The New York Mets starting pitching staff is a roller coaster, to say the least. They are mired in inconsistencies, not going more than 5 innings in outings and blowing leads. It’s a staff that should be a lot better on paper with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander headlining. With both future Hall of Famers having their issues (although they have pitched a lot better as of late, especially Scherzer). Veteran pitcher Carlos Carrasco has had his fair share of issues. José Quintana is still rehabbing from a rib fracture he suffered during Spring Training. Not to mention the regressions of both Tylor Megill and David Peterson. Then there’s Kodai Senga, and no Mets pitcher’s second half of the season is more important than his.
Kodai Senga’s Development Key to Mets Second Half
The Mets signed Senga from the Pacific League in the offseason. Bringing his ghost forkball to Queens and joining Scherzer and Verlander. The hope is that Senga will become the future Mets ace of the staff when Scherzer and Verlander are done. Through the first half of the season, not only has Senga been the Mets best starting pitcher, he’s also been their most consistent, showing flashes of the ace he may become one day. At his best, Senga dazzles with dominance and the ghost fork is almost unhittable. In his latest start during Wednesday night’s thrilling come-from-behind 2-1 Mets win against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Senga completely had the Arizona offense fooled. It was the best he’s looked in his short MLB career.
A phenomenal 8 innings tonight from Kodai Senga 👏 pic.twitter.com/iMCJTltPpV
— SNY Mets (@SNY_Mets) July 6, 2023
Kodai Senga, Wicked 88mph Ghost Fork. 👻🍴
10th K thru 6. pic.twitter.com/k9kdkFnyuk
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 6, 2023
Senga’s 8-inning, 12-strikeout outing against a very good Diamondbacks team was as impressive as any Mets’ starting pitcher has done all season. Manager Buck Showalter took a chance by sending Senga out there for the 8th inning down 1-0 with Senga almost at 100 pitches, but Senga repaid his manager’s trust with a 1-2-3 inning. The one lone mistake he made was a cutter that Christian Walker hit out for a home run in the bottom of the 7th inning. Senga has shown his flashes of dominance before such as against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 17th where he struck out 12 Rays in 6 innings. Or his 7-shutout inning, 9-strikeout performance against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 30th. In Pittsburgh on June 10th when the Mets needed it most during the middle of a 7-game losing streak, Senga pitched the team to a win. Maybe the most impressive thing about Senga is his toughness.
Senga Battling in Games
Even when Senga isn’t at his best, he still gives the Mets quality outings and keeps them in games. It’s a vital thing to have as a pitcher. Someone like Jacob deGrom has that ability. Senga is able to battle his way out of jams even when the ghost fork isn’t working. In a loss against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, Senga pitched his way out of multiple spots of trouble. In the bottom of the 4th with runners on second and third and nobody out, Senga got out of it. Striking out Nico Hoerner, getting Miles Mastrobuoni to pop out, and Dansby Swanson on a ground out. The next inning, Senga did it again with runners on first and second with two outs. He got Matthew Mervis swinging on the ghost fork. The Mets were down 3-2 in both of those instances and Senga didn’t let the game get away from him in a tough environment. In an outing at Citi Field on June 17th, Senga looked like he would have a short stint against the St. Louis Cardinals after being down 4-1 after three innings. However, Senga settled in and finished with 8 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. New York ended up losing 5-3, but Senga kept competing and gave the Mets a chance.
What to Expect in the Second Half From Senga
After Senga’s brilliant start in Arizona, he will finish up his 2023 first half with a 1.8 WAR, 3.31 ERA, 113 strikeouts, and a 7-5 record.
Kodai Senga's rankings among NL starting pitchers with the first half of his season now complete:
🔸 Opponent AVG: 1st
🔸 H/9: 2nd
🔸 K/9: 3rd
🔸 Strikeouts: 8th
🔸 ERA: 10th
One of the better starters in the National League? pic.twitter.com/MpMHKQ9fzd
— SNY Mets (@SNY_Mets) July 6, 2023
The best part is that Senga has much more room to grow and keep developing in his first year in MLB. One thing he’s going to have to cut down on is walks. Senga is tied for second in all of baseball in walks with 47. He has cut those down in his last two starts, only walking three in total. The Mets will need more of that from him in the second half of the season. Another aspect is teams knowing the ghost forkball is coming. The Diamondbacks certainly did with two strikes, and Senga would fool them with fastballs. A great step to take in his development that he’ll have to do more of in the future. Adjusting to teams adjusting to him is what the best pitchers do. Of all of the Mets players to watch after the All-Star break, Senga is the most intriguing.
Photo Credit: © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports