Some common sense on Senzatela

PB sportsbetting articles

David Malinsky

Monday, July 24, 2017 1:57 PM GMT

Point Blank – July 21, 2017

Some common sense on Senzatela…Kershaw going on the DL doesn’t matter yet, but…A bit about SportsBIT…

Last Thursday there was a take here on just how much upside Luis Severino brings for the Yankees, a pitcher doing a little bit of everything right, but not necessarily getting rewarded for his skill set via 2017 baseball outcomes. The Monday board brings the opportunity to head to the opposite end of that spectrum, and all of the favorable baseball wind that has been behind Antonio Senzatela’s sails so far this season.

Senzatela has had 16 starts with Colorado, the Rockies going 11-5 across those games, and he carries a personal 10-3 mark. That already has him 10 MLB wins ahead of where he would have been projected for 2017, but injuries forced him into the rotation well before he may have been ready – at near the midpoint between his 22nd and 23rd birthdays, Senzatela was not expected to be in The Show before 2018, and perhaps not even until 2019 (he did not make it to AAA in 2016, and only had one outing at that level this April).

Yet Senzatela has been on MLB mounds for nearly 100 innings, and in those games the Rockies have helped to elevate to their stronghold for a National League Wild Card spot. The rub is that despite the team success in those games, Senzatela himself has been nothing special at all.

Baseball outcomes chart him at 4.67 in ERA, and if we look to the quality of pitchers thrown it is the same lackluster neighborhood, FIP at 4.97. xFIP at 4.97 and SIERA at 4.70. In other words, Senzatela has been most fortunate to be sitting on a 10-3 personal tag, and it is easy to see why – the Colorado offense has supplied him with 7.0 runs per game, by far the best across the Major’s this season, with Michael Pineda the only other pitcher even at 6.0 or better. That can sure lead a guy to believe that this is fun.

But there is a deeper issue in the Senzatela numbers that tells us to begin paying close attention. As noted here in the past, a pitcher must be able to do at least one of three things to survive at the MLB level – 1. Strike batters out at a high level; 2. Get batters to hit the ball on the ground when there is contact; or 3. Throw a high percentage of strikes to limit base-runners. Pitchers with two of those traits can become good; those that have all three have a shot at greatness.

In this case the rub is that Senzatela does not show a high ceiling from any of them. The Colorado rookie does not get a lot of strikeouts, a 6.4 K/9 that is significantly below the MLB average of 8.3. His 3.0 BB/9 is nothing special, and while a GB% of 49.2 helps, it does not classify as being a strength. Senzatela is not a K-guy, Control-guy or Ground Ball-guy.

Where there is a real concern is that one of the advantages that a young pitcher has on his first pass through the league is the ability to fool hitters that are seeing him for the first time, yet the Senzatela numbers in a couple of key categories that reflect that are ominous. There are 92 pitchers that have reached the 90 innings count so far and in Swinging Strike Rate and O-Swing percentage, the Senzatela counts are dismal –

SWS% 7.0 (#88)

O-Swing% 21.6 (#92)

Translation: Senzatela is near the bottom in getting batters to swing and miss at pitches, and dead last on the list in getting them to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone (note a big gap between #91 Trevor Bauer at 22.8, and his 21.6). Those are often categories in which rookies start well, then level off. The fact that Senzatela is where he is on those tables brings those added levels of scrutiny.

How has he managed to at least hold his own through most of his outings, which allows that run support to come into play? Senzatela has been pitching to contact and getting away with it, a .260 BABIP that rates #11 of those 92 starters. But the Colorado defense behind him is at .302 in that category, which brings the notion of a likely regression into play.

There is a caution in terms of stamping the grade in ink that is too strong – this is a young pitcher that has a lot of development ahead. Learning at the MLB level is not easy. But Senzatela does not show a particular strength in any category that can be his catalyst going forward, all the while having had the best of it from an outcomes standpoint – not only does that run support obviously lead to more wins, there is also the element of it having taking so much game pressure off of him. As the game pressure inevitably builds up, I will be looking for cracks in his armor in the weeks ahead, and if #952 St. Louis drops to -130 this evening that will ignite a value trigger.

The best pitcher in the sport going on the DL might not actually mean anything tangible to the betting boards, but…

Monday also begins with Clayton Kershaw on the DL, and ordinarily when a performer of that caliber is set to miss any kind of time at all, it means some impact on the betting boards. Yet when kicking around the notion of adjusting the futures with an oddsmaker last night our first notions were that it does not necessarily lead to much immediate shift at all.

The Dodgers remain eight games ahead of Washington for the home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs, which is a lot for the Nationals to have to make up (especially if Steven Strasburg may have to miss a start or two), which makes this a relatively safe cycle to have Kershaw sit down for a bit. Might it possibly even lead to the positive of him being fresher come playoff time?

There is a dynamic in play that does call for some attention, however, and it showcases to an under-appreciated aspect of what Dave Roberts has been through, and the Dodgers have accomplished, this season. They take the field for game #100 tonight, and consider the following –

Dodger losses 31

Dodger players put on DL 32

I would not expect there to be a data-base that allows for this to be easily looked up, but there has to be a high degree of confidence in labeling Los Angeles as the only team in MLB history to have reached this stage of the season with more DL appearances than defeats. There is a lot of talent on that roster, but it also been a case of Roberts doing some savvy juggling in moving the pieces around.

But now comes the concern. What is the common denominator of a rotation that now becomes Ryu-Maeda-McCarthy-Wood-Hill for the next pass? A lot of fragile performers, each of them having already been on the DL this season (the Dodgers gave used the DL for pitchers 18 times already), and several of them having had the DL be a regular part of their career arcs. There are still 63 more regular-season games to be played, and where there is some serious handicapping to be done concerning futures is whether the group behind Kershaw can maintain health.

Do not be even mildly surprised if the Dodgers get pro-active on this front, and have Yu Darvish in their rotation before the end of the trading deadline. Darvish was a focus point here on Friday, and he handled that “audition” at Tampa Bay by showing some aggression, striking out 12 of the 31 batters that he faced. It may be seven starts since he last got a ‘W’, the Rangers going 1-6 across those games, but there isn’t a damn thing wrong with his stuff right now. He is throwing better than his base numbers of 6-8/3.44 indicate, and would be a significant upgrade over any right-hander in the LAD rotation. If Kershaw going on the DL triggers the deal, it is quite possible that the cycle actually leads to an upgrade of the Dodger fortunes, rather than a negative.

Coming up…

As the second week in a new home begins there are a lot of questions coming in, so let’s set the stage. Yes, comment sections are on the way, and we are in development for making them as user-friendly as possible before football season begins. And yes, football season will begin here soon – the Team-by-Team NFL previews start next Monday, bringing one key element into play that the serious handicapper needs to be looking at for each team.

You should also be adding another item to your daily regimen – the new home for PB has also meant the opportunity to begin working with Pauly Howard and Ted Sevransky again, and you can see some of that collaboration in SportsBIT, which is a lot of fun to put together, and is one of several major projects in development -

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