Dodgers: Kenta Maeda Deserves More Innings This Season

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to the third out of the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on September 18, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to the third out of the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on September 18, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Every Dodger fan loves Maeda. And for good reason. The Japanese star has dominated in his three seasons since coming to Los Angeles. He has been a star in the playoffs and has put up many great seasons for the Dodgers both in the starting rotation and from the bullpen.

But Maeda’s incentive-laden contract is not based on per inning performance but is purely based on workload. While this is a common practice across the league today, the Dodgers may be manipulating Maeda’s contract. Maeda’s innings have dipped in each of his last two seasons since his MLB debut back in 2016.

According to and Jeff Passan, Maeda makes $250,000 for every ten inning increment that he pitches after he exceeds 90 innings pitched, all the way up to 200 innings (he earned an extra $1 million last season with his 120+ inning season). He also earns an extra $1 million for every start he makes over 14 starts, with five start increments beginning at 15 starts (Maeda made an extra $2 million last season by reaching 20 starts).

To put these numbers in context, in his rookie year, Maeda pitched 175.2 innings and started in 32 games, making his incentive numbers far more favorable than they have been in each of the last two seasons.

I think it would be unreasonable to accuse the Dodgers of limiting his innings in an attempt to keep him from being compensated more handsomely (though not completely out of the question).

But either way, Maeda should not have to battle for a starting rotation spot. He is an elite pitcher on an inning-per-inning basis. Even if he is a strong bullpen piece, his value, both monetarily and to the team’s chances of winning games he pitches in, improves the more he pitches.

The only caveat to this argument really is health. If Maeda’s elbow, described as suspect in the past, is in need of rest, then he should be rested. But if Maeda can pitch 6 innings in a start, he should not be limited. He is only as valuable as his volume, and he deserves as many innings as his gifted right arm can take.

The fan-favorite hurler is known outside of just the Dodger community, as are his playing time struggles.

Here’s how Nick Pollack described Maeda for Fangraphs:

"Following Kenta Maeda is a painful endeavor. The Japanese import possesses all the talent to become a strong member of any rotation, yet the Dodgers have limited his innings constantly and shifted him between the bullpen and a starting role since his impressive 2016 debut. It’s tough to watch as Maeda’s secondary pitches are borderline elite, each boasting a marvelous 25% swinging-strike rate in 2019, marks that make any starting pitcher salivate. Even with Alex Wood heading to the Reds, the Dodgers rotation is still stuffed to the brim, making it tough to believe Maeda will see 30 starts in 2019. Let’s all hope he gets the opportunity in Dodger blue."

Maeda has been one of the best Dodger starters over the last few seasons, on a per-inning basis and just in general.

The fiery pitcher is not selfish though, even with his contract. Back in April,’s Ken Gurnick asked Maeda about temporary moves to the bullpen.

"“The contractual issue is just for myself, and it exactly can’t dictate what the team needs to do and it shouldn’t be affecting other starting pitchers,” said Maeda, comfortable with such a move after his great success as a postseason reliever. “I’m looking at this as just getting some work before my next start because of the off-days. Definitely, I want to start as many times as I can.”"

Comparing starter WAR over the last three seasons, Maeda, 7.4 WAR, ranks second only to Clayton Kershaw’s 14.7 WAR for the Dodgers. (Just because I still dislike this trade and I miss Alex Wood, he ranks third for the Dodgers over this span with 7.0 WAR). Over the same three year span, Maeda ranks second to Kershaw in innings pitched and wins, and actually has started three more games over this span.

More from LA Dodgers News

To use more per-inning statistics, Maeda ranks sixth amongst Dodger pitchers who have started 9 or more games for the team over the last three seasons, and fourth among pitchers who have thrown over 100 innings for the team in K/9 and has the seventh-lowest BB/9 amongst Dodger starters with more than 49 innings with the team.

Using swinging strike percentage, a measure that looks at what percentage of pitches opposing hitters swung and missed at, Maeda ranks 12th amongst all  Dodger pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings total over the last three seasons with a mark of 12.7%, placing him ahead of both Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Between the statistical arguments and the more moral argument that Maeda should be paid, and thus played, more. He brings value to every start and has been the team’s second-best starting pitcher since joining the team, despite being demoted to the bullpen multiple times during both the regular and postseasons.

Next. The top five RF's in LA Dodger history. dark

The Dodgers, in my opinion, would be wise to give Maeda the innings and starts he deserves and has earned, and the only reason he should not hit some of his incentives is an injury.