It was only fair to expect a slight drop-off from Kenta Maeda in 2021.
The right-hander put forth a career performance in his previous season, posting an MLB-best 0.750 WHIP across 11 starts and finishing second in Cy Young voting. But with the return of a typical 162-game campaign, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see Maeda’s numbers right-sizing closer to his career averages.
Instead, they went past that and got far worse. Maeda’s ERA, FIP and WHIP have never been higher than they were in 2021, a season that concluded in September after an elbow injury sent him under the knife for Tommy John surgery.
Maeda’s struggles from last season were jarring after what he did in 2020, but they appear to be rooted in his fastball. It’s a pitch that was sparkling for Maeda during the previous season, and one that fell apart in epic fashion last summer.