Skip to main content
Publish date:

Twins Daily: Kenta Maeda's timing couldn't be better

Parker Hageman digs into what makes Maeda so tough to hit.

As long as the ball stays in the ballpark, Kenta Maeda’s outings can be really satisfying to watch.

Maeda oozes precision. His preparation -- the pre-game plyo workouts, the stretching, everything -- is performed succinctly. Prior to his warmup pitches, Maeda walked off three or four steps down the mound and marked the dirt where he wants to land. It is almost as if he is a pilot going through a pre-flight checklist.

He can be methodical but Maeda is far from a plodder. For instance, in the third inning during Sunday’s game at JetBlue, after the Twins went down quickly in order, where other pitchers might slow foot it to the mound, Maeda raced out, beating his entire team, and tossed the rosin bag until his catcher was ready. It is his time to pitch.

His delivery is fascinating to observe.

His style doesn’t have fluidity nor would his slow-mo be glamorized on PitchingNinja’s twitter feed -- but Maeda’s mechanics feel deliberate by design. Maeda presets his split-change grip, digging deep before engaging the rubber and looking for his sign. When ready, he will draw his left foot back and wait for a moment. Then he will raise his leg, pause for another beat and pump his hands multiple times at the peak of his balance point. Only then will he kick his front foot and initiate the most electric portion of his mechanics. The lower half just whips at hitters and the arm unfurls in kind.

Slow, slow, slow and explode.

Rocco Baldelli doesn’t want to outright say it but he believes there is some portion of Maeda’s delivery that interferes with a hitter’s timing.

“There are certain aspects of deliveries from some of the players that have come from Japan, some of the hesitations and some of the timing mechanisms and things like that,” Baldelli said. “Do I know if all of them lead to some sort of deception? I can’t tell you that for a fact but I bet there’s something to it.”

There may be a psychological benefit from this approach. Whereas most pitchers flow through their delivery, giving hitters a reliable timing mechanism, Maeda’s sputtering technique encourages opponents to second guess themselves even before the pitch is delivered. It’s hard not to. His fastballs’ velocities -- a four-seamer, two-seam and cutter -- fluctuate like the weather in Minnesota in March. He will show 90 and run it up to 93. He’ll back some off to 89. The two-seamer will run, the four-seam will carry and the cutter will cut. No two fastballs are alike.

“I’m not a pitcher who can throw 100 mile per hour heaters so I try to use all of my pitches to get strikeouts,” Maeda said through his translator. “That’s who I am as a pitcher.”

It was almost a nod to Brusdar Graterol, the player whom the Twins sent to Los Angeles and has been lighting up spring training scoreboards with his triple digits. Maeda knows he doesn’t have the raw stuff that Graterol has and needs to employ other tactics to get swinging strikes.

“All his pitches” includes a darting slider and his falling split-change. It was the latter pitch that Maeda ramped his usage of, which he perfected in 2018 after discovering the new grip. His previous changeup had tunneled well off of his fastball but the split grip effectively killed 300 RPMs of spin and gave him six inches of vertical drop. It now looked like a fastball out of his hand that fell off the face of the earth. The results were a spike in swinging strikes.

The swinging strikes were on display on Sunday for Maeda and how he operated impressed his new manager. On this afternoon against the Red Sox, he was both economical and surgical. In four innings, he needed just 44 pitches to render the Boston lineup scoreless and threw 77 percent for strikes. Red Sox hitters swung wildly at his split-changes and sliders. Any contact would be classified as weak.

“You really get to see a tremendous version of Kenta out there,” said Baldelli following his outing. “You watch how he attacked all hitters but you watch how he attacks some of these really good right-handed hitters and he can really compete against those guys pretty well.”

Maeda was satisfied with his spring performance too. He considered his delivery -- the timing mechanism-messing pauses -- in sync. It was, according to him, the best so far and the fact that he didn’t give up a home run he said with a smile, made it even better

This story first appeared at Twins Daily and was re-shared through a collaboration with Bring Me The News

Next Up

Kirill Kaprizov

Kirill Kaprizov's slow start is a thing of the past

A potential sophomore slump has been erased with a three-point night against the Devils..

mpd aldi incident screengrab

Video shows MPD officer grab, throw Aldi customer

The department says the matter was referred to the Office of Police Conduct Review.

US Sec Defense Flickr - Joe Bide Nov 11 2021

Biden lays out wintertime plan to curb COVID's spread

It comes as the U.S. reported its second case of the omicron variant.

Willow River DOC

MN Dept. of Corrections offering $5K bonuses as it seeks to hire 200

The DOC is offering hiring bonuses for new employees and for referrals.


3rd federal medical team to join COVID-19 fight in Minnesota

There are more than 1,500 people with COVID-19 admitted to Minnesota hospitals.

hospital, emergency room

Driver killed after other motorist crosses into opposite lane

The head-on crash occurred early Thursday, just north of the Twin Cities.

shot clock

MSHSL approves shot clock for Minnesota varsity basketball

Shot clocks will be required at all varsity games beginning in 2023-24.

Redmons Popcorn Colbert screengrab

Popcorn shop featured on 'The Late Show' has to close 2 days later

A county inspection after the national TV appearance found code violations.


Kenta Maeda

Twin Daily: Kenta Maeda is everything the Twins needed

The ace the Twins have been searching for.


Twins pitching coach gave local media a homework assignment

Wes Johnson asked, Twins Daily's Parker Hageman answered.

Kenta Maeda

Twins' Kenta Maeda asked for a trade out of Los Angeles

The newest Twins starter would like to push for 200 career wins.

Kenta Maeda

How Kenta Maeda could be very good for the Twins

The Twins snuck into a blockbuster deal and upgraded their "win-now" rotation.

Luis Arraez

Twins Daily: Four days, Day 0: Business as usual

Parker Hageman takes you through the surreal days that led up to MLB postponing the start of the regular season.

Kenta Maeda

Who has the edge in Game 1: Kenta Maeda or Zack Greinke?

Maeda has a ton of playoff experience, but most of it as a reliever.

Stephen Strasburg

Spending the Twins' starting rotation tab

How would Zack Wheeler or Stephen Strasburg look in a Twins uniform?