Colorado Rockies: A look at the struggles of Antonio Senzatela

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JUNE 18: Antonio Senzatela #49 of the Colorado Rockies delivers a pitch in the first inning of a MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 18, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JUNE 18: Antonio Senzatela #49 of the Colorado Rockies delivers a pitch in the first inning of a MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 18, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /
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On Friday, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reported on Twitter that he expects the Colorado Rockies to recall right-handed pitcher Antonio Senzatela to start on Sunday against the Cardinals, as a result of Kyle Freeland heading to the 10-day injured list.

In late July, the Colorado Rockies optioned right-handed pitcher Antonio Senzatela back to Triple-A Albuquerque after struggling mightily in 18 starts (8-7 record with a 6.29 ERA). He had particularly  struggled in his last three starts in the majors as his opponent slash line was .420/.483/.640, his ERA was 17.18, and his overall season ERA jumped from 4.83 to 6.29.

But a month later, the Rockies will likely call him up due to a slew of injuries that their starting pitchers have suffered, including Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland in the past week, and a lack of depth for starters.

While he has been in Albuquerque, Senzatela pitched to a 1-1 record and a 5.77 ERA in seven starts. Granted, it is the Pacific Coast League is not known to be a very pitcher friendly league (the league ERA entering Friday is 5.55) but there were still some alarming numbers.

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First off, in his seven starts, Senzatela averaged less than five innings a start, as he has thrown a total of 34 1/3 innings with the Isotopes. Secondly, he is allowing an average of 11.8 hits per nine innings, which is even higher than what he was averaging in the majors this season (11.2 H/9). Lastly, while his strikeout rate has never been high, in Albuquerque this year, his strikeout rate is only 3.1 per nine innings, which is a drop of two per nine innings at the major league level in 2019.

That 5.1 K/9 number with the Rockies this season is also a drop from his major league number in 2018 as he averaged 6.9 K/9.

While the drop in strikeouts could potentially be attributed to a few different things, one of them could potentially be the velocity on his pitches. As you can see in this chart courtesy of Brooks Baseball, in April, his average fastball velocity was 94.23 MPH, his changeup was 84.6 MPH, his slider at 85.66 MPH, and his curve 80.16 MPH. His ERA in the month (3 starts) was 3.93.

As the season has gone on (at least in the majors), his changeup velocity has gone up 4 MPH and in July, his fastball velocity dropped to 92.75 MPH, which helped bring the difference between the fastball and changeup from 9.63 MPH in April to 4.67 MPH in July.

His ERA in July was 17.18.

Now that doesn’t necessarily show causality as in May and June, he had a velocity difference of 7.42 and 7.2 and his ERAs were 6.98 and 3.44 but it could be part of the reason for his struggles.

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If he is indeed recalled from Albuquerque, the Rockies will obviously look for some growth and development from him and the fastball and changeup differential will be one thing to look at in his return.

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