Kodai Senga - "The Ghost Fork" Mets Pitcher (2023 - 2024)

Kodai Senga was born January 30, 1993, in Gamagori on the island of Honshu in Japan.

The six-foot two right hander has a three-quarter delivery with a fastball that averages 96mph & can top out at 100mph. He masters a tricky forkball, known as "Ghost Fork" in Japan. He also throws a cutter & slider.

Senga has been a pitcher since his high school days. In 1993 at the age of 17 he was drafted as a developmental player by the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. 

The Developmental Player System: allows a player to be held for the purpose of training separately from the registered players under control of a team in the Nipon Pro League (NPL). 

By 2012 he signed a $4.4 million deal to be under the team's control. He worked with Kazuki Yoshimi of the Chunichi Dragons who is known for his control.

In 2013 an illness kept him out for the early part of the season. When he did arrive, he pitched as a reliever, used as a setup man to closer & former New York Met Ryota Igarashi. Senga earned his first & only win that year in relief. 

Scoreless Innings Streak: He tied a Pacific League record for 34.2 innings without allowing a run. 

He made the All-Star team but got sidelined with a strain ending his season in early September. He went 1-4 with 17 holds one save posting a 2.40 ERA while striking out 85 batters in 56.1 innings of work. The next season a shoulder injury limited him to just 19 games where he posted a 1.99 ERA. The injury kept him out for most of the 2015 season as well.

2015 Japan Series: In the Japan Series victory over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, Senga was the losing pitcher in relief in Game #3 in Tokyo. In that game Tetsuto Yamada of Yakult, became the first player to hit HRs in three straight plate appearances in a Japan Series. Senga also pitched in Game #4 getting a hold. The Fukuoka Hawks won the series four games to one.

Starting Pitcher: In 2016 he converted to being a starting pitcher onto one of the best pitching staffs in the league. Senga went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA (third in the league) posting 181 strike outs (second in the league) in 169 innings. The 12 wins were a record for a development squad pitcher. 

The next year he won the 2017 Winning Percentage Championship with a .756% going 13-4 (fourth in the league in wins) with 151 Ks (5th in he league) in 143 innings of work & a 2.64 ERA (third in the league). He made another All-Star team getting the start. He walked the first batter then retired six in a row in his outing. His team made it to the Japan Series for the second straight year.

Trivia: The SoftBank Hawks would win four straight Japan Series from 2017 to 2020.

2017 Japan Series: The Softbank Hawks beat the Yokohama DeNA BayStars four games to two to win their second title in three years. Senga was the first developmental player to start a Game #1 in the Japan Series. He earned the win pitching seven shutout innings, scattering four hits in the teams 10-1 victory.

In 2018 he pitched his first Opening Day & later that year recorded his first shutout. He went 13-7 (third in the league in wins) with a 3.51 ERA, striking out 163 batters (second in the league) in 141 innings in 22 games pitched. That year he gave up a league leading 21 HRs.

2018 Japan Series: The Hawks finished second to the Seibu Lions but beat them in Final Stage of their playoff rounds. This year in the Japan Series the Softbank Hawks defeated the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in five games. 

Senga got the Game #1 start, allowing two runs in four innings of work, while striking out five. The game ended in a 2-2 tie after 12 innings. He returned in Game #5 pitching 5.2 innings allowing two runs, on four hits three walks & four K's. Softbank Hawks won the game in the bottom of the 10th inning, with a walk off HR from Yuki Yanagita.

In 2019 he attempted to get the Hawks to post him to MLB, but it did not happen. The posting system began in 1998 & allows a player transfer from the NPA to MLB. That year he made his third All Star team start in a row. In the Game he struck out three allowing no runs on three hits. 

That season he won 13 games for the third straight year (13-8) with a 2.79 ERA (third best in the
league), striking out a career high 227 batters (best in the league) in 180 innings (most in the league). He also posted two shut outs, most in the league & led the league in walks. He also won a Gold Glove & a Best Nine Award at Pitcher, coming in 5th in the overall MVP voting.

No Hitter: On September 6th he pitched his first career no hitter. It came against the Chiba Lotte Marines. It was only the second in team's history & the first since 1943. 

2019 Japan Series: Although the Hawks finished second again, they beat the first place Seibu Lions in the Final Stage round to get for the second straight year to get to the Japan Series. In the Japan Series his Hawks swept the Yomiuri Giants in four games. 

In Game #1 Senga pitched seven innings allowing one run, a HR, on just three hits to earn the 7-2 win. He struck out five & walked three in the game at the Fukuoka Dome.

