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Antonio Senzatela had a Senza-tional 2020

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The right-hander had a breakout year

Welcome to the 2020 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2020. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

★ ★ ★

No. 1, Antonio Senzatela: 2.8 rWAR

Pitchers and catchers reported for spring training 268 days ago on February 11, 2020 — that feels like a lifetime ago! Entering camp, there was a competition for two spots in the five-man rotation (made up of Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, and Jon Gray) but really, it was a competition for one spot. Antonio Senzatela was in line to take the fourth spot.

After losing 15 pounds in the offseason, Senzatela was ready to compete again in 2020. He made three starts in spring training, allowing four runs on six hits over 10 innings. He also struck out eight and walked just two, posting a 3.60 ERA.

After the hiatus due to COVID-19, Senzatela started 12 games for the Rockies and ended up being their most consistent starter. In those 12 starts, he posted a personal 5-3 record, but the Rockies had a team record of 6-6 when Senzatela took the mound. He was the only one of the “Four Horsemen” to post a personal winning record (the Rockies were 7-6 when Germán Márquez was on the mound). During his 12 starts, he pitched such highlights as an eight-inning shutout performance against Zack Greinke and the Houston Astros on August 18 (the Rockies lost on a walk-off) and a complete game against the Oakland A’s on September 15. Six of his 12 starts were quality starts. If Senzatela was on the mound, you felt like there was a chance.

Some of Senzatela’s newfound success could be attributed to a rise in velocity on his four pitches:

Antonio Senzatela Pitch Velocity (mph)

Pitch 2017 2018 2019 2020
Pitch 2017 2018 2019 2020
Four Seamer 94.3 93.6 93.7 94.3
Slider 82.7 83.0 84.3 86.4
Curveball 77.6 78.2 78.8 79.3
Changeup 85.1 86.6 87.0 86.4

Most notably, his fastball velocity is back up to where it was during his rookie season in 2017 and there has been a steady rise in his slider.

According to Baseball Savant, Senzatela also threw a greater mix of pitches. He only threw his fastball 55.9% of the time — down from 61.9% in 2019 and 64.1% in 2018. He still relied heavily on his slider as his main secondary pitch, but started utilizing the changeup more often as well alongside the curve. He used the changeup less in 2019 due to finger pain, but it was a successful pitch for him this year.

Heading into summer camp, pitching coach Steve Foster had praised Senzatela’s offseason work:

“The greatest offseason strides of all the guys (in the rotation) is Antonio Senzatela,” Foster said. “It was the things done behind the scenes last year at the end of the season, that he stuck with through the offseason and came into spring training with. His velocity is up. His breaking pitches are sharper.”

After struggling with injuries and lack of success in 2019, it was a welcome sight to see Senzatela’s early season success. As the dreadful 2020 season dragged on, his continued success ended up being a bright spot for the Rockies. Everything came together for him.

Senza is arbitration-eligible for the first time during this offseason, so it will be interesting to see what the Rockies will do. Was this season a fluke, or is Antonio Senza-tional here to stay?