Kenta Maeda Shines Bright in New Relief Role

Kenta Maeda

Kenta Maeda was a rock for the Dodger’s rotation in 2016. He pitched 175.2 innings posting a 16-11 record with a 3.48 ERA in 25 starts. He struck out 9.2 per nine and his strikeout to walk ratio was over 3.5-1. Maeda was solid, but he tired in the second half of the season. The Japanese right hander is used to the shorter season in the NPB and it showed when he posted a 4.25 ERA in the second half of last season, as compared to the 2.88 ERA he put up in the first half.

This season Maeda was slowed by inconsistency and injury. He spent time on the disabled list earlier in the season with hamstring tightness, struggling through the first part of the year. Maeda pitched to a 6.58 ERA in April before succumbing to the hamstring problems.

Maeda’s health and command improved considerably but he didn’t put up the same numbers he did in 2016. Overall he tossed only 134.1 innings and posted a 4.22 ERA in 25 starts. Maeda struck out 140 while walking 34 while striking out 9.4 per nine this season. His numbers were similar to 2016 but slightly less effective. In 2016 he allowed 7.7 hits per nine and this season he allowed 8.1. Advanced peripherals suggest he was slightly above average.

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Embed from Getty Images

Maeda’s main problem was that he was unable to pitch deep into games. High pitch counts and poor sequencing led to short outings. Maeda had only 6 starts where he pitched past the sixth inning this season and only four that saw him pitch into the seventh inning or later.

I’ve been saying this to a lot of people, and by many people I mean my sister and a few of you guys over here that Maeda is better as a reliever than a starter. The Dodgers are finally realizing this year that his arm plays better in shorter stints. This October the Dodgers saw the sheer force of this in the playoffs and utilized their new weapon wisely.

During the regular season Maeda posted an ERA of 2.25 as a reliever and 4.35 as a starting pitcher. Granted that was a Small sample size, but he struck out 10 and walked only 1 across eight relief innings. In those frames he allowed just two earned runs on seven hits. On June 9 the Dodgers brought him out of the bullpen to record a four-inning save. He tossed four innings allowing one earned run on three hits while striking out six without issuing any free passes.

The Dodgers used Maeda out of the bullpen in the NLDS against the Dbacks and his star shined bright. He looked sharp as a tack pitching two effective innings and picking up the win in relief in the Dodger’s 8-5 game 2 win.

In that game he pitched a scoreless frame and struck out two while not allowing a hit. The Dodgers then used him again in the eighth inning of their game 3 win to setup Kenley Jansen. In that game he tossed another scoreless inning striking out two. Overall he pitched two shutout innings and didn’t allow a hit or a walk while striking out four. He retired every batter he faced.

I’m not saying Maeda should never start again. He’s generally a good pitcher and I know he would probably like to remain in the starting rotation. However he’s been fantastic as a reliever and could be another secret weapon for the Dodgers as they continue their historical march towards their first World Series championship in 29 years.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Former Co-editor of Lasorda's Lair. Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic

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24 thoughts on “Kenta Maeda Shines Bright in New Relief Role

  1. His velo is up to 95!

    I think it odd that you don’t mention the impact of his contract, which is heavily incentive driven. A true move to the pen would have to coincide with a pretty drastic rewriting of the deal, no?

    1. good point about the contract.

      But for now, the only issue with him relieving is that it takes him longer to warm up than the regular bp guys. Not that it’s a big deal, but Doc does have to plan ahead. Also, since he’s used to starting, can he pitch in back to back days?

      So far he’s been electric in set up. I love it!

      1. I don’t think Roberts and Honeycutt have a “set up” guy. They will make their decisions based on who’s batting and on deck. If it’s the top or middle of the order, it’s going to be Morrow, even if it’s not the 8th. If it’s the bottom of the order or if there are RH hitters in a key situation, it’s going to be Maeda. Yes he has strike stuff when he’s just going an inning or two, but most importantly he has very good command so unless it’s a real bad day you hardly see him walk anybody. Problem with Baez, Stripling, Fields and maybe Watson is that you worry they are going to walk the first hitter (and sometimes the second too if it’s Baez as he loses his command when there is a man on, then forcing him to get away from his slider and just try to blow hitters away — heart attack city).

