Now more than ever, quality pitching has become a premium in baseball. The steroid era of baseball is long gone and we no longer see men hitting 70+ home runs a year. Instead we see statistics such as eight no-hitters from last season, and in the 2012 season, there were three no hitters in a span of 13 days.
The past World Series matchup, Kansas City Royals vs. the New York Mets, had the top pitching staffs in baseball. Kansas City had the best bullpen in the MLB, and the Mets ran to the championship with starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom, who are three All-Stars in their prime (assuming Harvey gets back to his elite status post surgery).
Unlike the San Francisco Giants and Cubs who seem to have their pitching figured out, the Dodgers still are looking for answers. Last year’s criticism was all on the bullpen, but the exit of Zach Greinke and the fact that the Dodgers bullpen has held opponents to a .195 batting average so far this season has turned attention back to the starters. It’s always something, right?
When I think of the Dodgers starting pitchers, right away I think of Kershaw and think he’s one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Then I think some more and get discouraged: Scott Kazmir has underperformed (4.52 ERA this season), Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy are coming back from long injuries and have potential of becoming good again, but it is yet to be seen.
Brett Anderson was a risky sign last year because of his injury history and now is back on the DL for an extended period of time. Bud Norris has been performing well in his short time in Los Angeles, but has never had an ERA below 3.50 in his entire career. And that leaves Kenta Maeda for last, who is quietly having a good season for a team that really needs it.
Maeda, a 28 year-old rookie from Japan, has a 8-6 record with a 2.95 ERA this season. The record isn’t the strongest, but the fact that Maeda’s worst outings come when he allows 4 runs softens the blow to an extent because the blame can be on the hitters. For example, when Maeda lost and gave up 4 runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates back on June 25, the Dodgers gave him no run support, only scoring one run.
Maeda’s pitches aren’t flashy, but he gets the job done. According to brooksbaseball.com, a site that examines a pitcher’s pitch repertoire, Maeda relies mostly on his slider (avg. 82 mph), his Fourseam fastball (avg. 91 mph) and mixes in a curve, sinker, and changeup.
Those are a lot of pitches Maeda can go to confuse hitters, and because Maeda’s pitching speed doesn’t jump off the screen, he has the potential for lasting a long time in baseball due to the fact that he doesn’t need to reinvent himself like some pitchers do when they can’t rely on their speed to put guys away. Maeda’s contract is also a bargain, as he only requires $3 million a year.
I still think that the Dodgers should go after a pitcher before this year’s trade deadline, but I can safely say that Maeda is the only Dodger pitcher (not named Clayton Kershaw) that can be relied on in the playoffs for 6 strong innings, handing the ball off to the bullpen (hopefully with a lead), and then giving the keys to Kenley Jansen in the ninth.
It seems some Dodger fans agree:
POLL: With the bullpen performing up to par, should the #Dodgers still focus on bolstering their late-inning staff?
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) July 11, 2016
@DodgersNation with the way our staff has been Id say yes we need bull pen help. They are gonna tire out down the stretch. No one goes 6+ IP
— Not Andre Ethier (@LAJoey86) July 11, 2016
@DodgersNation Dodgers have the lowest bullpen ERA in MLB going into the break..let that stat speak for itself; no need to change anything
— Trevor Pereira (@tpereira4) July 11, 2016
Not every pitcher is an ace like Kershaw and can go eight innings and only allow two hits every start. And that’s where Maeda comes in; he gets the job done when called upon. His significance cannot be overstressed. By the time October is around, hopefully the Dodgers find another pitcher and Maeda can be a solid number three option for the boys in blue.
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