Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw’s Playoff Legacy is on the Line
By Brook Smith
The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw is no doubt one of the all-time greats in baseball. In 2017, he will look to break the story line of inconsistency that has haunted him in the postseason.
With his regular season numbers he has put up over ten seasons of work, it’s easy to put him up with the likes of Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, and any of Hall of Fame pitchers. But for all of the superb and near pristine numbers he’s put up in the regular season, there’s a chance that Kershaw will be most remembered for how he has pitched in October.
Looking at the numbers, Kershaw has been ridiculous when it comes to the regular season. In 10 seasons at the big league level, Kershaw owns a career 2.34 earned run average. That puts him 21st on the all-time list for best ERA. To put it in perspective, there isn’t another active player who even ranks in the top 150 for career ERA. Kershaw also ranks 2nd in career WHIP, just 0.029 points more than the all-time leader Addie Joss.
Clayton is known as a strikeout pitcher; he has averaged over 208 strikeouts per seasons. In 2015 he struck out 301 batters, to go with a 2.13 earned run average in that season. That campaign earned him the Cy Young and MVP award in 2014, an accomplishment that has only occurred 10 times in history.
And yet despite all of those fantastic numbers he’s put up, Kershaw has yet to dominate in a post season game. His best game in the playoffs came last year when he faced the Cubs in the Championship Series. In that game, Kershaw tossed 7 shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out 6 in a game the Dodgers would go on to win 1-0. His worst game came in 2014 when he faced St. Louis and gave up 8 earned runs over 6.2 innings. A game that Kershaw was well in control of before the wheels falling off in the later innings.
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His career postseason earned run average now sits as 4.55, a far cry from his dominant career numbers. He has allowed a .229 batting average in October, which is up 25 points from his regular season average. That number doesn’t seem like it should create a difference of 2.21 earned runs per nine innings, but it has. Surprisingly his WHIP is only up .16 from his average of 1.00, so it seems like he just has more bad luck than anything in the playoffs.
No matter what the excuse is, it will never be good enough for Kershaw, the perfectionist. There is no doubt that he is out to prove a point this season and to silence the narrative. There isn’t a desperate need to rush him back from his injury, especially since there will only be about 30 games remaining upon his return. He could get up to 6 starts out of that, but the team should limit him to four starts, just to tune up for the post season. There is a big worry that they will rush him back too quickly and that he could unnecessarily aggravate his back right before the playoffs.
Regardless, Kershaw will need to perform this year. Looking at the team that has done the most damage, the Cardinals just seem to have Kershaw’s number in general. His regular season numbers against them are average, with a 3.00 era and 6-5 record against them in his career. If you were to take out all of his starts against St. Louis, his playoff stats are actually decent. Without those stats, he has a 3.77 ERA and struck out 73 in 60 innings of work. Still not good enough by the Kershaw standard, but look for him to really amp it up come this October.