Clayton Kershaw’s Legacy Still Stands Supreme
By Scott Andes
In a little under an hour MLB will announce the winners of the Cy Young awards for both leagues. We’re all expecting for Clayton Kershaw to win his third National League Cy Young award since 2011. Of course he will win it, and deservedly so. He may even win the NL MVP on Thursday.
With all due respect to Johnny Cueto, and Adam Wainwright the other two pitchers nominated as Cy Young finalists, Kershaw reigned supreme during the 2014 regular season. Kershaw finished 2014 with a 21-3 record, 1.77 ERA, 239 whiffs, six complete games, a 0.86 WHIP, and his first career no-hitter thrown on June 18 against Colorado.
There is no question that Kershaw was the most dominant pitcher in all of Baseball this past season. But some people are starting to question his legacy because of his recent poor performances in the postseason. It’s a strange and terrible thing to be hearing people talk negatively about Kershaw in any way.
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After all, the guy is spectacular. He wins Cy Young awards nearly every season. He’s consistently the best pitcher in Baseball every year. He’s won four consecutive ERA titles. Not only that, but he plays every other aspect of the game at an excellent level. He hits well, he fields his position like a gold glover (He’s won a gold glove), and he has a terrific pick-off move.
He’s been a proven team leader, and builds orphanages for starving kids during the offseason. The guy is like superman. He does everything.
There is nothing that Kershaw can’t do. Well maybe except for winning a championship. But that shouldn’t blemish his career this early. Kershaw is only 26 years old. He has plenty of time to right the ship and find success in the playoffs.
People are making a big deal out of Kershaw losing twice to the Cardinals in the Division series this past October. But we all can forget that it’s a team loss. Everyone choked this season. Not just Kershaw.
Let’s not forget that the offense could only be bothered to score a grand total of three runs in the last two games of the NLDS against the Cardinals. The offense was very pathetically inconsistent all season despite appearing to put up decent numbers. They never scored when they needed to, and rarely ever came from behind in games.
And of course manager Don Mattingly’s blunders during the series didn’t help anything either.
But it’s not fair to Kershaw to place all of the blame on his shoulders. Kershaw hasn’t been that bad in the postseason. He’s had two bad games that have destroyed his stats. Yes I know he’s 0-4 against the Cardinals since 2013 in the postseason. Kershaw is 1-5 in the postseason with a career 5.12 ERA. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Can we go over his good postseason games?
2009 NLDS game 2- 6.2 IP 2 ER 9H 1 BB 4K- ND– Dodgers don’t score as usual. The club scores a whopping one run through the first eight innings versus Adam Wainwright in this game. The club comes from behind to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win, but Kershaw still didn’t get credited with a win. This was the Matt Holiday pop fly ball in the groin error game. Waive those rally towels!
2013 NLDS game 1 @ Atlanta- 7IP 1ER 3H 3BB 12K- 6-1 WIN– Kershaw opened the postseason for the Dodgers in 2013 in vintage form. He threw seven frames, and allowed just one earned run on three hits, and whiffed 12 Braves hitters. Somehow this is his only postseason win, and nearly forgotten.
2013 NLDS game 4- vs. Atlanta – 6 IP 0 ER 2 unearned runs 3H 1BB 6K-ND– The Dodgers eventually won this game later on thanks to Juan Uribe’s beautiful emotional series clinching two-run home run into the Dodger bullpen. However nobody remembers that Kershaw pitched very well coming off of just three days rest. The Dodgers were desperately trying to avoid a plane ride back to Atlanta for game 5. It seemed like Kershaw would do it. Unfortunately the offense could only muster two measly runs off of 39-year old reanimated corpse Freddy Garcia, and Adrian Gonzalez committed not one, but two costly bumbling annoying errors that allowed Atlanta to erase a 2-0 Dodger lead. Then Ronald Belisario blew the 2-2 tie in the top of the eighth. Thank god for Uribe. The Dodgers won, but nobody remembers the fact that Kershaw only gave up three hits in six frames.
2013 NLCS game 2 @ St. Louis – 6IP 1 Unearned measly run 2H 1BB 5K-1-0 loss– The devil Cardinals. God I can’t stand them. I’m sure Kershaw feels the same way. So Kershaw throws six frames, allows just two hits, and three base runners the entire game, and still somehow loses 1-0. This game was so painful it hurts just to think about it. The lone run scored in the sixth inning thanks to a double from David Freese, and then a passed ball from A.J. Ellis moved him to third. Of course it was a passed ball. After a strikeout, Jon Jay’s sacrifice fly to center scored the only run of the game. The Cardinals had just two hits in the entire game and the Dodgers still lost! The offense was unbelievably useless against Michael Wacha. Screw you Cardinals.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
2014 NLDS game 4 @ St. Louis – 6IP+ 3ER 4H 2BB 9K- 3-2 loss– Kershaw was coming off of three days rest for this game. And he was flawless for six innings. It wasn’t until the seventh inning that things unraveled. When did they not during that cursed inning? Kershaw whiffed nine, and walked just two while only allowing the three earned runs. Before Matt Adams soul-crushing home run, the two singles before him were not hard hit balls. One was a grounder that bounced out of Dee Gordon’s glove because he had cement in it the entire series. The next single just ticked off of Hanley’s glove. If Hanley leaps another six inches higher, the Dodgers might have won that game.
Let’s not forget that even though Kershaw allowed eight runs in the 10-9 game 1 loss, he still whiffed ten batters, and had only allowed two hits until that stupid seventh inning.
Maybe Kershaw was tired? Maybe Kershaw does stink in the playoffs? Although those good games above prove that he doesn’t. Or maybe the Cardinals just used a zone hitting approach and a great game strategy to out duel Kershaw?
Either way most of the blame should be placed squarely on the Dodger’s lousy offense, and poor clutch hitting. Let’s face it, the Dodger’s offensive club stunk in 2014. They piled on a lot of runs in blowout games this year which made their numbers look better than they really were. Again they never scored when the Dodgers truly needed them too, and rarely if ever came from behind late in games. Oh and the bullpen really stunk too.
Let’s recap here……
Pathetic underperforming offense that never scores late in games-Check
Bumbling inexperienced manager-Check
That’s why the Dodgers choked in the playoffs this season. It’s not all on Kershaw’s shoulders, and shouldn’t be. The Dodgers wouldn’t have even been there without him.
Many players go onto have success in the postseason later in their careers. Kershaw has plenty of time to create his own October legacy. Until that happens let’s just celebrate his incredible talent and be thankful we have such an amazing home grown ace to lead us to the playoffs every year. We have an ace who is putting up hall of fame numbers. Kershaw could be the greatest pitcher of our generation.
So let’s ease up on the Kershaw bashing ok? For everything he has accomplished, he deserves a break.