Kenta Maeda Has Tough Act to Follow In Debut

I’ve generally been suspect of veteran foreign players getting giant salaries to move to MLB after sometimes lengthy careers in Cuba, South Korea or Japan. The record seems to bear out the fact that for every Ichiro Suzuki or Jose Abreu there are many more guys named Hideki Irabu and Jae Kuk Ryu who never come close to making it in the US major leagues. Over the years, however, the Dodgers seem to have had a better than average track record, with guys like Yasiel Puig and pitchers such as Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park, though

Corey Seager LA Dodgers Majestic Flexbase Authentic Collection Player Jersey
more recently they’ve had major failures with the likes of Hector Olivera, Alex Guerrero and the slightly younger but biggest bust of all, Erisbel Arruebarrena.

But there was something about Kenta Maeda that I really liked from the first I had heard and saw of him. While it could well have been the exceedingly reasonable price tag including both a fair posting fee of $20 M and a very reasonable salary of $25 M over eight seasons - what I really think it is was that he really reminded me of Nomo. Looking at
his build and especially his wind-up, I swear I’m watching Nomo back in the mid-1990s, as Maeda raises his arms straight above his head, swings them back, kicks his leg, and then fires towards the plate. His great spring (2.35 ERA in six appearances, 20 K, 5 BB in 23 IP) has also gone far to solidify his fine first impression.

Nomo made his US debut for the Dodgers on May 2, 1995, starting against the Giants in San Francisco, and he threw five shutout innings, allowing one hit. That stat is very interesting today, as on Monday in the 2016 season opener, Clayton Kershaw threw seven shutout innings allowing one hit, and yesterday Scott Kazmir went six shutout innings allowing one hit. Should Maeta emulate Nomo’s debut, that would be a very interesting pattern to continue. Unfortunately, on May 2, 1995, Dodgers’ pitchers who followed Nomo did not fare so well, allowing the Giants four runs in a 4-3 loss. But Nomo went on to have a terrific rookie season, going 13-6 with a 2.54 ERA and striking out 236 in only 191

innings (11.1/9 innings), with a 1.06 WHIP. Nomo’s debut was three months short of his 27th birthday, while Maeda is 27 now, though he is soon to hit 28.

Maeda draws the Padres in the final game of the opening series of 2016, and despite it being on the road, he and the Dodgers could not ask for a better situation to see him make his debut. San Diego will start the day with a .100 team bating average, zero runs scored, and one
extra-base hit.

On another note, after a seemingly wasted spring due to a knee injury that kept him out of action for so long, Corey Seager got hot upon his return to the lineup for the last few games of the spring, and has continued that into the regular season with an amazing start, hitting .444 after the two games, with a couple of RBI. In eight games against San Diego late last season, Seager hit .433. He and the Dodgers this evening will be facing Andrew Cashner, a guy who seems to look like he can pitch, has impressive stuff, but at 29 and after a half-dozen major league seasons, is only 26-42 lifetime, and is coming off a 6-16 2015 season.

Sounds like the Dodgers have a pretty good chance at starting the season 3-0.

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