Game 54, Rockies at Mariners

marc w · May 31, 2017 at 5:16 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

James Paxton vs. Antonio Senzatela, 7:10pm

After doing what they should, and spraying extra base hits around Denver, the M’s beat up on the soft underbelly of the Rockies starting 5. Now, the action shifts to Seattle, with a great pitching match-up between the newly-returned James Paxton and surprising Colorado rookie Antonio Senzatela.

Writing about the minors a lot means certain names keep popping up in the match-ups with M’s affiliates. Antonio Senzatela was one of them 2 years ago. He faced the dearly departed Bakersfield Blaze 4 times in his Cal league season. He seemed to have a great fastball – he averages 95 with it – but not much else, hence the good but not great stat lines in the minors. He didn’t walk anyone, but he didn’t get the kind of K’s you’d expect for a guy in the low minors with a fairly accurate 95 MPH fastball. This year, with all of 7 starts above the Cal League, he’s suddenly pitching Colorado to contention. So did he finally get the hang of a breaking ball? Death-dealing change-up?

No, Senzatela is a two-pitch pitcher in a very loose sense. He complements his fastball – which is arrow-straight without much rise – with a slider. He technically has a change-up as well, but he throws it less than 5% of the time. His pitch mix is essentially the opposite of a Lance McCullers: instead of chasing whiffs by throwing a blizzard of breaking balls, Senzatela throws his fastball over 3/4 of the time. By pitch FX, he throws more fastballs than anyone in the game, and it’s not close. There’s Senzatela at 76%, and then there’s Kevin Gausman, Eduardo Rodriguez and Vince Velasquez at 67% or so, and then there’s a bunch of pitchers in the mid-50s-60%. The game’s moved away from fastballs, but no one told Senzatela.

He’s still walking very few, but thanks to his Bartolo Colon approach, he’s not getting strikeouts, either. He’s given up his fair share of HRs, although nothing extreme like we saw with Tyler Anderson. Add it up, and his FIP looks underwhelming. His ERA’s great thanks to a high strand rate and low BABIP. Rockies fans love his command/composure, but there are other signs pointing to luck being a big factor in his first few months. Tyler Anderson’s extremely low average exit velocity wasn’t enough to produce great expected results on balls in play. Anderson gave up a lot of hard hit balls amidst a flurry of choppers. Senzatela does the same thing, and by Statcast, it’s actually Senzatela who’s given up a higher xwOBA than Anderson. It’s just that Anderson’s actual results have been about equally worse than that expected value as Senzatela’s have been better. He’s pitched a bit worse than Anderson on the year, but produced very good results nonetheless. Here’s hoping regression comes tonight.

Seeing Senzatela succeeding in MLB after writing about him in the Cal League makes me lament the M’s ability to develop starters. Edwin Diaz wasn’t long out of the Cal League last year, sure, but that’s with a change to reliever. The M’s have been very deliberate with their pitching prospects, like Andrew Moore and Nick Neidert, and that’s a valid way to go. But Senzatela joins a decent list of players who faced Bakersfield and are now in the big leagues. The M’s groomed James Paxton, but that took quite a while, and it happened years ago, under a different FO. Since then, much of the pitching depth’s been traded away, and while Ariel Miranda’s cool, he spent his minor league seasoning in the Orioles org (and Cuba, of course). All of the SP depth that the M’s have been forced to deploy this season is similar – Christian Bergman came up with the Rockies, Dillon Overton with the A’s, Chris Heston with the Giants, Rob Whalen with the Braves. Maybe the M’s didn’t have much in-house SP depth, but I’m not exactly sure what it means that the org essentially went out and bought someone else’s high-minors starters.

Speaking of guys at the opposite end of Senzatela’s quick rise, I wanted to give a tip of the cap to ex-Mariner prospect Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who’s making his first MLB start tonight. He was drafted by the M’s out of the University of Portland in 2006, and thanks to a 2017-style pitching crunch in Tacoma, made his debut at AAA before settling in with Everett. He was great as a reliever in the system, but injuries and alternatives closed his options, and with a new FO in place (he was drafted in the Bavasi-era M’s), he was moved off to Chicago and began a really, really long journey to the big leagues. He’s now 32, and has played in 2 Indy ball leagues, both the Dominican and Venezuelan summer leagues, and bounced just about everywhere in the affiliated minors. He was a favorite of mine back before I started here in 2010, and I’m stunned to see him get this chance. Happy, but still stunned. Congrats, Austin.

1: Segura, SS
2: Gamel, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Heredia, LF
8: Dyson, CF
9: Zunino, C

Reggie McClain, Lindsay Caughel and Nick Wells start today.

The MiLB performance of the day yesterday goes to Andrew Moore, whose 8 shutout IP paced Tacoma in their 4-0 win in Salt Lake. Joe Rizzo went 3-3 with a HR in Clinton’s loss to Beloit.


9 Responses to “Game 54, Rockies at Mariners”

  1. Sportszilla on May 31st, 2017 5:32 pm

    Seems reasonable that we could see Moore in the bigs fairly soon, doesn’t it?

  2. Notfromboise on May 31st, 2017 8:18 pm

    Super excited to see us on a bit of an uptick plus getting J Paxton back! Go M’s!

  3. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2017 8:52 pm

    Yeah, Moore has done everything right. There’s a little issue of roster space, but they could transfer Weber to the 60.

  4. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2017 8:55 pm

    The conservative approach with Paxton is understandable. Nice return for the canuck.

  5. Westside guy on May 31st, 2017 9:02 pm

    Nice that Paxton more or less picked right back up where he left off.

  6. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2017 9:03 pm

    Lyles must have soiled himself on that shot back at him by Valencia. That may look like just a DP in the box score, but the laundry will tell a different story.

    Shitty luck for Valencia.

  7. Westside guy on May 31st, 2017 9:17 pm

    I’m still hoping against hope that Zunino is really figuring things out this time around.

  8. Westside guy on May 31st, 2017 10:00 pm

    Woo hoo! Mariners win again!

  9. Notfromboise on May 31st, 2017 10:10 pm

    I still got my luggage on Zunino Island. I’m not firing up the flare just yet. 🙂

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