Rockies vs. Mariners: MLB Expert Picks and Predictions

Rockies vs. Mariners: MLB Expert Picks and Predictions
Antonio Senzatela - Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

Be sure to close out tonight in the green by reading an MLB picks with the best analysis, predictions, and preview for tonight’s clash between Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners. Let’s dive into it!

Colorado Rockies vs. Seattle Mariners

Friday, August 07, 2020 – 09:40 PM EDT at T-Mobile Park in Seattle

A Senzatela Sensation 

Colorado starter Antonio Senzatela currently owns a 5.24 career ERA. This ERA does not reflect how well he is currently performing. So far this season, he is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA. In addition to seeing his career ERA plummet, he is striking out more batters, walking fewer of them, and he has yet to surrender a home run. Skeptics may say: the season just started. Why draw conclusions after only two games?

My position is that we have to draw conclusions when we can because, if we wait too long, then sportsbooks will catch up and adjust their odds in order to account for Senzatela’s improvement this year. A deeper statistical dive indicates that Senzatela will continue to enjoy a strong season. This improvement is the product of an arduous offseason in which he ameliorated his mechanics and lost significant weight.

Key Changes

Senzatela’s mechanical adjustments are manifest in the alterations of his horizontal and vertical release points from last year to this. With these adjustments, he has established a delivery that he is comfortable with. Comfort with delivery is everything. It means that he has a repeatable delivery. It also indicates that one can rely upon him to have good control and good location. Good pitching is crucial.

Evidence for this mechanical comfort lies in the fact that his release points barely shifted from his first start to his second start. In contrast, last year, his release points shifted from game to game, as one can decipher from the up-and-down lines on his release point charts. Besides walking fewer batters, Senzatela is varying his location by throwing more often in the upper parts of the plate. 

This change in locational preference probably helps to explain his lower ground ball rate. Also, he is putting more spin on his pitches. Higher spin deceives the batter as to the pitch's location and, when he throws his pitches higher and with more spin, batters will swing underneath them, thus popping them up.

Senzatela vs. Mariners Batters

Senzatela’s improvement has been most obvious when he’s facing left-handed batters. Currently, they are hitting .167 and slugging .278 in 19 at-bats against him. His ability to handle lefties is crucial because Seattle’s lineup is rather lefty-heavy. The Mariners depend on left-handed star Kyle Seager plus fellow lefty J.P. Crawford.

Yusei Kikuchi

Seattle starter Yusei Kikuchi is, like Senzatela, a very young pitcher who promises to improve massively this season and is still being underrated by MLB oddsmakers. While Kikuchi’s 4.66 ERA appears unappealing, it is misleading. His FIP, which is like ERA but factors out fielding, is 1.85, which is excellent.

Plus, Kikuchi is, after two starts, striking out 12.10 batters per nine innings, which is nearly twice as many as he struck out last year. Velocity is the biggest difference for Kikuchi, who relies primarily on his fastball and slider. He has amped up both his fastball and slider velocity — the former by three mph and the latter by six mph.

Also, he is relying on his fastball more often in two-strike counts, which is smart because it’s his best strikeout pitch by whiff percentage. The key source of Kikuchi’s transformation is new pitching coach Pete Woodworth. Woodworth has helped him shorten his delivery.

Yusei Kikuchi #18 of the Seattle Mariners
Yusei Kikuchi - Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images/AFP

Rockie Batters vs. Kikuchi

One has to be careful when assessing Colorado’s batting numbers because they play in an extremely hitter-friendly ballpark. They will have to adjust rapidly from hitting in Denver to notoriously pitcher-friendly Seattle. Charlie Blackmon, for example, has been Colorado’s top hitter, but not because he is slugging only .333 outside of Denver.

Rockies batters rank 19th in slugging .333 against the fastball and slider from lefties when they’re away from Coors Field. While it is still early, they ranked 24th in the category last year.

The Verdict

In opening up this game at nine runs, MLB odds show their failure to appreciate the improvement in Senzatela and Kikuchi. While numbers like FIP are nice to look at, it’s important to note how each pitcher improved: Senzatela with mechanics, control, spin, and varied location, Kikuchi with mechanics, absurd velocity, and pitch selection.

Moreover, Senzatela matches up well with lefty-heavy Seattle as does Kikuchi with the Rockies in Seattle. With the total now down to 8.5, you can hop on the under before the total drops further. With my MLB Picks, I will take the first-five under when the best sportsbooks release it.

Under 8.5+101
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