What should we as sports fans think of Clayton Kershaw? Is he not one of the best pitchers of all time? Let’s look into his resume. He won NL MVP in 2014, Pitching Triple Crown in 2011, Golden Glove in 2011, 3-time Cy Young award winner, 8 time all-star, and 5 ERA titles. He has a career 2.44 ERA, 169 wins in 347 games, and is averaging 7.10 strikeouts per game. Rogers Clemens had a career ERA of 3.12, 354 wins in 709 games and an average of 6.59 strikeouts per game. Even Garrett Cole, who will reportedly receive a 300 million dollar contract this year, has a career 3.22 ERA, 94 wins in 192 games, and is averaging 6.96 strikeouts per game. What could possibly be holding him back? Hosts Sharp and Shapiro discuss Kershaw’s performance in the post season on October 10th, 2019.
Shapiro asks Sharp,
“Why do you think Kershaw is not a choke? He is one of the worst post season performers, particularly in elimination games in the history of major league baseball, how is that not a choke? Sharp replies, “He’s had a lot of big games in the regular season. He is one of the best regular season pitchers ever. He’s definitely a Hall of Famer without question. I just think he has fatigue. His double clutch delivery creates fatigue”.
How bad can his post season pitching really be? The numbers are actually quite staggering. Kershaw has a 4.43 ERA in 32 games. He has never pitched a shutout, he has never played a complete game, and only has one save. He allows 4.06 hits per game and has given up 24 homeruns. In 2019 he had an ERA of 7.36. Elimination games are no better. In the last game of the 2018 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, Clayton Kershaw gave up 4 runs, 7 hits, and only had 5 strikeouts in 7 innings played. He famously did not start in game 7 of the 2017 World Series when the Dodgers were embarrassed after Yu Darvish game up 4 runs in 1.2 innings played.
Shapiro had this to say,
“How do you fire off back to back solo home runs and you look at those pitches (in the 2018 World Series). It’s not like you look at those pitches and say oh well it’s not a bad pitch he just hit it out of the park. When you look at the meatball he threw, I’m talking about the second pitch it’s right down the heart of the plate. You can’t do that”.
Kershaw started his post season career with a 4.50 ERA in 2008 and has only been under a 3.00 ERA in 4 of 16 series. There must be something to fatigue with his performance but at some point, the post season has become a mental thing for him. This is especially the case when your ERA is reaching numbers above 7. If Kershaw could keep his ERA closer to 3.5, I believe the Dodgers have at least 2 World Series. As he gets older and his back problems become worse the possibility of winning at the highest level becomes smaller. The Dodgers recently extended Kershaw through the 2021 season. I believe he will have another stellar season in 2020. There are no signs that he will slow down significantly in that aspect of his game. In the same breath, I cannot also endorse the idea that he will suddenly dominate the post season and lead his team to the World Series. That is a pretty rough reality for a team that posted a franchise record 106 wins in 2019. As we have all seen in baseball, teams can only go as far as their pitchers. Last year, we saw the two best bullpens face each other. This was especially ironic for “superstar” Bryce Harper when he saw the team he just left win the World Series. I am rooting for Kershaw to change his post season play. When he is at the top of his game, he can be one of the most entertaining players to watch in MLB. I just don’t see it happening.
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