Dodger’s Japanese import Kenta Maeda has already been impressing everyone in Dodger camp these days. Maeda recently threw a bullpen session and was quite effective, mixing his pitches and looking very sharp. Maeda threw four pitches (fastball, curve, changeup and slider) topping out at around 94-95 mph. Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal interestingly compared Maeda to former Dodger co-ace and traitor Zack Greinke.
However I would like to compare Maeda to a different former Dodger. You could compare Maeda to former Dodger and fellow former Hiroshima Carp right hander Hiroki Kuroda. Both Maeda and Kuroda pitched for the Carp but missed being each other’s teammate by one year. Kuroda started his legendary NPB career in 1997, pitching for the Carp from 97-2007 until returning to the Carp last season. Maeda pitched for the Carp from 2008-2015 before signing his 105 million dollar contract with the Dodgers this winter.
While Kuroda is more of a sinkerball ground ball pitcher, he too was able to throw a pretty sharp four-seam fastball that during his peak years reached anywhere from 92-94. Kuroda also had great off-speed offerings as well, which included a slider, and a curve.
Maeda was zipping 94-95 heaters with a slider, curve and change against Dodger hitters at Glendale. Grandal stated that Maeda was working both sides of the plate with ease, and that he was rocking in and out. His ability to use both sides of the plate is very encouraging. Maeda is more of a control pitcher than anything, but Kuroda was too.
Maeda in just eight full seasons in the NPB has won almost as many games as Kuroda has in his 12 NPB seasons. Maeda has a career 2.39 ERA in the NPB, while Kuroda’s ERA is a full run higher at 3.59. Ironically Kuroda wore number 18 during his time with the Dodgers, and guess who is wearing Kuroda’s old number 18 currently? That’s right, Maeda is.
Maeda 97-67 2.39 ERA 7.5 H/9 7.4 K/9
Kuroda 114-97 3.59 ERA 9.0 H/9 6.6 K/9
As you can see Maeda’s hits per nine are lower than Kuroda’s and his strikeout per nine rate is lower as well. Maeda has given up less walks, hits, and struck out more batters per inning. Maeda has also posted 28 complete games and thrown over 1,500 innings in the NPB. It stands to reason that Maeda could be twice as good as Kuroda was with the Dodgers, and Kuroda was pretty damn effective.
Catching up with the former Dodger, Kuroda returned to the NPB with the Carp last season after pitching three seasons with the Yankees. As usual Kuroda was his solid self, posting another stellar campaign. Kuroda made 28 starts at the age of 40, while posting a 2.55 ERA and allowing just eight home runs. He was named the Central League all-star game starting pitcher for his outstanding efforts. That was his fifth NPB all-star selection. Despite being 41 years old the Japanese Hiro is not done yet. Kuroda just recently signed a 4.9 million dollar contract to pitch for the Carp in 2016. Making him one of Japan’s highest paid players. The 2016 season will be Kuroda’s 13 with the Carp and 20 professional season overall as he chases after his 200 career victory.
Kuroda was good, but Maeda could be even better. Maeda won the pitching Triple Crown over in the NPB. He also won what is the equivalent of two Cy Young awards during his time in the NPB. Think about that. I’ve always thought that Maeda was the jewel of the Dodger’s hot stove season. It appears he could become more than that. Maeda may become a legitimate co-ace. Of course we won’t ever stop complaining about losing Zack Greinke to the Dbacks because well, we love complaining. However Maeda may just help us complain a little less.