When discussing notable “two way players” on a baseball team, most fans’ lists will begin and end with two people: Babe Ruth, and Shohei Ohtani. A player of Ruth and Ohtani’s caliber is a dream come true for any manager, essentially two superstars wrapped up into one. A rotation leading ace and a middle of the order slugger only taking up one roster spot would be invaluable to any team in the game. That being said, this type of player is next to impossible to come by. They are literally once in a century type talents, with Ruth and Ohtani debuting 104 years apart. Ohtani is probably the most highly touted international prospect since his childhood idol Ichiro 17 years earlier. Ruth is simply considered by many the greatest to ever grace a baseball field. To bank on getting a hold of one of these kinds of players would be foolish to say the least.
While teams shouldn’t be holding out for the next Ohtani or Ruth, that doesn’t mean they can’t incorporate the two way player into their arsenal. It may not be in the form of a player with a sub 3 ERA while hitting 30 plus home runs, but it can be someone who can pitch, field, and hit well enough to help your team win more ball games.
Enter Michael Lorenzen.
Michael Lorenzen is most definitely not a household name, and may not even be a prominent figure in the world of baseball fandom, but he’s quickly becoming one of the more intriguing players in the sport. Pitching, specifically relievers, is rapidly growing in importance in the major leagues and those who run ball clubs are acting accordingly. There has been a direct correlation between both the number of relievers and relief innings per game with strikeouts of the opposing team, and a negative correlation between reliever usage and runs for the opposing team. It is relatively common for 13 spots on a 26 man roster to be filled by pitchers in today’s game, up from nine or ten 20 or 30 years ago. Add the eight or nine other players in the lineup (depending if it is an NL or AL team respectively) and that leaves a team with a three or four man bench. One of those players is always the backup catcher, so this leaves a team with essentially no room to work with. This is where a player like Michael Lorenzen can make a world of a difference. His ability to come in in relief, playcenter field decently, and pinch hit whenever the team needs him opens up an entire extra roster spot that wouldn’t be there otherways. In a game that can be decided by one bad pitch, the ability to add that extra specialist reliever, slugging pinch hitter off the bench, or more can quite literally be the difference between a win and a loss.
So, how is Lorenzen at all of this? The answer is, pretty good.
First, analyzing his pitching, Lorenzen puts up some impressive numbers. At the surface, his standard stats are eye catching. He had a very impressive ERA, clocking in at 2.92, the same as Max Scherzer, and better than that of Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Hector Neris and more. His LOB% of 80.8 was 31st out of every pitcher with 60+ IP, superior to Dallas Keuchel, Mike Soroka, and Chris Paddack to name a few. His 0.97 HR/9 was good for a top 50 finish, and his 1.15 WHIP places him in the top 75. While he may not make an all star game as a pitcher, the numbers tell the story; Michael Lorezen is an above average major league pitcher without him ever swinging the bat or roaming center field.
But, he does that too.
2019 was a subpar year for Lorenzen at the plate, hitting just .209 with 1 homer, a well below average wOBA of just .262, and a wRC+ of just 56. That being said, he has shown signs of greatness, and his 2018 campaign in the batter’s box shows just that. While in just 34 at bats, Lorenzen left his mark. He slashed a very impressive .290 while also slugging an astronomical .710 which, out of every player with at least 30 plate appearances LED THE MAJOR LEAGUES. His 1.043 OPS was good for fourth in the majors under the same constraints, and his .419 ISO also led the show.
He hit four home runs in 34 plate appearances, which translates to a bomb every 8.5 times he steps to the plate. To put that into perspective, when Barry Bonds hit 73 homers it was in 664 plate appearances, or one every nine.
Obviously, 34 at bats is an extremely small sample size and Lorenzen most likely wouldn’t have been the best power hitter in baseball if given a full season’s work at the plate. That being said, it proves the potential is there to be a viable pinch hitter or platoon outfielder, on top of his pitching.
Lastly, comes his fielding. He played 76 innings in CF in 2019, 89 innings in the outfield all together, and did so quite well. He had a grand total of zero errors in his 89 innings, which is a great foundation to build on. He had 27 putouts in 89 innings in the outfield, averaging a cut to just over 0.3/inning. Victor Robles led all center fielders with 317 putouts, but did so in 1199 innings. This is just above .26 an inning, well under Lorenzen’s clip. Furthermore, he had a respectable UZR of 0.1, which would put him top 60 in the majors ahead Gold Glovers Kevin Pillar, Mike Trout, Freddie Freeman, and more. All of this means one thing, Lorenzen plays an above average center field.
So finally, what is the point of saying all of this? The point is that there is someone who has had a better ERA than Kershaw, slugging percentage than Judge, and the most defensive put outs per inning of any center fielder in the game, and most people have never heard of him. Lorenzen is truly a jack of all trades, and could be a path to the future for teams everywhere. Of course, those stats are misleading. He isn’t a better pitcher than Clayton Kershaw, have more power than Aaron Judge, or play a better center field than Mike Trout. But, what those stats do, is that he does three unique things on a baseball field above average, even if he doesn’t stand out in any of the three. I have no doubt that more people could do the same, they just have to give it a try. We don’t need players to be front end starters and mid lineup sluggers to be successful two ways, we need more Michael Lorenzens. A jack of all trades, a swiss army knife, who does anything and everything he can to help his team win ball games, while freeing up unique roster flexibility. I genuinely believe Michael Lorenzens represent the future of the sport, can start a revolution in the game, and change baseball as we know it.