Major League Baseball has taken steps toward becoming a truly global game in recent years. Cuban players have joined their Venezuelan, Dominican and other Latin American counterparts in making a significant impact on today’s game, and talent from the Far East, particularly from the Japanese and Korean Leagues, has made its presence felt as well.
This year’s most heralded Japanese rookie is Kenta Maeda, who signed a long-term deal with the Dodgers this past offseason. After concerns were raised following a medical examination, he signed a deal that was heavily discounted from the originally negotiated terms, paying him $25 million over an eight-year period. This put the Dodgers in a fantastic position: a low-risk, potentially high-reward scenario. One month in, the Dodgers simply have to be thrilled as Maeda’s posted a 3-1, 1.41 mark with a 28/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32 innings.
Sure, the season remains young, and the sample sizes are small, but it’s not too early to form some early hypotheses regarding whether Maeda is for real. Today, let’s use granular batted-ball data, examining his plate-appearance frequency and production by BIP type data, to see how Maeda is getting it done, and whether we can expect his success to continue moving forward. Read the rest of this entry »