Kenta Maeda Heads to The Motor City

On Sunday, Kenta Maeda agreed to a two-year contract with the Tigers, after a three year stint with the Twins. After missing all of 2022 recovering from TJ surgery, he returned this year to post some solid skills. Unfortunately, a triceps injury cost him nearly two months, limiting him to just 104.1 innings. Now on his third MLB team since debuting in 2016, how will the home park switch affect his results? Let’s consult the park factors to find out.

Park Factor Comparison
Park (Team) 1B 2B 3B HR SO BB GB FB LD IFFB FIP Basic
Target Field (Twins) 99 105 97 97 101 102 99 101 98 103 99 99
Comerica Park (Tigers) 102 100 139 95 98 102 100 102 103 107 99 100

Woah, talk about two relatively similar ballparks! From a quick glance, it would seem that the park switch isn’t going to have much of an impact. But let’s dive into the individual factors to see if perhaps the shape of his performance might change.

We’ll start with the hit type factors, where we find Comerica slightly inflate singles, while Target actually slightly suppressed them. Since this is the most frequent hit type, it has the largest effect on BABIP. Maeda sports a better than league average .281 BABIP over his career, but has posted marks above his career average over the last two seasons, including an inflated .316 mark in 2021. He became an extreme fly ball pitcher this year, so depending on where his batted ball distribution lands, his BABIP could go either way next season. Moving to Comerica isn’t a positive for his singles against rate, but I think other factors will play a stronger role.

Comerica is neutral for doubles, but that’s significantly better than Target was. That could help reduce the extra-base hits he allows. On the other hand, Comerica is the best park in baseball for triples. Good thing they aren’t very frequent! Even with the significant gap in triples factor, Comerica is a better park for slugging percentage against. This is especially true when moving over to home run factors. Both parks actually suppress the longball, but Comerica does so even more as one of the most difficult parks in baseball to homer in.

Maeda sports a career HR/FB rate above the league average and has never posted a mark below 11.4%. He has generally been a bit worse than the league at keeping his flies in the park, with occasional years where the mark has spiked. Moving to a slightly better home run park is obviously good, but since he wasn’t great in the metric even while pitching for the Twins, the move probably won’t have a major impact. The good news is that he didn’t move to a significantly worse park for home runs!

Let’s now move on to the strikeout and walk factors. For pitchers, we want to see a higher strikeout factor, but Comerica actually suppressed strikeouts, while Target slightly increased them. Maeda’s strikeout rate rebounded nicely this year after dipping to a career worst in 2021, but his CSW% was only slightly higher, so I wouldn’t bet on this rebound level being maintained. The move to Comerica could make it even tougher to repeat.

Next up is batted ball type factors, which are very similar for both ground balls and fly balls. We want a park that sports a lower line drive factor, but Comerica actually inflates the highest BABIP hit type, while Target suppresses them. On the other hand, Comerica sported the third highest IFFB factor in baseball this year, but it’s not a significant upgrade compared to Target, which itself ranked tied for 7th. As a reminder, these batted ball type effects should already be accounted for in the hit types.

Finally, we end up at FIP and Basic. For all the differences between individual factors, we find identical FIP factors and Basic factors only off by one! So overall, Maeda’s new park should be slightly worse for his BABIP and strikeout rate, but slightly better for his HR/FB rate. All in all, there shouldn’t be much of an impact on his overall results, or fantasy value. More important is his surrounding cast, including his defensive support and the offense behind him trying to earn him wins.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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