Dodgers: 3 Factors That Could Make or Break 2018 Season

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 24: Cody Bellinger
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 24: Cody Bellinger /
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LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 01: Clayton Kershaw
LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 01: Clayton Kershaw /

Clayton Kershaw Cy Young?

It may have slipped a few minds, but Clayton Kershaw hasn’t won a Cy Young Award in three seasons. Yes, much of that has to do with his time missed due to injury, but it’s still bizarre. Kershaw put up solid numbers again in 2017, and finished second to Max Scherzer, who will probably regress in 2018 giving Kershaw a good shot at re-claiming the title. However, two things may stand in his way.

First, is his back. He’s missed extended time the past two seasons because of a back injuries (which has been noted to be unrelated). As he enters his age 30 season, there has to be concerns about whether a third time is not the charm, and he’ll have to undergo surgery that would effectively end his season. Kershaw’s funky delivery, though effective, may put a lot of stress on his back, which could affect his effort to stay healthy negatively. Luckily, Kershaw takes extremely good care of his body, which has minimized the damage so far.

The second is the spike in home runs he surrendered in 2017. Kershaw gave up a career high 23 home runs, at a rate of 1.2 per nine innings. Earlier in the season, hitters were teeing up his fastball. As the season progressed, no matter how Kershaw adjusted, if a hitter sat on just one of his pitches it would be for solid contact. It’s no secret that his slider had a tendency of flattening out occasionally. His fastball doesn’t have the late life or movement it did three years ago, and he’s relied less on his curve ball because he’s struggled locating it the last two seasons at least. He’s developed a cutter but it isn’t a swing and miss pitch and looks very similar to a flat slider.