Considering the growing number of talented Japanese baseball players that reach the MLB, it wouldn’t be a lie to say that the program and competition in Japan is one that is world class. It has been at this level for decades and this claim is backed up by all the amazing Japanese players that have made a name for themselves in the world of baseball. You wouldn’t even have to look deep into the history books to confirm this because, to this very day, these Japanese players are still leaving people in awe. A great example of such a home-grown talent is Kenta Maeda.
Basic Information about Kenta Maeda
Unlike most great baseball players in Japan, Kenta Maeda is one that is quite private. If you do not believe this, try researching about decorated players that went professional. More often than not, when you do this, you usually encounter how they developed in their youth or how they moved from the Little League to the NPB until they reached the MLB but in Kenta Maeda’s case, not many details can be found about these topics.
Worry not though because there is no doubt that this guy is a star in the baseball world. Although the details of his success are little to none, learning about all his statistics should be enough to make you believe that he was and is the real deal. He was born on April 11 in the year of 1988, as stated earlier, not much about his high school days were spoken off. Despite this fact, he was still drafted out of the PL Gakuen Senior High School in the year of 2006 and he hasn’t turned back since then.
He joined the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Japan’s NPB and fulfilled his fantasy to be a pro as he further honed his skills in the game. The Hiroshima Toyo Carp organization may not have been the biggest or most successful franchise in the NPB but it is still one of the more formidable and well-known teams in the NPB. For those who do not know, this organization is actually related to Mazda because it is owned by Hajime Matsuda, who is a direct descendant of the founder of the Mazda Company itself, Mister Jujiro Matsuda.
After a couple of years playing in the NPB, Kenta Maeda pursued success in his love life as well as he tied the knot with his long-time girlfriend at the time, Ms. Saho Narushima. A lot of people knew about their relationship because both of them were celebrities in Japan. Kenta was known for his professional status in the NPB while Saho was known for her career as a TV reporter. They got married in the year of 2012 and there was a pattern people noticed because the audience that made up their wedding were also couples who were TV reporters and professional baseball players.
A fact that stats will never show you about Kenta Maeda is that he respects his wife above all else. Any husband can easily say this about their wife but he proved it when he got to the MLB. You see, he started in his first game when he got to the MLB and in the post-game interviews, he openly stated that he valued his wife’s congratulations above every else who gave it. He meant no disrespect to those who wished him well and a job well done. He merely wanted to put his wife on a pedestal because he knew that before any of the fame was there, it was just him and her supporting each other to be better in their respective fields.
Kenta Maeda and His Contracts as a Professional Baseball Player
Going back to his baseball life and career, he stayed with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp for his entire career in the NPB. He got drafted in the year of 2007 but since he came straight from high school, his coaches decided to develop him a bit more by easing him into the NPB and letting him play for the Carp’s secondary team. He immediately proved that he was ready and a year after that, particularly on April 5 in the year of 2008, he made his first official professional debut.
His career was made up of highs and lows but overall, he was a solid player. He played as the starting pitcher for their team and he started off his NPB career with a season wherein he posted a 9-2 win-loss record. He accompanied this winning record with an earned run average or ERA of 3.20 which was fairly good considering that he was a rookie. He played a total of 19 games that season in which he started in 18 of them. If you aren’t familiar with the line-up changes in baseball, it would be useful to know that it’s not like basketball or soccer wherein the starters find it offensive to be moved to the bench after gaining the role of starter. Arms get worn out easily in the game of baseball considering how hard and often they have to throw so to preserve their ace players, the teams intentionally do not play or start their best players in each and every game.
He slumped a bit in his sophomore year but that is okay because that really is what tends to happen to a player when certain defenses and strategies are put into play to adjust to what you bring to the game. In his third year, he would show the people that he too can adjust to the teams adjusting for him and he did so by playing his best season yet. In 2010, he had a win-loss record of 15-8 and he accompanied this landslide of a record with stats like 174 strikeouts in 28 starts as well as an ERA of 2.21. His dominant performance in this particular season won him awards like being an NPB All-Star, a Best Nine Award, a Golden Glove Award, and the Eiji Sawamura Award which is given to the best pitcher in the league.
His stats would fluctuate in the seasons that followed that but right before he got drafted into the MLB, in the year of 2015, he would give the Hiroshima Toyo Carp organization a season that they would never forget. In his last season in the NPB, he once again put up enough of an effort for his team to hold a win-loss record of 15-8. He further lowered his ERA to 2.09 that year as well. Those were great achievements but it was nothing compared to the Triple Crown Award he earned that season as well. The Triple Crown award is given only to a player that led the league in 3 major statistics which are namely batting average, home runs, and RBIs. This made Kenta the youngest pitcher in Japanese baseball history to ever obtain such an honor and award.
