NEW YORK -- Kodai Senga, as it turns out, picked the wrong year to be a standout National League rookie.
Despite his excellent season, Senga finished second in NL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year voting behind star D-backs outfielder Corbin Carroll, who garnered all 30 possible first-place votes to become a unanimous selection. Senga earned 22 second-place votes and 71 total points from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which conducts balloting for the award.
An 11-year veteran of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan before coming to the Mets, Senga’s inaugural MLB season included a 12-7 record and a 2.98 ERA, making him one of only two NL pitchers with a sub-3.00 mark. He was particularly effective in the second half, going 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA over his final 14 starts. Senga also finished with 202 strikeouts, joining Dwight Gooden as the only Mets rookies to reach 200. (Of the 30 Major League pitchers on that list, four of them -- Senga, Hideo Nomo, Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka -- are Japanese natives.)
But Senga only pitched in 29 games, whereas Carroll played in 155, amassed 645 plate appearances, hit 25 homers and 10 triples, stole 54 bases and produced an .868 OPS. For most voters, he was the easy choice, even without accounting for playoff production. (Ballots are cast before the start of the postseason.)
Dodgers outfielder James Outman finished a distant third in voting, followed by Rockies outfielder Nolan Jones and Reds infielder Matt McLain.
More than hardware, the Mets are excited to see what Senga can do going forward, as he enters the second season of his five-year, $75 million contract. There’s a chance the Mets will be less cautious with Senga, whom they frequently gave extra days of rest to mimic a Japanese pitching schedule. If that happens, Senga may be able to amass even gaudier numbers than he did as a rookie.
Senga would have been the fifth Japanese-born player to win MLB Rookie of the Year honors and the oldest Rookie of the Year since Kazuhiro Sasaki won it at age 32 in 2000. He also would have been the seventh Rookie of the Year in Mets history, joining Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack, Darryl Strawberry, Gooden, Jacob deGrom and Pete Alonso.