Dodgers: Kenta Maeda’s 2017 Season Grade

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Kenta Maeda /

A back-end starter transformed into a bullpen assassin just in time for October in 2017. The question is, what role will Kenta Maeda have with the team going into 2018?

Kenta Maeda continued to provide excellent value for the Dodgers in 2017. His regular season proved perhaps a tad lackluster (4.22 ERA) However, he fought his way through all the team’s starting pitching competition, as well as some minor struggles, to provide 134 competitive innings for the team. FIP liked him a bit better than ERA did, (4.07) and he gave up a modest 1.154 WHIP. (evidence of his usually excellent control) And at just over 3 million in guaranteed cash, it’s hard to complain about that production. (Although he can earn more based on performance)

Maeda’s greatest value to the team proved to be in the postseason, where he somehow turned into a mini Craig Kimbrell overnight. In the postseason as a reliever, against the league’s top right-handed competition, Maeda yielded only one run and five hits, while tallying ten strikeouts in almost 11 innings. He gained extra velocity on his fastball, and his secondary offerings became much sharper.

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He was an absolute monster through the NLDS and NLCS. These series could very well be the highlight of Maeda’s professional career. He piled up seven strikeouts in 5 innings without giving up a walk, hit, or run. And that’s against the bats of Arizona and Chicago! Simply dominant. His World Series ERA will leave you impressed, but those who witnessed it wasn’t.

The question remains, is Kenta a starter or a reliever headed into next season? If you ask the Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi, he’ll tell you a starter.

"“That’s what we signed him for. We’ve got to find guys to start all 162 games for us. He’s proven very valuable in the last couple years at eating up a good chunk of those starts and being effective.”"

If you ask Kenta, he’d probably say starter as well. Mostly because of money, but also because of the possibility to earn more money through incentives. That’s simply how Maeda’s contract is structured. More innings equals more green for Kenta Maeda, and you know what, let everyone win and let Kenta Maeda start during the grueling 162 game regular season. Rich Hill, Alex Wood, and Walker Buehler aren’t exactly what you would call innings eaters. Clayton Kershaw could become hampered by a bad back again after a particularly long October/November.

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Let’s let the Dodgers have their cake and eat it too. They can let Maeda eat innings during the regular season, and unleash him as a secret bullpen weapon of sorts if LA is fortunate enough to make another postseason appearance.. (They will, and Maeda figures to again play a surprisingly integral part in doing so) He won’t mind the extra money either. He deserves it for being the Dodger’s latest shining example of depth and versatility.