This Sunday was the anticipated debut of Kodai Senga with the New York Mets. The Japanese, who shined in the Nippon Professional Baseball League, signed with the Mets for a five-year, $75 million contract last December.
Senga was a dominant pitcher in Japanese baseball for eleven seasons, collecting an ERA of 2.42 thanks to his signature pitch, the Ghost Forkball. In his debut this Sunday, he dominated the Marlins showing great stuff from his fastball and splitter.
The Marlins were haunted by Kodai Senga's Ghost Forkball in his Mets debut
Kodai Senga struck out eight, allowing three hits, three walks, and one earned run in 5.1 innings in his debut and first MLB win. After needing 36 pitches to get out of the first inning, Senga took over the Marlins hitters with a flash of great stuff.
Senga threw 88 pitches of which 32 were fastballs, 26 forkballs, 18 sweepers, and 12 cutters. His fastball averaged 96.8 mph and he went as high as 99 mph.
The most relevant aspect of his debut was the expectation generated around his famous Ghost forkball, which works more like a variant of the splitter. During the first pitches, his grip seemed to be loose, perhaps due to the nervousness of his debut, but then he began to get into the rhythm, making his first MLB strikeout against Yuli Gurriel, leaving him totally out of place.
Kodai, through an interpreter, said that in the first inning, “My legs felt like a ghost. Once I got into a little bit of a pinch, I started to settle down and calm myself down.” And boy did he do it.
From then on, it was a complete Senga domain. He generated 30 called + swing strikes, the forkball was the one that generated the most Whiff% during his outing with 9 out of 10. His famous Ghost forkball was responsible for seven of his eight strikeouts in the afternoon.
Senga managed to get 52% of the swings by Marlins hitters to go outside the strike zone, which helped induce low-hit contact and strikeouts. His speed and spin rate was great, demonstrating the stuff he had taught in Japan these past few years.
Kodai Senga's debut was better than expected, after his nervousness and the pressure generated through his first outing. Senga has the arsenal and stuff to put together a great season and career with the Mets.