Triple Crown for Pitching: In the 2020 Covid 19 shortened season, he had one of his best years,
winning the pitching triple crown, leading the Pacific League in Win-loss record, wins (11-6) & ERA (2.16) while tying for most Strikeouts (149). If he had any negatives, it was some control issues walking 57 batters (most in the league).

Senga once again was a Gold Glove & Best Nine Award winner at pitcher, coming in second overall i the MVP voting. That November he recorded his 1000th career strike out as well. He did not get posted again but earned a 100 million Yen raise for the next season.

2020 Japan Series: This year the Softbank Hawks did finish first & rolled thru the Climax Series defeating the Lions once again. In a Japan Series rematch with the Giants, they swept them once again to win their 12th straight game in the Japan Series dating back to 2018.

Senga made his fourth straight Japan Series opening start in Game #1. He pitched seven shutout innings striking out six & walking three batters to earn the 5-1 win.

In 2021 his team failed to make the post season for the first time in nine years. Although he suffered thru injuries, he still went 10-1 in the 13 games he pitched (sixth most wins in the league) & struck out 90 in 84.2 innings. He signed a five-year deal that would allow him International free agency after the 2022 season!

In 2022 he went 11-6 (second in the league in wins) in 22 games, with a career best 1.91 ERA as a starter. He finished .26 points behind Yamamoto for the ERA title. He struck out 156 batters (second in the league) in 144 innings pitched. 

2022 Post Season: That year the Softbank Hawks returned to the post season & won the First Stage round but lost to the Orix Buffaloes in four games in the Final Stage Climax Series. Senga was the winner in Game #3 the only game the Hawks won. 

He pitched six scoreless innings, striking out five with just three hits allowed.

Japan Stats: In his 11-year career he is 104-51 (.671 winning %) with a 2.42 ERA. He has struck out 1486 batters walked 509 & hit 37 batters in 1340 innings pitched with a 1.12 WHIP. He has struck out 28% of batters he has faced in his career. Senga has made 275 appearances, earned two saves.

Honors: He has won five championships, made three All Star teams won two Gold Gloves & two Best Nine Awards. Senga also led the league in strikeouts twice & once in Wins, Winning %, ERA & innings pitched. 

MLB- Mets Career: In December of 2022 he was signed by the New York Mets, with a five-year $75 million contract.

2023: The season began with excitement for the Mets pitching although there were some question marks with veterans Max Scherzer & Justin Verlander. As it turned out Scherzer struggled & Justin missed the whole first month. The two would never be a factor, the Mets season was very disappointing & one of the teams only bright spots was the Rookie from Japan. 

Kodai Senga's big debut came with much fanfare in the fourth game of the Mets season in South Florida. He pitched into the 6th inning, allowing just one run on three hits, striking out eight to get his first MLB win.

New York Debut: On April 8th, he debuted at Citi Field, putting up a similar performance allowing one run on three hits striking out six Marlins for his second victory.

On the West Coast Road trip, he gave up four runs in consecutive outings, getting no decision in Oakland then his third victory in San Francisco. When the Mets returned home, Kodai lost to the Nationals Mackenzie Gore who held the Mets down to a run in six innings, as Kodai gave up two runs, with Jeff Brigham & Adam Ottavino two others in the 4-1 loss.

On May 5th, Senga put in one of his best performances, as he shut out the Rockies at Citi Field for six innings, allowing just two hits. The only run of the game came on a Brandon Nimmo HR off Antonio Senzatela in the 4th inning.

In his next start, Senga gave up a season high five earned runs to the Reds taking a loss at Cincinatti, as the Mets were shut out 5-0. 

Most Strike Outs in a Game By Japanese Pitcher:
On May 17th, Kodai set a record for 
most strikeouts in a game by Japanese pitcher as the Mets beat the Rays 8-7. Senga struck out a season high 12 batters in the no decision. He started the game fanning Josh Lowe & ended the inning fanning Brandon Lowe. In the 2nd, after allowing a lead off single he struck out the next three batters to reach Five K's.

In the 3rd, he struck out the last two outs of the inning for a total of seven strike outs. In the 4th inning he allowed a run & faced six batters, striking out three of them for the three outs, to reach double digits in K's. In the 5th he recorded three outs without a strike out & then got two more in the 6th inning to reach 12 strike outs on the night. He would match that strike out high three times on the season. Senga allowed just a run over six innings until the bullpen opened the flood gates.

After a loss at Wrigley Field, he fell to 4-3 on the year.

