Kenta Maeda has become a productive part of this dominant bullpen the Dodgers are rolling out this postseason. He has been successful in this newfound role. His velocity is up, and secondary pitches have crazy movement.
When Maeda was added to the Dodgers postseason roster, many people believed he would fill the role of a long reliever. Meaning he would come in and eat up innings if one of the starters had to exit the game early. But contrary to the mainstream belief, Roberts has used him as one of his high leverage/late inning pitchers.
Roberts has looked like a genius with the way he has utilized Maeda. That is because how successful Maeda has been. In this bullpen role, he has looked unhittable. It all starts with the mental approach that Maeda has.
Some starters are just not suited for a spot in the bullpen because they see it as a lesser role than being a starter. They see it as a demotion and it really messes with their psyche. Especially for a pitcher who is not at the backend of his career.
Maeda has seen a fair amount of success as a starter. So initially, he had every right to be frustrated with a move to the bullpen, but he was not frustrated and has thrived in the bullpen. The credit for this without a doubt goes to Maeda. Who has put his ego aside and is filling a role that the team needs to get to the ultimate goal.
This is also a testament to how Dave Roberts is running this team. It is clear that everybody on the roster and in the organization has bought into the team and ideals the Roberts is preaching. Roberts has the players playing for the team rather than themselves. Maeda is a perfect example of this.
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I believe Roberts should continue to use him in this role. The number 2 high leverage guy. Morrow being number 1 and Jansen being the 9th inning guy. Roberts is using a more modern way of managing the bullpen this postseason by limiting starters.
Rather than have a set guy in the 7th, 8th and 9th, Roberts uses his guys according to where the opposing team’s thumpers are. That means Morrow can be used as early as the 6th inning if it’s a crucial part of the lineup.
Morrow will be the guy to come in and face the heart of a lineup in later innings. If that happens early, that means Maeda will be the guy to go in the 8th and get the ball to Kenley with a lead into the 9th inning.
What makes this bullpen unique is that they’re so versatile and flip roles daily. Morrow, Maeda, Watson, Cingrani, Fields all are interchangeable, and that is the beauty of this bullpen.
Kenta adds, even more, versatility to this bullpen with his ability to go more than one inning out of the bullpen. Roberts has not used him in that role, yet. But it is nice to know that if asked Maeda will step up.
Like I said earlier, a big part of his success in the bullpen has to do with the mentality that the right-hander has. But another factor is how his stuff plays out of the bullpen. Some guys have better stuff out of the bullpen but have a tough time locating. So what they gain in velocity and movement, they lose in location and command.
But in the case of Kenta, he is still as accurate as ever, and his stuff is electric. As a starter, his fastball hovers around 91-92 MPH. Out of the bullpen, Kenta’s fastball sits at 94-96 MPH. His secondary stuff has also seen an increase in velocity and his slider has looked untouchable.
Kenta Maeda has been a big reason for the success of this bullpen in the playoffs. They were already the best in the NL without Kenta but adding his dominant arm in the playoffs have made them unhittable.
Most teams, like the Cubs, struggle to get the ball to their closer if their starter has a short outing. But that is not the case with the Dodgers. Their bullpen has been just as good, if not better than the starting rotation. Kenta Maeda is a big reason for that. He adds more flexibility and depth to this team, and his team first personality is always welcome. Kenta has surprisingly been a key player on this roster.