There have only been 12 pitchers since 1990 to open their careers with five quality starts in their first five major league games. The last two came in 2014, when both Masahiro Tanaka (16 straight!) and Odrisamer Despaigne (five straight) turned the trick.
The Dodgers record for consecutive quality starts to open a career, at least back to 1913, is five, set by the trio of Danny McDevitt (1957), Don Sutton (1966) and Pedro Astacio (1992).
But Maeda has been better than quality in his debut. He has only allowed one run total in his four starts, so he's in a different plane than almost anyone. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Maeda is just the third pitcher since 1900 to allow no more than one run in at least 25 innings over his first four major league starts, joining Fernando Valenzuela (one run in 36 innings in 1981) and George McQuillan (one run in 33 innings for the 1907 Phillies).
It is Valenzuela who had the true mania, and one who also makes searches for historical starts like these difficult. That's because he actually began his career in September 1980, with 10 relief appearances and 17⅔ innings with only two unearned runs allowed.
Valenzuela in his fifth start pitched another shutout, his fourth in five games. After his first eight major league starts, Valenzuela was 8-0 with eight games of nine innings each, including five shutouts and four total runs allowed. He gave up two of those runs in the eighth start. Simply put, there will never be another start like it.
Maeda's ERA entering play on Thursday is 0.36, with this as his fifth and final start of April. Dating back to 1913, there have only been three individual Dodgers months with better ERAs with at least five starts — Orel Hershsier (0.00 in 55 innings in September 1988, which seems crazy to type even after living through it), Valenzuela (0.20 in 45 innings in April 1981) and Valenzuela again (0.21 in 42 innings in April 1985, his forgotten great seasonal start).
Jose Fernandez happens to be going for the Marlins, he of the 32 strikeouts in 22⅔ innings this season, but also 11 walks and a 4.37 ERA.
But the four-run difference between the two starters in ERA looks different with the peripheral numbers. Maeda, who has 23 strikeouts and five walks in his 25⅓ innings, has a 2.52 FIP, 3.33 xFIP and a 3.31 SIERA, compared to a 2.45 FIP, 2.89 xFIP and 3.14 SIERA for Fernandez.
Again, this is just four starts so take these numbers with however many grains of salt you feel is necessary.
Fernandez is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his career against the Dodgers, with 25 strikeouts and nine walks in 19 innings.
Time: 7:10 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA, MLB Network