Colorado Rockies: Would Antonio Senzatela be better out of the bullpen?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 20: Antonio Senzatela #49 of the Colorado Rockies reacts in the second inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 20, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 20: Antonio Senzatela #49 of the Colorado Rockies reacts in the second inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 20, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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Antonio Senzatela burst onto the scene in 2017, going 9-2 in his first 14 career games as a starter for the Colorado Rockies. Since that electric start, he has posted a 16-19 record as a starter. With a brief stint in the bullpen in 2018 and a lack of a quality third pitch, Senzatela might better suit the 2020 Rockies as a bullpen arm.

The 2020 Colorado Rockies and Antonio Senzatela are at a bit of a crossroads. Outside of the big three (German Marquez, Jon Gray, and Kyle Freeland), the Rockies lack quality starting pitching in the last two spots of the rotation.

Unfortunately, for the Rockies, they also lack a quality arm in the middle of their bullpen. Senzatela, Jeff Hoffman, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Peter Lambert, and Ubaldo Jimenez are in the mix for the final two rotation spots. With Yency Almonte being the lone middle/long relief man out of the bullpen, Senzatela seems to be a fit for a relief role.

While no clear-cut data is enforcing a move either way for Senzatela, there are a few underlying stats that suggest a move to the pen would optimize not only his talents but “interpolate” the Rockies’ hopes for 94 wins.

The biggest knock on Senzatela as a starting pitcher is his repertoire of pitches. In 2019, he threw a fastball 63 percent of the time, backing that up with a slider (20 percent).

The remaining pitches are what Nick Groke describes in his September 2019 article as “sub-average changeups and curveballs”. While his velocity sits between 94-96 MPH, Senzatela ranked 108th among qualified pitchers in spin rate. More so, batters who faced Senzatela a second and third time through the order saw their OPS increase .100 points.

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While pounding the strike zone batters seemed to adjust to Senzatela’s primarily two-pitch mix, 13 of his 19 home runs surrendered came in the second and third plate appearance against him. Although his two-pitch mix isn’t ideal for the rotation, Senzatela produced a ground ball rate of 53.8 percent, which is a higher percentage than all of the Rockies’ big three starters.

Senzatela had all of his relief appearances in 2018. In 17.1 innings, Senzatela posted a WHIP of 1.673, slightly higher than his career mark (1.479), which is not a number you want to see coming out of the bullpen. However, his K/BB (strikeout per walk) ratio was 2.33:1, almost half a strikeout better than his carer mark (1.84:1).

More to the effect that hitters adjust to Senzatela the second and third time through the lineup, in 2018 when he threw 76-100 pitches he was tagged with a .854 OPS with a.353 BABIP. Interestingly enough, when he threw 26-50 pitches his line was .702 OPS with a .307 BABIP.

In Groke’s piece last fall, he described Senzatela’s fastball as a “magnet” due to the lack of missing bats in 2019 paired with a lack of secondary pitches. Groke quoted Rockies manager Bud Black in saying, “He gets 94-96 consistently. If you put that in good spots, absolutely, you can strike guys out. Now do your chances improve if you have good secondary, good breaking pitches? Absolutely”.

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The Rockies seem to be willing to trot Antonio out as a starting pitcher as he continues to work on building his pitch repertoire. With Hoffman, Gonzalez, Lambert, and co. vying for the fifth rotation spot, the Rockies will need all the bullpen help they can get.

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