Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, the creature of habit
By Hector Ponce
The Dodgers and us, the fans, are spoiled with the greatness of Clayton Kershaw. He is without a doubt the best pitcher in baseball and may go down as the G.O.A.T. In fact, we are so spoiled that even when Kershaw is “struggling” like he is this season, he is still putting up MLB-leading numbers.
Thus far in the season, Dodgers‘ Clayton Kershaw has been good but as the great Vin Scully once said, “Good is not good when better is expected.” Clayton has struggled this season compared to the Clayton that we are used to seeing. Last season, through the first two months, Kersh was 7-1 with a 1.56 ERA and 105 strikeouts. This season he was 7-2 with a 2.37 ERA and 78 strikeouts through the first two months.
His numbers this season are good and even All-Star worthy, but aren’t the record-breaking statistics that number 22 is used to putting up. Since his rise to fame in 2011, Clayton has compiled year after year of unreal numbers. Every year seems as though he couldn’t get any better, yet he tops himself the following season. The beginning of this season seems as though he has finally stopped his rise.
Well, for the best pitcher in baseball, is it finally time for other pitchers like Max Scherzer and Chris Sale to finally catch up to Clayton Kershaw? The answer to that question is a swift NO. Kershaw is still and will continue to be the best pitcher in baseball for years to come. Many see this season as Clayton coming down to earth at last. But that just is not the case.
There is one simple explanation for Clayton Kershaw not blowing the competition out of the water as usual. That reason is routine. Humans are creatures of habit. For those who doubt that Kershaw is human well, he is, and although his numbers and demeanor don’t point towards him being human, his routine proves that he is.
Just like any of us, Clayton Kershaw wakes up and has a routine every single day. On days in which he starts, that routine is as important as ever to him. If he gets thrown off from his usual routine, then we may get a Clayton who is thrown off from his game.
This was even more evident in a start he made earlier this season against the Colorado Rockies. The game was set to begin at 7:10 PM but Rockies starter Tyler Anderson walked from the bullpen to the dugout right before the game was about to get under way. Clayton’s routine can get thrown
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off even by the slightest of minutes and we may not get the regular ace. He went on to walk the leadoff batter and starting off the game bumpy before settling down.
Clayton told ESPN writer Doug Padilla “I really didn’t appreciate that…. The game starts at 7:10 and has started at 7:10 here for a long time. Just go around, or finish earlier. But yeah, that wasn’t appreciated, for sure.” This shows how Clayton is so used to the games starting at 7:10 and that’s how he prepares.
Clayton is a professional and should be able to make the adjustments necessary for different times for his starts. But to say that he should be completely unbothered by time changes would be absurd. All of us have a routine, and for Clayton, that routine seems more important than ever. Knowing when and what time to start his routine could take some adjusting considering he is used to playing games at 7:10 p.m. Pacific time.
With the Dodgers starting the season on road trips, back and forth from east coast to the west coast, it may take Clayton sometime before he can get his groove back. With a variety of starting times for the ace, he may look to struggle, especially during day games. It seems as if he is more prone to starting games off on a sour note if the game is early.
In an ESPN article by Buster Olney, AJ Ellis says: “His routine is so predictable, it’s as if he’s onstage, performing the same role again and again. He’s an amazing character actor, He flips on the character, and he does not break.” The article goes more in depth into his daily routine and shows how important that routine is.
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So for Clayton, it’s all about timing his routine. Once he gets his routine back to normal, he will be back to normal. Even with the fluctuating times for his starts, he will eventually get back to his video game numbers. Perhaps the absence of AJ Ellis threw him off his routine, but it is only a matter of time before the machine known as Clayton Kershaw gets everything back in order and becomes his dominant old self.