Dodger’s Japanese right hander Kenta Maeda is very good at two things. One of those is getting hitters to swing at strikes outside of the zone. He’s been doing that all season at one of the best clips in all of baseball. According to the numbers he’s inducing those swings at pitches outside the zone 36.1% of the time. Another thing Maeda does very well is getting velocity separation on his pitches. It’s not only a classic offspring song, but also a key to successful pitching. Don’t make me sing it guys.
Allow me to explain what I am talking about. When a pitcher has velocity separation on his pitches that means he’s able to have large amounts of differences in speed between pitch types. So when a pitcher throws a 94 mph fastball, and then comes back with a 76 mph Uncle Charlie, that gives him good velocity separation between those pitches. The difference in speed is what helps pitchers deceive hitters.
Maeda has been very good at that. Clayton Kershaw does it well too. The ability to mix pitches and keep hitters off balance using different speeds is very important to good pitching. If a slider or curveball is thrown at 90+ then what happens is it looks like a fastball coming in, and the hitters are likely to think it is one and they’ll hit it. That’s why it’s so vital for pitchers to get good separation between their off-speed pitches and their fastball/cutters.
Maeda made Marlin’s ace Jose Fernandez look befuddled during last Thursday’s 5-3 Miami win over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Maeda allowed four earned runs on seven hits across 6.2 innings pitched. It resulted in him picking up his first loss of the season. During the outing he was able to confuse the hell out of Fernandez with one of his best off-speed pitches. In doing so he got perfect pitch velocity separation.
Our friends at Numberfire analyzed the slider that made Fernandez almost jump out of his shoes. The slider was especially nasty and came after Maeda had thrown a 90+ mph heater. That’s how good pitchers mix their pitches. All Fernandez could do was shrug his shoulders as he walked back to the dugout. Needless to say he struck out. Maeda has excellent pitching mechanics.
If Maeda continues to get opposing hitters to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone, and big differences in velocity between pitches, then he’ll continue to have success at the major league level. Getting more outs will allow him to hit more home runs too. The Dodgers could sure use the offense.