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Kenta Maeda Has Made a Lot of Mistakes

Last week, you may have noticed that Kenta Maeda prominently featured in a Matthew Roberson article on this site, though probably not in the way he would have liked. He was the guy throwing the pitches that led to the “nearly 900 feet of home run” that Franmil Reyes hit. Maeda has been on the business end of a lot of home run highlights so far this year. He’s already given up seven of them after only surrendering nine last year in three times the number of innings pitched.

This is the same guy who finished second in AL Cy Young voting last season and allowed a stingy .219 wOBA (97th percentile). This year things are quite different, as Maeda carries a 6.56 ERA, a 6.16 FIP and a 4.19 xFIP through his first five starts. That 97th percentile wOBA from last season? Well it’s in the fourth percentile this season at .439. You might look at his elite walk rate of 4.5%, his swollen HR/FB rate of 26.9% and his soaring .372 BABIP and think that this is just a bit of bad luck. He’s not going to end the season having more than a quarter of his fly balls go for homers. But there’s more than just bad luck going on here. Maeda is getting hit extremely hard. He’s already allowed as many hard hits (95 mph or higher) in 2021 as he did all of last season and his xERA (the newest ERA estimator found here at FanGraphs, courtesy of Statcast) is 5.17.

So what’s going on? If you came into this article knowing anything about Maeda, it might be the fact that he has a great slider. According to our pitch values, it’s hard to find one better. Maeda’s was the sixth best slider in baseball from 2016-20. Here are his pitch values on his four main offerings throughout his career, with usage thrown in as well.

Kenta Maeda’s Pitch Values with Usage
Year Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup
2016 4.8 (42.9%) 19.1 (28.8%) -6.4 (17.9%) 4.4 (10.4%)
2017 3.9 (43.5%) 6.3 (25.0%) 0.6 (14.1%) -5.7 (9.0%)
2018 -2 (44.4%) 6.7 (27.5%) -5.8 (11.4%) 7 (15.2%)
2019 0.2 (37.4%) 19.0 (30.8%) 0.8 (7.3%) 4.3 (23.8%%)
2020 7.3 (25.9%) 5.8 (39.9%) 0.8 (3.4%) 7.8 (28.9%)
2021 -5.5 (29.9%) -7.3 (42.1%) 0 (3.7%) -0.9 (24.3%)

Over the years, he has become more reliant on his plus slider and this year is no different, as he’s throwing it at a career-high rate. But the pitch has betrayed him completely. All of his pitches have struggled, mind you, but because the slider has been his most consistent pitch throughout his career, I think it’s worth focusing on. Read the rest of this entry »

Fastball Freddy’s Fast New Windup

There are two things that jump out to me about Freddy Peralta’s start to the 2021 season. The first is that the man once known as Fastball Freddy is throwing said fastball at a career-low rate. The second is that he’s added some new moves into his windup that may be increasing his deception. Amidst all that change are some underlying command issues that suggest he still has things to work on.

Let’s start with his windup, which I’ve become absolutely fixated on. It’s not at all the windup I remembered him having, and I’m mesmerized by it.

Like an alarm clock going from a restful existence into a blaring beep that jiggles itself off the nightstand, Peralta has added some chaos to his delivery. What once was a fairly normal over-the-head windup and cross-body release has gotten more complicated. The leg kicks up higher, his feet are more caffeinated, and he starts in a more hunched position as if to make his over-the-head motion easier to attain. His new windup is nearly a half a second faster from start to release. And did I mention his feet? His feet!

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MLB The Show 21 Is Being Released to Its Widest Audience Ever

This is Luke’s first piece as a FanGraphs contributor. Luke has been a graphic designer in the golf industry for the last five years, though he’s never truly enjoyed that particular “swing at a ball” sport. Rather, it’s baseball that provides the proper amount of weirdness for him. Umpires ringing up hitters. Gold Glovers awkwardly squirming under wind-blown popups. Sluggers whiffing on 88 mph fastballs. That stuff is Luke’s wheelhouse, and he explores those interests on his site, The Pop Up Dance. He lives in Portland and is on a never ending quest to find the mythical Jeff Sullivan. You can purchase the new FanGraphs t-shirts he designed here.

For its entire 15-year history, MLB The Show has been exclusive to Sony consoles, from the PlayStation 2 up to the current era PlayStation 5. The reason for that is simple: Sony owns San Diego Studio, the creators of the game. But this year, a whole new group of gamers will be able to join in the digital action, as MLB The Show 21 will be released on Microsoft’s Xbox consoles for the first time; it’ll also be a part of the company’s subscription service with millions of active subscribers. This move allows for casual or new baseball fans to enjoy the acclaimed video game series without the barrier of it being full-priced. Increasing the accessibility of MLB The Show is a great way to get new fans interested in not just the video game, but the sport of baseball itself. There is a lot to parse here, so a little background should help us fully understand the baseball ramifications.

At the time, San Diego Studio was fairly small compared to some of the other sports video game studios, such as EA Sports (the makers of Madden and FIFA) and 2K Sports (NBA 2K). 2K Sports even had a licensed baseball game of their own that was released yearly on multiple consoles, including PlayStation.

San Diego Studio began releasing their MLB The Show series in 2006 to immediate praise. Focused on a revolutionary “Road To The Show” mode in which one could create a player and play their way up through the minors, MLB The Show quickly became the game that baseball fans wanted to have. Year after year it racked up high review scores for its polished and innovative releases — the funny commercials were just a bonus. San Diego Studio was making their rival obsolete.
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