  2. Me likey, Cubs and Nats in the process of going to a Game 5 and torching their pitching before entering the NLCS. What’s not to like?

    Did I mention Ed Dinger good Karma? Just curious

    1. Yes the karma and the caviar is back in MLB. It may be a record breaking year in MLB viewership.

      Didi Gregorious takes Kluber deep twice and Miller now in, but it’s only the 4th inning. Yikes. What a difference a year makes. Last we only had Blanton and Dayton in a similar situation to cover a short outing. This year on a short SP outing, we’d have Morrow in, and still have Maeda, Cingrani and Jansen for their plus hitters the next two times down the batting order (and Wood). But that’s Game 5 for you. The Nationals and Cubs Game 5 is going to be doozy too. Kendricks vs Scherzer. We won’t see either of them until Game 3.

  3. Having decent long relievers is a must in the postseason. Just look at how other teams are burning their starters in long relief. We actually have 3 long relievers as Wood can service in that role.

    Speaking of Wood, I think we may see Ryu instead of either Stripling or Baez in a 7 game series. As I said before I like Wood 3-4 times as a reliever vs. just once as a Game 4 starter.

  4. Maeda has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, against righties!

    He is on a list under Sale, Scherzer, and other ace starting pitchers, against righties this year.

    I know Maeda’s contract is an incentive based contract, but I don’t think that is something to worry about, because this is only for the post season.

    1. i’m not so sure that this is only for the post season for Maeda. He has become less and less effective or consistent as a starter and looking pretty impressive out of the pen. He may have found a new roost.

      1. Like they said, his contract is pretty incentive laden. They would most likely have to sit down with his agent and him if they decided they wanted him to be in the bullpen permanently. You have to remember, he has 6 more years on the deal.

        1. True

          I personally don’t think Maeda will be permanently, in the bullpen.

          Because he is only going to be used against righties, because he has elite numbers against righties.

          And his numbers against lefties, are not as good.

          I don’t think at this point in Maeda’s career, he is going to agree to be a rightie specialist.

          He did have some good starts this year, and I am sure he will continue to be a starter, in the regular season.

          Because he did that weight program to make him stronger in the off season, so he was still just getting use to his touch, with all this new muscle he has put on.

          And because of all of that, he might be even better next year, as a starter.

          He was sure impressive against the Dbacks, because the Dbacks, have always had his number, more then any other team, he has faced.

  5. Now there are 4 managerial openings in MLB, Mets, Phillies, Tigers, Red Sox, and DM’s fate in Miami is up to an exe Yankee in Jeter. There might be a couple more on the hot seat, Seattle, White Sox, and possibly even Scioscia in Anaheim. Going to be interesting to see who gets tabbed, especially in Boston. Red Sox have some interesting choices to make. They do have a lot of young talent. The Mets are said to be interested in Geren, the Dodgers bench coach. Dodgers off season will be interesting too since they will need decisions on their own free agents and a few guys with options. Of paramount interest to me will be what happens with Adrian Gonzalez. I would hope he sees the writing on the wall and just retires gracefully. I do not think there is any way his back allows him to be an everyday player anymore. The Dodgers are also going to have to figure out who is the primary catcher from now on, a decision that will no doubt be decided some by how Grandal and Barnes play in the next round. If it comes down to trust, I trust Barnes to contribute on a daily basis much more than Grandal who is way too streaky. Yeah, he has good power and his framing skill is unquestioned, although I question the real value of a stat that is not on the back of his baseball card, but he also strikes out way too much, and is a double play machine and for the most part the best RALLLY KILLER on this team. Used to be that was Puig. Or Pederson, or Forsythe. I think Barnes playing most of the time could put up good numbers and hit for at least 10 plus homers, which with all the other power hitters on this team, is a decent number. Kershaw will start game 1. Beyond that, Roberts has been mute.

