Kenta Maeda made 25 starts for the Dodgers in 2017, his second season in the majors. But it was a switch to the bullpen that saw him reach new heights.
What went right
After a shaky start in the rotation and a brief demotion to the bullpen in June, Maeda had an 11-start stretch, from June 18 to Aug. 25, with a 2.70 ERA, going 8-2 during that span. But it was a switch in roles that saw Maeda make a huge impact in October.
Maeda’s fastball and slider played up during his short stints in relief, and he posted an 0.84 ERA during the postseason, holding opponents to just .135/.179/.216 with 10 strikeouts and two walks in 10⅔ innings.
“In the playoffs there was another gear and it was special coming out of the pen,” said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
Counting his four regular season relief appearances, Maeda had a 1.45 ERA with 20 strikeouts against only three walks.
Right-handers hit just .214/.258/.389 against Maeda during the regular season, and were 4-for-32 (.125) against him during the postseason.
Maeda had a career-best 38 strikeouts in August, including a five-start streak with at least six strikeouts in each game, another personal high mark.
What went wrong
Maeda had a 5.16 ERA through his first 10 starts that necessitated an initial demotion to the bullpen in June.
Left-handers hit .263/.322/.458 against Maeda in 2017.
Maeda allowed 15 of his 22 home runs this season on the road, where batters hit .263/.321/.506 against him.
Stats: 13-6, 4.22 ERA, 140 K, 34 BB, 134⅓ IP
Salary: $7.9 million — including $3 million in base salary and another $4.9 million in performance bonuses
Game of the year
Maeda struck out six and pitched seven scoreless innings in a win over the Braves in Atlanta on Aug. 1, allowing only two singles and a walk.
Maeda will make $3 million in base salary in 2018, in season three of an eight-year deal that is one of the most team friendly contracts in baseball. Maeda can make up to $10.15 million in bonuses.