This success made it easy for MLB teams to see his worth and, luckily, the Carp chose the perfect timing to make him available to teams in the MLB. Within two weeks of negotiations, on January 7, 2016, Maeda official joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as he signed an eight-year, $25 million contract with them. This deal also included bonuses and incentives that could possibly raise his income by $10 million easily but if you do the math and considering that Kenta is able to maximize the incentives of his deal, he could potentially be earning $90 million per year. All that money was just for Kenta and the LA Dodgers certainly paid a lot more than to get Kenta because of all the other fees like the $20 million posting fee that they gave to the Hiroshima Carp.
He didn’t waste any time to prove that he was worth the money because, in his rookie season, he would already contribute tremendously to the success of his team that year. He wasn’t rattled to be in the MLB because certain international competitions gave him a chance to test himself against the best that the MLB can offer and he didn’t do badly at all. Others may be discouraged by just doing mediocre in that situation but Kenta saw it a positive because he knew he was young and that he still had a long way to go.
With this said, by the time he actually played in the MLB, he was mentally ready for it and it showed immediately in his first game as a pro there. On April 6, 2016, he debuted in a game wherein he pitched six shutout innings against the San Diego Padres. These shutout innings included his first ever strikeout which was against Andrew Cashner, who was a starter for the Padres. It would also coincidentally be a pitch by Andrew Cashner that Kenta would record his first ever home run and his first hit in the major leagues. It was an amazing start to his career and it propelled him to start 32 times with the LA Dodgers which giving the team a 16-11 win-loss record. His ERA increased to 3.48 that year but despite this, he was still selected by the Baseball America to be a part of the all-rookie team. He finished 3rd in voting for the NLRotY or the National League Rookie of the Year which was a great honor on its own already.
How Kenta Maeda Is Doing in 2018 and the New Projections
Just like how his opponents adjusted to playing against him in his sophomore year in the NPB, his opponents did the same for his 2nd year in the MLB. It made him struggle throughout the start of the 2017 season, specifically during the months of April to May. During these months, he would put up a horrible ERA of 5.16 and this obviously didn’t cut it with the team management. They took him out of the rotation and tried to play him as a relief pitcher instead.
Considering how things went down, any other starter would probably lose the confidence in himself because he was thrown out of the line-up due to his poor play. Fortunately, in the case of Kenta, being taken out of the rotation gave him time to re-evaluate himself. He was once again tested and again, he found a way to make it work in favor of him. On June 9th, in the 2017 season, he subbed into the game as a relief pitcher. He pitched 3 innings and ended up recording his first ever career save.
The coaches noticed the change in his demeanor and play in the game so by June 18, he was already back into the rotation and he was killing it once again. In that particular game, he only allowed one run on 3 hits within 5 innings. He would be sent back into the bullpen after this performance but it wasn’t because the coaches weren’t pleased but because the Dodgers have too many starting pitchers at the time. From the time he returned to the rotation on June 18 until August 25th of that season, he played well enough to give his team an 8-2 win-loss record accompanied by an ERA of 2.7, which was practically half of his worst ERA so far at this point. In other words, he improved his play tremendously and he thanked the new mentality towards the game for the new impact he brought to their team.
Since that time, the Dodgers have found a way to utilize the revitalized play of Kenta Maeda. He would continue to give the team what they needed as he continued to be their starting pitcher during the regular season while doing some relief duty to preserve him a bit. By the time the post-season came, his role in the team would change as he started to play completely as a relief pitcher, which suited him perfectly. It is for this reason that certain predictions about Kenta after the improvement have been highly positive.
You don’t have to be a fan of the NFL, MLB, or the NBA to know that this type of approach doesn’t work on all professional players. The incentives in their contracts grow in relation to their appearances and contributions on the field so for a player to cooperate and agree to potentially lessen the stats that he could be recording the way Kenta Maeda and the Dodgers are doing it is amazing. This was successful in his case because he is naturally a team player. He genuinely wants to win with his team now and that is why he understands the intention of his team to play for the win despite some financial losses on his part. Then again, if you are earning millions, you shouldn’t need much more money to live comfortably.
Kenta Maeda is still very young and has a long career ahead of him. His approach to the game makes a lot of people believe that the Dodgers will continue to do great because it is clear that they have the necessary role players with star skills that are willing to sacrifice personal gain for the gain of the entire organization. If you wish to watch Kenta and his LA Dodger, you can easily look up tickets for whenever you are available to catch them in the USA or even in other countries as they also do certain baseball matches abroad. To get the best price for the ticket though, you should check the prices daily to make sure that you are getting the best deal possible for you to get. It should be on the news anyway so keep yourself updated.