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Kodai Senga

Current status: In the winter of 2018-2019, the Hawks ace asked SoftBank to post him and was politely told to mind his own business. Unless that changes, Senga will be eligible to file for international free agency after the 2022 Japan Series.

Team: SoftBank Hawks

Pos: SP Age: 26. Will be 27 on Jan. 30, 2020. Throws: R

NPB page

Honors: Golden Glove (1)

The SoftBank Hawks have taken greater advantage from the system of developmental contract players than any other NPB team. Senga is arguably the best player to enter pro ball through that door — the only comparable players would be a pair of former Giants rookies of the year, reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi and outfielder Tetsuya Matsumoto.

Senga now relies on four pitches: fastball, splitter, cutter, and slider. According to Delta Graphs these rate as follows:

PitchPercent usedAvg. VelocityRun value per 100 pitches
Fastball47.5153.2+0.55
Split17.5135.4+1.35
Cutter15.8142.5+1.84
Slider11.7131.2-0.09
Two-seamer6.8149.4-0.53

OK. So that’s five. I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition. The two-seamer is new this year, and it’s less of a sinker and more of an off-center fastball — a shoot or reverse cutter — designed to run in more on right-handed batters. He also threw a curve less than 1 percent of the time, which is required to remain a member of NPB’s starting pitchers union.

Senga’s fastball is now among the hardest-thrown in Japan, with only three foreign relievers, Edwin Escobar, Rubby De La Rosa and Johnny Hellweg averaging more speed with it. The biggest problem with the fastball is his location. Those days when he can locate are basically wins for the Hawks because no one is going to be able to handle the cutter and splitter.

Senga credited a sudden 5 kph jump in average velocity this season to staying with the Chicago Cubs’ Yu Darvish over the winter and training with him.

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