The New York Mets have overhauled their starting rotation for next season and imported three-time NPB All-Star pitcher Kodai Senga earlier this month. After pitching 12 scoreless innings in 2 starts for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the NPB's Pacific League playoffs, Senga formally announced his intention to play for Major League Baseball in 2023.
Senga has pitched for the Hawks for all his 11 seasons and exits the NPB with a 2.42 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in 1,340 innings pitched. His bread and butter is a high-90s fastball with a deceptive splitter known as a “ghost fork” as his out pitch. In 2019, he led the Pacific League in strikeouts with 227 in 180 innings. In 2020, he reached 1000 career strikeouts and won the Pacific League Triple Crown in 121 innings. Oh, and he's also a five-time Japan Series champion.
Kodai Senga gives the Mets the luxury of versatility as he has experience of starting games and coming out of the bullpen.
He’s gone over 150 innings in a single season only 3 times and has started 27 games so he may be a question mark in regards to toeing the bump every fifth day. He's projected as a number two starter in Major League rotations but also has the skillset and the contract of a high-end reliever. Unfortunately, Senga does have a track record of injuries and that may not make his adjustment period any easier.
Best case scenario is Senga pulls off a Kenta Maeda who entered the MLB by way of the National League and finished with an effective 16-11 record, 3.48 ERA in 175 innings pitched. On the other hand, though a lefty, Senga can have trouble and emulate Yusei Kikuchi who struggled through his rookie season with a 6-11 record, 5.46 ERA and 5.71 FIP in 161 innings.
We should expect some shuffling of the starting rotation, ensuring Verlander, Scherzer, and Quintana get their routine starts with spot starts rounding out the back end of the rotation. An interesting move would be fine tuning Senga into a relief role to deploy a weapon that can eat innings and get big outs to pass the baton to Edwin Diaz.
All that being said, when we factor in his new teammates, the Mets' coaching staff, and the new Cohenian identity in Queens, we can be hopeful that Senga will fit in just fine. The Mets are now locked into a winning culture and things may just fall into place. If 2023 isn’t Senga’s best season, he has playoff experience and award pedigree that indicates he has the tools to succeed as a Major League pitcher.