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Morning Mound Visit: Kenta Maeda loses no-hitter in ninth

If only Eric Sogard could have hit the ball two feet lower.

Milwaukee Brewers v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Tuesday night, Kenta Maeda came three outs short of throwing the first no-hitter of his MLB career and the first no-hitter by a Minnesota Twin since Francisco Liriano no-hit the White Sox on May 3, 2011. Maeda’s no-no was ultimately broken up by a looping liner off the bat of Eric Sogard. Jorge Polanco, who was pulled over to the right of second base, got twisted around and couldn’t come down with it.

Instead, Maeda had to settle for 8+ innings of one-hit ball with 12 strikeouts and just two balls hit out of the infield. At one point, Maeda struck out eight-straight batters which is a Twins record.

Maeda leaned most heavily on his changeup and his slider compiling 20 swings and misses between the two pitches. In fact, Maeda has thrown those two pitches more than this fastball this year, and until Tuesday, he wasn’t getting as many whiffs as he used to. Before this outing, a fair hypothesis is that Maeda isn’t pitching in relief, so he’s not airing out his fastball and thus missing fewer bats. However, Tuesday night proved that Maeda doesn’t need the fastball to rack up strikeouts.

Though it wasn’t meant to be on Tuesday, Maeda’s outing was another reminder that Maeda never really deserved to bounce between the Dodgers’ rotation and their bullpen. The Dodgers have always had ridiculous rotation depth—Ross Stripling likewise hasn’t deserved his relegation to the ‘pen—but Maeda was routinely one of their five best starters.

Now that Maeda doesn’t have incentives built into his contract for how many games he starts, he’s free to pitch deep into games and this is what he can do.

Eno Sarris | The Athletic $: It’s one thing to throw a fastball with a high spin rate, but it’s quite another to throw one with high spin efficiency. Eno Sarris provides a great breakdown for why spin axis is crucial to making the most out of every rpm.

Jonathan Judge | Baseball Prospectus: We’re a third of the way through the season, but Mike Trout still isn’t atop any WAR leaderboards. This, of course, means that stats don’t matter yet, but when can we start relying on stats to weed out the noise? Other than when Trout takes the lead of course.

Jim Albert | Baseball with R: It’s common knowledge that hitters tend to do better when they are ahead in the count, but that isn’t true for everyone. Analyzing the effects of the count is tricky because what’s true for the group isn’t true for every individual but every individual generates so little data that it’s tough to analyze.