Since being drafted, Clayton Kershaw has become a Dodgers’ legend. However, his playoff struggles have left many conflicted on his legendary status. If Kershaw wants to build on his Hall of Fame legacy, he will need to eventually lead this team to a World Series.
As we all know, Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw is widely regarded as the best pitcher in baseball. Some see him and dream about him going down as the greatest of all time (guilty). Just the other day, Matthew highlighted Kershaw’s Hall of Fame journey, and how he stacks up against other Hall of Famers. As Kershaw pitches this season, he will look to improve upon his resume, which is insane to even fathom considering his accolades to date.
Every season he amazes us, and this season he’s on a mission to take his game to an even higher level. I know that sounds crazy because of what we have seen from him already, but it’s not as if he hasn’t amazed us before. Kershaw is a perfectionist so he is never satisfied with his work, which is how he seems to get better each year. Former Dodgers’ catcher A.J. Ellis gave us an idea of what it was like preparing with Kershaw before a start:
“Three fastballs when I’m standing up. I sit, and three fastballs down the middle. Then three fastballs either side. Three changeups away. Fastball inside. Three curveballs to the middle. Fastball inside. Three sliders to the middle. Then he goes to the stretch position. Two fastballs inside, two fastballs away, two changeups, one fastball inside, two curveballs, one fastball inside, two sliders. Back to the windup, and one fastball inside, one fastball away. Thirty-four pitches in all”.
Don’t be surprised if Clayton has another CY Young winning, 300-strikeout season. I have very high expectations for Kershaw in 2017 and couldn’t imagine him not meeting them
Now, I could go on and on about how great Kershaw is, but for the most part, we already know. We are all aware of his CY Young winning seasons, his MVP-winning season, his 300-strikeout season, his no-hitter, his ping-pong skills, etc. What we don’t know is what 2017 has in store for Clayton.
After suffering a herniated disc last season, Kershaw found himself on the shelf for about 10 weeks before rejoining the team. In his return, he helped the Dodgers get past the Washington Nationals in the 2016 NLDS. This year it seems as if he’s healthy, and will be looking to top the historic season he was having in 2016. He doesn’t have to be historic to lead this team, but it seems like he is every year.
Since we have had only two starts from Clayton this year, we can’t evaluate him too hard. On Opening Day he gave up one earned run on two hits in seven innings of work while striking out eight batters. On April 8th, Clayton faced the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, and went six innings, giving up four earned runs on three home runs. So, we’ve had the best of both worlds to begin the year, but I would bet my money that he resembles the pitcher we saw on Opening Day.
The biggest knock on Kershaw’s career has been his performance in the playoffs. He owns a career 5.12 ERA in 11 postseason starts, which doesn’t look pretty and only gets uglier the longer you look at it. However, Clayton got over the playoff struggles last year as he found his career defining moment. 48 hours after throwing 110 pitches in Game 4 of the NLDS, Kershaw asked to pitch in Game 5 to record the final two outs of the series.
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He proceeded to induce Daniel Murphy into a soft pop out and then struck out Wilmer Difo to clinch the series win. With that moment came some silencing of his critics, and hopefully some clarity in his mind. If the team finds themselves in the postseason this year, expect Kershaw to pitch like the true ace he is. A Kershaw-esque playoff run from the 29-year-old may just be the final ingredient this team needs to win it all.
Clayton Kershaw is a magnificent pitcher and deserves all the credit he has been awarded throughout his career. His lone fault has been his inability to lead the Dodgers to a World Series. Do I blame the man for not being a true ace in the playoffs? No, because when it comes down to it, Kershaw is going to give you the best shot to win games.
If Kershaw has truly gotten over his postseason woes, this team will need to rally behind their leader. At full strength, the Dodgers can stack up with the best of the best in the majors. If you have this team at full strength with Clayton Kershaw on the bump, they may be THE best team in the league.