Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw Adds to Legacy by Exemplifying Home-Field Advantage

Clayton Kershaw is the proud owner of numerous remarkable MLB streaks and accomplishments. Just when you thought he couldn’t anymore, he added on to that group of achievements and to his own growing legend.

There just aren’t enough superlatives to describe just how great Clayton Kershaw truly is. The Dodgers’ ace has four ERA titles, three CY Youngs (should be four), an NL MVP, a 300-strikeout season, six straight games with 10 strikeouts and no more than one walk, a 41-inning scoreless streak, and many others.

This is the same guy, who just last May, pitched one of the greatest months a pitcher will ever throw. He went 5-0 in six starts, compiled a 0.91 ERA, 0.53 WHIP, and an unimaginable 65:2 K:BB ratio. He had more hits as a batter (3) and complete games (3) than walks allowed (2) that month. Just let that sink in.

One way to soak in his greatness is to look at how he dominates the opposition at home in Chavez Ravine. Believe it or not, he was working on breaking another franchise record during his last start. Going into Wednesday’s home game against the Rockies, the Dodgers had won 10 straight games at Dodger Stadium in which Clayton Kershaw had started. That was tied for the record that he himself set back in 2011-2012.

Los Angeles Dodgers

April 14, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) watches game action against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, he made it 11 straight, with a start where he went seven strong innings and gave up two earned-runs, five hits, and one walk, while striking out 10 batters. He did not have his best stuff that night but was still able to put forth an elite performance and will a team on a three-game losing-streak to a win. Even on an off night, the Dodgers’ southpaw is probably better than 85% of all other starters.

In his 140 home games, the Dodgers’ ace has a career 1.98 ERA (the lowest for a pitcher since 1913), 0.95 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, .536 OPS against, and .240 wOBA. He’s been downright dominant at home, a level of excellence other current pitchers can hardly fathom.

Just when we thought he couldn’t be any better, he proves us wrong.

Hitters have also hit just .136 against him in those 11 starts. But, the thing that stands out to me the most is his K:BB ratio. His control is truly remarkable, and unmatched. It’s to the point where whenever he walks a batter, it becomes actual news.

Great teams are supposed to comfortably beat the teams they’re supposed to, and the same can be said of pitchers. Clayton Kershaw is taking care of business when and where he’s supposed to, at home, and then some. His home starts have become must-watch television because he truly embodies the concept of home-field advantage.

Bill Plunkett of the OC Register was able get Kershaw’s take on his recent home dominance:

“I think it’s just combining all the factors,” Kershaw said by way of explaining his dominance at home. “Obviously this is a place that’s home so you’re comfortable here. You know what to expect. That’s the beauty of pitching in L.A., right? It’s perfect weather all the time. Perfect mound. Just kind of a perfect storm of a situation.

“You would hope that you do pitch well at your home park. It just so happens that mine’s probably the best place to pitch in baseball.”

Not to say he can’t pitch away from home. He wouldn’t be widely recognized as the best pitcher in baseball if that was the case. His game just goes to another stratosphere when in Los Angeles. It helps that Dodger Stadium is a bit of a pitcher’s park, but it’s not as big a factor as many of his doubters would argue.

If it was, then why hasn’t any other pitcher (Dodger or visitor) come close to matching Kershaw’s mastery? This is the same franchise that has seen the likes of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdayle, Don Sutton, Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela, and even Zack Greinke for that matter (among others), don the Dodger Blue. You can even argue that the lefty’s production partially aids in the perception of Chavez Ravine being a pitcher’s park because of how he skews the stadium’s numbers.

The park definitely leans towards the pitchers’ side, but it’s not more pitcher-friendly than the likes of Citi Field in New York, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Petco Park in San Diego, Safeco Field in Seattle, or PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Safeco Field, Citi Field, Petco Park, and AT&T Park are more pitcher-friendly than Dodger Stadium and have seen their fair share of aces (Madison Bumgarner, Felix Hernandez, Johhny Cueto, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Jake Peavy, among others), but not even they have put up the elite numbers Los Angeles’ very own ace has.

Matthew Daly wrote about Kershaw’s Hall of Fame path a few weeks ago, and there’s no doubt that if he puts in a few more “Kershaw-esque” seasons, he’ll be a lock for Cooperstown.

It seems that we are taking for granted the generational arm we have been witnessing for almost a decade (I’ve been guilty of it). Thus we should start appreciating, more and more, how lucky we are to have a player of Clayton Kershaw’s caliber.

In the last six or seven years, two of the most “must-see” events in Los Angeles have been a Lakers’ home game at Staples Center with Kobe Bryant and a Clayton Kershaw home start. In a city that loves its shows and performances, he’s a true spectacle.