After an impressive rookie campaign for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kenta Maeda once again proved his value to the club in 2017. This time in a relief role that garnered national attention during the postseason.
In 10.2 innings across three playoff series, Maeda allowed just one run and seven baserunners while recording 10 strikeouts. Prior to the World Series, he combined for five perfect innings in the National League Division and Championship Series.
“I think he’s been a very underrated, under-appreciated part of our success,” general manager Farhan Zaidi said at Dodgers FanFest.
“I mean, he’s won 29 games in two seasons. The role that he played in the bullpen, unselfishness that he showed in going to the bullpen was huge for us in the postseason. I know he’s motivated.
“He wants to win another 15 games and he’ll do whatever we need from him in the postseason. He’s a big part of our team. No doubt about it.”
After a dominant showing as a reliever last October, Maeda is slated to reprise his role as a starting pitcher this season. Given the Dodgers’ depth in the rotation, it wouldn’t be surprising if Maeda returns to the bullpen at late in the year or during potential playoff series.
He yielded a 4.35 ERA over 126.1 innings as a starter last year, but pitched to a 2.25 ERA in eight innings as a reliever to close out the 2017 regular season.
Maeda saw an increase in velocity with the transition, which ultimately improved his strikeout rate while limiting hard-contact on balls in play. Because of his success in both roles, the right-hander has firmly established himself as an important piece of the Dodgers’ puzzle going forward.