      1. I did and a couple of things. 1. Puig hit into 21 this year but only 10 last year. So yeah, he hit into more DP’s. But part of the reason was because he was trying to pull the ball so much earlier in the season. If I remember right he had close to 17 by mid June. And he has close to twice the at bats this year as last. But in his career he has not been un double figures in DP’s until the last two years. Grandal has had 16, 11 and 10 since he joined the Dodgers. He has struck out 92, 116 and then 130 times in his 3 years with the team, Puig on the other hand has struck out 66, 74 and then 100 times this year. Grandal is not a clutch hitter his WAR this year is 2.1 and Puig’s is 5.3. Puig may have hit into more this year, but the difference is Puig smashes a lot of hard grounders that are hit so hard and fast that it is easy to double up a fast runner. Grandal on the other hand runs like a wounded moose, and hits weak stuff to the infield and looks like he is not even trying to run hard. I would much rather have Barnes up in a close game and a clutch spot than Grandal.

        1. Michael

          I only talked about double plays, and nothing else!

          And almost everyone you mentioned, have hit into more double plays.

          And Joc has hit into 7 double plays, but he almost has 200 less at bats!

          1. Yeah I know, . Puig changed a lot and has not hit into as many since he adopted the strategy that Turner Ward set down for him. Grandal still has a higher ground ball rate, a worse BA with men in scoring position and that is my point. He is a RALLY KILLER. He strikes out too much and is not a very good hitter in the clutch, area’s in which Puig has greatly improved and Grandal has not.

          2. Lets put it this way MJ. Who would you rather have at bat with the game on the line. Grandal or Puig?

  6. On framing pitches:

    Barnes is also known as a good framer.

    Soon, we will see electronic calling of balz and strikes, so pitch framing will all but be tossed on the ashheap. The terrible shame is that our umps can be so easily duped when calling the strike zone. The ball either went over the plate and had the right altitude or it didn’t, stop embarrassing yourself, Mr. Umpire!
    Umpiring behind the plate is so bad and inconsistent it has to change. Like they said in The Bionic Man (google it kiddies) “We have the technology, we can rebuild him”. Get on with it MLB, the time has come. Right now the umping is embarrassing and has way too much effect on the game.

    Ed Dinger is da man!

    1. I watched the Cubs Nats game and the home plate ump was all over the place. I mean he had no consistent strike zone. I think the problem now has come down to the way they train to be an ump. In the old days they were right over the catchers shoulder. Now they are all over the place. They can either see the inside and totally miss the outside, or visa versa…….

    2. True

      I would rather have an electronic strike zone too.

      I have seen to many umpires, make themselves bigger then the game, either by not being consistent, or just being plain bad, especially in these short series, in the post season.

      I don’t think we will have to see Angel Hernandez this year, thank goodness!

      I think these catchers that get high numbers on framing, are not stealing strikes like some think, I just think they are giving the umpire a better view of the pitch, and the plate.

      But I think the fact that Grandal tries to keep his glove in the strike zone so long, has caused him, not to be able to block balls, that he should.

      I just don’t understand why Grandal, Granderson, and Forsythe, let there counts go so deep, that they are constantly down, with two strikes.

      Even good hitters, don’t hit as well, when they are down with two strikes.

        1. Michael

          That is my point!

          They are not good hitters, so why would they want to be down with two strikes, even if
          good hitters, don’t hit as well!

          1. Actually MJ, there are some hitters who are very good with 2 strikes and one of them is a Dodger. Justin Turner has the best BA with 2 strikes of any player in the NL. And I doubt if anyone wants to be in the hole when they are hitting. Forsythe’s problem is that he was looking at way too many good pitches before swinging. Granderson’s is obviously diminished skills and a slow bat. Grandal has never been a good hitter. He runs into one once in a while and that is about it.

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