kodai senga mets
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 season hasn’t included a ton of bright spots for the Mets. One of the more consistent ones — especially over the past few months — has been rookie starting pitcher, Kodai Senga.

As New York began the year in Port St. Lucie for spring training, Senga was the biggest wild card of the entire rotation. After all, the starting staff was full of veteran MLB hurlers. The Japanese pitcher was entering his age-30 campaign, but it was his first in the big leagues.

Senga quickly became the Mets’ most consistent pitcher. Heck, he’s even convinced some people that he can be this staff’s ace moving forward. Through 26 starts and 149.1 innings, the right-hander has produced a 10-7 record with a 3.07 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 181 strikeouts. After posting a 4.15 ERA in April, Senga hasn’t produced one higher than 3.71 in any of the following months.

His performance has firmly planted him in the NL Rookie of the Year conversation. What about NL Cy Young, though? There’s a lot of competition in that race, but I think it’s worth having him on the outskirts of the conversation. At the very least, he’ll get down-ballot votes and could sneak in a top-10 finish.

On Wednesday, MLB posted the following picture on X regarding the Cy Young races in each league:

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Since we’ve got five pitchers listed for the Senior Circuit, I wanted to put their stats side-by-side with Senga to see how he measures up.

Kodai Senga

10-7 record, 3.07 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 181 strikeouts, 10.9 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 3.8 bWAR in 149.1 innings

Justin Steele

16-3 record, 2.49 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 159 strikeouts, 9.0 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 4.4 bWAR in 159 innings

Blake Snell

14-9 record, 2.43 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 217 strikeouts, 11.7 K/9, 5.0 BB/9, 5.3 bWAR in 167 innings

Zac Gallen

15-8 record, 3.50 ERA, 1.11 WHP, 199 strikeouts, 9.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 4.1 bWAR in 192.2 innings

Spencer Strider

17-5 record, 3.73 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 259 strikeouts, 13.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 3.4 bWAR in 169 innings

Zack Wheeler

11-6 record, 3.70 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 196 strikeouts, 10.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 3.8 bWAR in 175 innings.

So, by my watchful eye, here’s what Senga ranks among this group in the following categories:

  • ERA: 3rd
  • WHIP: 6th
  • Strikeouts: 5th
  • K/9: 3rd
  • BB/9: 5th
  • bWAR: T-4th
  • Innings pitched: 6th

The biggest knocks on Senga’s performance — and likely why he’s not included in a top-five discussion — are obvious. It’s the number of innings he’s pitched and the amount of traffic he’s allowed on the bases.

New York has been very careful in giving Senga what they feel is an appropriate amount of rest between starts. He’s often received an extra day or two because the goal has been to keep him healthy and pitching for as long as possible. Mission accomplished, but that’s surely part of the reason why at least the above five hurlers are ahead of him in this race.

With regard to traffic on the bases, it’s mostly tied to Senga’s walks allowed. After all, he’s only allowing 6.9 hits per nine innings this year (nice). This was more of an early-season issue, too.

Through Senga’s first 12 MLB starts, his walks allowed per nine innings was up at 5.57. He allowed three-plus walks 10 times during this period. But over his most recent 14 starts, his BB/9 rate is down to 3.19 while allowing three-plus walks in a start just four times.

So, it’s understandable why Senga is on the outside looking in at the top of the NL Cy Young race. But he’s at least making noise as an NL Rookie of the Year contender. And, if this progressive improvement he’s shown throughout the year continues into 2024, he’ll be seen as a serious Cy Young candidate soon enough.

You can reach Matt Musico at matt.musico@xlmedia.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.

Matt Musico is an editor for ESNY. He’s been writing about baseball and the Mets for the past decade. His work has been featured on numberFire, MetsMerized Online, Bleacher Report, and Yahoo! Sports.