One of the most impressive things about Kenta Maeda’s start to his professional career in the United States is just how much he pitches like former Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke. When Greinke left during this past offseason and signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, there was a huge hole to fill. Maeda’s filling it.
Their styles are uncanny. Neither man flashes amazing velocity, and they both use their guile and stuff to get hitters out. They each work the outside of the plate, they each generate strikes off the outer edge, and they continue to haunt the opposition with an innate ability to leave batters flustered.
Maeda has kept nearly 75 percent of his pitches on the outer half of the plate or off the outside corner. That’s the highest such rate by any starting pitcher this season and a near match for Greinke’s rate last season, which was second among ERA-title qualifiers.
That ability to keep the ball on the outer half of the plate has led to some of the weakest contact you will ever see in your life. Among pitchers who have faced at least 30 at-bats this season, Maeda has an average exit velocity surrendered of 83.9 MPH. That’s the fourth-lowest in baseball. It’s really quite remarkable.
Last season, Greinke had an average exit velocity of 87.7 MPH. Maeda is nearly four miles per hour below that at the moment. Batters have swung at 52 sliders that Maeda has thrown, but they’ve completely whiffed on 24 of them. He’s a magician. You see the big reveal coming, but you still can’t wrap your mind around it.
While people belittled the Dodgers for not re-signing Zack Greinke to whatever contract that he wanted during the offseason, it looks like Los Angeles found the next best thing for a considerably cheaper amount of money. And that’s the name of the game. We’ll see if Maeda can keep this level of production and performance up, but he’s been sensational thus far this season.