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Antonio Senzatela proved that 2020 was no fluke

The righty was consistently solid for the Rockies, establishing himself as a mid-rotation arm.

Welcome to the 2021 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2021. 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. 10, Antonio Senzatela: 1.3 rWAR

One of the best things about the Rockies’ disappointing 2020 season was the emergence of Antonio Senzatela, who put up a sterling 3.44 ERA (151 ERA+) over 72.1 IP. After getting in better shape, the young Venezuelan’s command was greatly improved, resulting in a career-low walk rate. His confidence improved, and his groundball-generating skills remained intact. And while there was some questions about how repeatable it was, Senzatela entered 2021 locked into a legitimate top four rotation spot for the first time in his career.

How did it go?

The results were good. The final line: 28 GS, 4.42 ERA (108 ERA+), 156.2 IP, 3.61 FIP, 1.34 WHIP. Those are very solid 4/5 starter numbers by themselves, but it was a weird season. It started with a stinker against the Dodgers (3.1 IP, 7 ER) and ended with the worst start of his MLB career at Arizona (0.2 IP, 6 ER), and if you take those away, his ERA goes down to 3.77. I know it’s cherry-picking, but still. Senzatela didn’t really have any overwhelmingly dominant stretches, of course (he allowed two or more runs in 24 of his 28 starts), but he was consistently good. From June 2nd to September 26th, a 17-start sample, he pitched 6+ innings in all but two starts.

Senzatela was one of the best pitchers in baseball at avoiding walks and homers, and his strikeout rate increased compared to 2020. As of now, he’s a very good back-end starter, but it’s clear that the Rockies don’t think of him as just that, as evidenced by the $50M contract extension the team gave him in early October.

(His 4-10 record, by the way, was a product of pretty bad run support, as I covered before)

Is there more to Senza?

This is where we start looking ahead a bit. Up to 2020, Senzatela had yo-yo’d back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation, with a lowly 5.33 ERA (94 ERA+) to show for it. Since getting in shape and becoming a full-time starter, however, he has a 4.11 ERA (119 ERA+), a 3.92 FIP, and an elite 5.1% walk rate across 230.0 IP. He might not be a PitchingNinja darling, but he’s clearly effective... and I think there’s more to Antonio Senzatela. Why? Here is his pitch usage:

Baseball Savant

Both his curveball and changeup have been used sparingly his entire career, but they dropped even further in 2020, as Senzatela became more of a two-pitch guy than ever before. Lefties gave him trouble as a result, with his career splits becoming a bit more exaggerated than usual. The evolution for the 26-year-old is clear: he needs a legitimate third pitch. The changeup would give him a weapon to use away from left-handers, but the curveball would give him another velocity range. Changeups play better at Coors Field, of course, so we’ll see what the do with him. The path to becoming a legitimate number two or three is clear, and I’m extremely excited to see him attempt to reach that potential.