Death to Runners in Scoring Position Batting Averages

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Matt Snyder of CBS Sports.com addresses one of my biggest annoyances: announcers who spend tons of time talking about how the team they’re covering hits with runners in scoring position. Hit even harder: batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position. The target of his ire was Reds announcer Thom Brennaman, who mentioned this stat with respect to Joey Votto a lot. Read the column for some good stuff about how there’s a subtle — or sometimes not-so-subtle — criticism of player character and clutch-a-bility and all of that when it comes to RISP stats.

I get annoyed when hear this from announcers too. It’s right up there with their fetish for hitters which go the other way. You never hear about hitters who pull the ball with extreme effectiveness. You rarely hear about guys simply being great hitters, full stop.  That opposite-field hitting an RISP stuff is basically an announcer say “listen as I analyze the hell out of this game for you.”

Not that it’s entirely useless. It’s just misused. RISP numbers are things that actually happen in the world. And when used as an explanation for what happens in the past tense, fine, it does tell us that a team or player missed out on some opportunities. But it doesn’t have predictive value. It doesn’t speak to ability at all, actually. Just chance and stuff happening.  If the broadcaster can walk that fine line, great. But it’s so rare that they can.

Reds having Michael Lorenzen prepare as a two-way player

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For decades, a legitimate “two-way player” — a player who functions as both a pitcher and as a position player — was nothing but a fantasy. The skill sets required for both are too distinct and require too much prep work, it was thought. The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani shattered that illusion in 2018, posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter while posting a 3.31 ERA in 51 2/3 innings as a pitcher.

Since then, several more players have been considered in two-way roles. The Rangers signed Matt Davidson earlier this month and could potentially use him as a corner infielder as well as a reliever. Also earlier this month, James Loney signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters, who plan to use him as both a first baseman and as a pitcher.

You can add Michael Lorenzen of the Reds to that list. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports that the Reds will have Lorenzen prepare this spring as a two-way player. He could both start and relieve while occasionally playing in the outfield. Lorenzen, in fact, took batting practice with the outfielders on Thursday. Previously, he had taken batting practice as extra work following a workout with fellow pitchers.

Lorenzen said, “It’s fantastic, the effort they’re putting in. A lot of the excuses were, ‘You know, we don’t want to overwork him.’ Well, let’s just sit down and talk about it then. They were willing to sit down and talk about it, which is one of the reasons why I love this staff so much and why I think the front office did a great job [hiring] this staff. They’re willing to find solutions for problems.”

New manager David Bell said, “We’ve put together a plan for the whole spring, knowing we can adjust it at any time. We didn’t want to go into each day not knowing what he’s going to do. We all felt better, he did, too. He was part of putting it together.”

Lorenzen, 27, pitched 81 innings last year with a 3.11 ERA and a 54/34 K/BB ratio. He’s one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers as well. Last year, he swatted four homers and knocked in 10 runs in 34 trips to the plate. The last pitcher to hit at least four homers in a season was the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, who did it in both 2014 (four) and 2015 (five). Lorenzen also posted a 1.043 OPS. According to Baseball Reference, there have been only 11 pitchers to OPS over 1.000 (min. 30 PA). The only ones to do it in the 2000’s are Lorenzen last year, Micah Owings in 2007 (1.033) and Dontrelle Willis in 2011 (1.032).