Friday, January 4, 2013

Kodai Senga Scouting Report

Kodai Senga, a right-handed pitcher with the Fukouka SoftBank Hawks organization in the NPB, will turn 20 at the end of January. Senga is listed at about 6 feet tall and 178 pounds and was one of the elite statistically Ni-Gun Pitchers in 2012 with a 1.33 ERA, which was the best in the Western League.
However, the numbers do come with some caveats, as he struck out just 18.9 % of batters and walked 10.9 % of batters for a 3.24 FIP (since home runs seem to be really rare in the Ni-Gun, using K%-BB%  is probably a more relevant statistic. Senga's 8 K%-BB% is the second best out of the top 7 ERA Western League starters, behind Takumi Akiyama's eye popping 16.1).

Senga did appear in two NPB games in 2012, throwing 4.2 innings. The walk problem bit him there as well, as he walked 8 of the 29 batters he faced. According to NPB tracker data, his fastball reached nearly 92 MPH and averaged just short of 90 MPH. He has been clocked at 95 MPH on his fastball before according to reports. He also threw a slow curve (71.66 MPH average), a soft slider (~78 MPH average) and a few forkballs (82.75 MPH average) According to the heat map, the right-handed pitcher threw the majority of his pitches glove side and worked both high and low relatively equally.
Watching video from 2011 and 2012, it does appear that the Hawks have cleaned up his delivery. While he brought his hands over his head in 2011, at least according to what I have seen of him in 2012, he has gotten rid of this. Bizarrely, this looks like his delivery back in 2010, in high school. The rest of his delivery is the same, but it is at least one less moving part in what is still a complicated delivery. According to that 2011 video, he was hitting 93 MPH on his fastball.

You can see that he has made some progress in delivery repetition and overall command over the past couple of years, but Senga is going to have to figure out how to throw more strikes to be effective in the NPB and have a possibility of a career in the Majors. His feel for his breaking pitches doesn't appear to be very good, and the pitch he seems to control the least, his forkball, looks like the best pitch he has other than his fastball. He seems to have a little arm-side on his fastball, at least occasionally (though NPB Tracker doesn't list a "shutto" as one of his pitches). I am not really impressed with the slider (especially considering the velocity), but he threw a couple I saw that had some vertical and horizontal tilt away from right-handers. The curveball doesn't have exceptional loop and doesn't look too much different than the slider (the difference is that the curve has the extra appearance of upwards movement like you see in many curves, and doesn't have really any horizontal movement).

In the end, you are talking about a 20 year old with a solid to plus fastball and at least one, maybe two, solid breaking pitches to go with it. He is short, and I am obviously not entirely sure how his command and his breaking pitches (and the command of his breaking pitches) will develop with his delivery, so Senga's idea role may be in the bullpen, but I certainly like the stuff, I just wish he would be more dominating and strikeout more Ni-Gun pitchers. Common sense tells you that he will pitch more than 4.2 innings in the NPB in 2013, the question is just how much (and this may rely on what kind of command/control he shows in the spring) innings he will be given in 2013.

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