball. He may even have mixed in those curveballs to keep hitters off-balance.
Fastball (four-seam & sinker labeled pitches)
Let's talk about the fastball first. According to Baseball Savant, his fastball tends to work the mid-90s and has a good bit of spin to it, averaging 2,439 on four-seam-labeled fastballs and 2,252 on sinker-labeled pitches. The four-seam labeled pitches averaged 15.8 inches of drop and 11.9 inches of run. On average, the sinker has 22.7 inches of drop and 17 inches of run. Given that, it seems like if the Tigers can work a little bit to get those numbers a bit farther apart, his fastball might even begin to possess more value, but paired with his cutter & slider, it works when he spots it. The fastball is sometimes more firm and has some arm-side sink (on the sinker-labeled pitches). His sinker limits the opposition to a .239 average but does have a 46.8% HardHit% in 2022. It leaves room for the Tigers to try and make some improvements. Then again, hitters will sit fastball, so it's not the most shocking stat line.
Lorenzen's go-to breaking ball is a slider. The pitch averages the low- to mid-80s and around 2,482 RPMs in terms of spin. This pitch has 39.6 inches of drop and 10.2 inches of break. It's a pitch that he can utilize well when ahead and try to miss bats. Lorenzen's slider possessed a 35.2% whiff rate in 2022. It's not his best off-speed pitch, but it certainly can get the job done. I'd expect this pitch to improve in terms of metrics and usage in 2023 once Fetter gets involved and tries to help further his development.
Lorenzen's best off-speed pitch is his changeup. It's his most used of the offspeed pitches as well. The pitch is thrown in the mid-80s and has 27.8 inches of drop and 16.2 inches of arm-side fade. The fade is what makes it nasty. His changeup tunnels well and does a good job getting off the plate when thrown arm-side, working off the plate away to left-handed hitters. More importantly, it misses barrels and has a ton of success as a part of Lorenzen's repertoire. It's also his best pitch statistically in several categories. Opponents have posted only a .154 batting average with a 38.0% whiff rate.
I'll keep this one short and sweet. Lorenzen's cutter is pretty flat with horizontal movement to it. It gets that cut-action and can fool hitters, but the pitch is not his best. It averages 90.4 mph with 2,496 RPMs of spin on average. The cutter actually spins more than the slider. However, it does not fare as well as the rest of his repertoire. His cutter only has a 10.8% whiff rate. The more staggering numbers are the .325 average and .725 slugging percentage that the opponents have posted against the pitch.
Michael Lorenzen's 2022 stats
While we've broken down Lorenzen's performance and repertoire piece by piece, it's only fair to mention his numbers in 2022. After all, this was Lorenzen's first season as a true starting pitcher since he broke into the league with the Cincinnati Reds. As a part of the Los Angeles Angels organization, Lorenzen posted a 4.24 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP over 97.2 innings of work. He allowed 81 hits, walked 44 opposing hitters, and punched out 85 of them. He missed nine weeks from July to September with a shoulder strain that required surgery. Since then, he has healed and is back to it.
Looking ahead to 2023
The expectation for the Detroit Tigers is that Michael Lorenzen will be added to the team's starting rotation. He helps round things out after the team already added southpaw Matthew Boyd on a one-year deal. But the way I see it, there are two ways that Lorenzen can help bolster the pitching staff during the 2023 season.
If Lorenzen can hold down a starting rotation spot, so be it. That's the best-case scenario; him being able to help the rotation and piece together some quality starts in a Tigers uniform. Expect him to hold a middle-of-the-rotation role for the Tigers in 2023.
However, if that does not work out for Lorenzen in the rotation, I do not think this means the contract is a bust. Lorenzen has a well-established past as a reliever in the big leagues. They could always resort to Lorenzen pitching in a bullpen role. While this does not seem to be the Tigers' first choice, it's another option they can consider.