Maeda excels in transition to Major Leagues

Dodgers right-hander led NL rookie starters in six stats

Maeda excels in transition to Major Leagues

LOS ANGELES -- Kenta Maeda's case to be the Baseball Writers' Association of America National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winner is blunted only by timing.

He just happened to cross the Pacific Ocean for the Major Leagues the same year that teammate Corey Seager became a rookie superstar.

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Setting aside the presence of Seager -- who is a finalist for the NL Most Valuable Player Award as well as ROY -- take a look at what Maeda did in his first season with the Dodgers.

He went 16-11 with a 3.48 ERA in 32 starts and 175 2/3 innings. That not only made him the team leader in wins, starts and innings pitched, but it was the best season for a Dodgers rookie starter since another Japanese ace, Hideo Nomo, was the 1995 ROY. The only Dodgers rookie with more wins was Rick Sutcliffe with 17 in 1979, when he was ROY.

Maeda led NL rookie starters in wins, starts, WHIP, innings pitched, strikeout-to-walk ratio and opponents' batting average.

Maeda joined Herb Score (1955), Dwight Gooden (1984) and Yu Darvish (2012) as the only rookie pitchers to win 16 or more games and strike out at least 25 percent of the batters they faced.

The 28-year-old right-hander did all this even though he did not pass his pre-signing physical exam, defying medical concerns over his elbow and shoulder that resulted in an incentive-laden eight-year contract.

"You know, he's a guy that you talk about the medical, when we signed him, and you know, the uncertainty of how much -- how many innings he could give us this season, and he's been the one stalwart in the rotation," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "He's probably 165 pounds dripping wet, but this guy is the ultimate competitor, he really is. So to give us that consistency every fifth, sixth or seventh day, whatever he's given us, really has been huge.

"Kenta is a great human and a great competitor. And you know, I think that you look at the season that he had, and what a special season it was, and to go through the adjustments that he had to make for himself on the baseball side, the family. There's a lot of things that we really can't appreciate, the adjustment that he's had to make on travel and learning where things are at and really making sure his family is OK, and also adjusting to the schedule and the usage, the workload."

The last time a club had players finish first and second in ROY voting in the same year was Atlanta in 2011, with Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman. Washington's Trea Turner is the third finalist for this year's award.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.