On May 30th, he put in another dazzling performance shutting out the rival Phillies on just one hit in seven innings, while fanning nine & walking no one. It was the only game of the year he didn't walk anyone. The 2-0 shut out was led by Francisco Lindor's HR off Ranger Suarez.

In June Senga allowed four runs in three of his five starts, taking losses to the Cardinals & Phillies along the way. He was still coming into his own & having some control issues. On June 10th he pitched seven innings allowing just one run in Pittsburgh, with two hits & six K's for his only win of the month.

On July 5th, Senga closed out the first half of the season with another fine performance in Arizona. He pitched eight innings, allowing one run on four hits matching his season high 12 strike outs & walking just one as he beat Diamondbacks 2-1. The Mets got a HR from Francisco Alvarez & an RBI Triple from Mark Canha in the 8th inning for their runs.

2023 All Star: Kodai was named to the NL All Star team, although he did not pitch in the NL's victory in Seattle. For the first half of the season, he was 7-5 with a 3.31 ERA, 110 strike outs & 47 walks in 89.2 innings in 16 starts.

As the start of the second half of the Mets dismal season began, Senga allowed just one run in two of his next three starts. In those three starts he allowed four earned runs in 15.1 innings striking out 17 batters, with the Mets winning two of those games but Senga got decisions. 

In the month of July, he had better control & held batters to a .165 batting average. It was at this
point he really came into his own & became one of the league's top pitchers the rest of the way.

As August began the Mets were clearly out of the race, they began to sell of their top players whose contracts were going to be up, that saw the pitching staff get depleted as veterans Max Scherzer & Justin Verlander were gone. Senga was now no doubt the ace of the staff.

After the Mets were shut out in Kansas City in his next start, Kodai went on a personal three game win streak. He notched victories at home over the Cubs & Braves, then a seven-inning victory in St. Louis where he allowed just a run on two hits to earn his tenth win of the season. Senga would be the only Mets pitcher to notch double figures in wins on the season.

From August 25th to September 8th, he made three starts taking a loss with two no decisions. But in that time, he never gave up more than two earned runs in a game. In the first two games, the Mets were defeated 3-1 by the Angels at Citi where he fanned ten, then 2-1 by the Mariners at Citi, in a game where Senga gave up just one run while matching his 12K season high. 

In the highly publicized & anticipated matchup with fellow countryman Shohei Ohtani in Los Angeles, Senga walked him twice & gave up a double.

On September 14th he put in another fine performance, as he shut out the soon to be NL Champion Diamondbacks for six innings, scattering two hits & striking out ten to reach double figures in K's for the fifth time. On September 20th, Senga beat the Marlins in South Florida for his 12th & final victory of the season.

200th Strike Out: In his last start of the year, Senga faced the Marlins at Citi Field. In the top of the 1st, he ended the inning by striking out Bryan Del La Cruz. In the top of the 2nd, he struck out the side & started the top of the 3rd inning striking out Xavier Edwards for his fifth straight strike out. 

He electrified the 24,966 fans & also was now at 199 K's for the year. Two batters later he struck out Jake Burger to reach the 200 strike out mark on the season. 

Senga became the first Mets Rookie since Dwight Gooden in 184 to record 200 strike outs in a season. He would fan two ore before exiting the tied game after five innings. He earned no decision as the Mets lost the game. Also, in that game Francisco Lindor hit two HRs & joined the 30-30 club joining David Wright, Howard Johnson & Darryl Strawberry to all accomplish the feat.

Citi Field Kodai Fans: Although the Mets finished a dismal fourth at 75-87 after a good 2022 season, Senga helped bring some happiness to the ballpark. When Kodai pitched, attendance was up, Senga shirts, creative K signs & even fans dressed as ghosts holding forks were often seen at Citi Field.

Stats: He finished the season at 12-7 with a 2.98 ERA (second best in the NL). He struck out 202 batters (8th most in the NL) & walked 77 in 166.1 innings of work in 29 starts. 

His hits per 9 IP (6.818) was second best in the NL, his strike outs per 9IP (10.930) was third best
& his HRs per 9IP (0.920) was fifth best in the league. He came in second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting & seventh in the Cy Young voting.

Quotes- Mets Pitching Coach- Jeremy Hefner: "He didn't really have to make any huge adjustments. He's adjusted to travel & to the ball & to his teammates & the different stadiums & different climates & all those kinds of stuff extremely well. I couldn't be prouder of him & how he's gone about it."

Trivia: Senga is known to like Pizza as one of his favorite American foods. He enjoys corn as one of its toppings since it makes the Pizza sweeter. 

Senga is not married & has no children.


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