Warren Spahn once said that hitting is timing; pitching is destroying timing. That is a lesson that New York Mets pitcher Kodai Senga may need to relearn.
After a pair of excellent outings to begin his career, Senga has begun to run into trouble. He has allowed eight runs on 12 hits, including four homers, and eight walks over 9.2 innings in his last two starts, striking out 11 batters. It is not as though he has been facing powerhouse lineups – the A’s are 13th in the AL in OPS, the Giants seventh in the NL.
New York Mets need to shake things up with Kodai Senga
Senga has also been solid the first couple of times through the order in both outings. The problems have come once he has gotten through the lineup twice as teams have a better sense of his stuff. At the same time, Senga has fallen into patterns, making it much easier for the opposition to sit on specific pitches as they see him a second and third time.
Such was the case on Thursday. Senga faced 24 batters in his five innings, with 12 of those batters getting a first pitch fastball. Five other plate appearances began with the sweeper. It was not until the fifth inning, when he began to run into trouble, that Senga started using his cutter and ghost fork far more on the first pitch. He also started hitters with the fastball several times – Thairo Estrada, in particular, had a first pitch fastball to begin each of his plate appearances.
This is something that Senga is going to need to focus on moving forward. His pure stuff has lived up to its billing – the ghost fork is ridiculous and his fastball has impressive velocity. His sweeper and cutter have both been better than expected. Even his rare curve shows potential. But none of that matters if opponents know what is coming.
It should be a relatively easy fix. Senga has to change his patterns and become more varied in his approach. Fortunately, that is something that can be worked on as long as Senga and Tomas Nido remain cognoscente of that issue. His stuff is there – it is just easier for any major league player to hit when they know what is coming.
Kodai Senga has the stuff to succeed at the major league level. It is just a matter of the New York Mets pitcher changing his approach.