The Dodgers will have the services of Clayton Kershaw for the next three seasons due to the extension he signed in the off-season. While he looks to work with decreased velocity he will also need to find a way to conquer left-handed hitters.
When Dodgers’ fans think of Clayton Kershaw and the 2019 season, the two things that stick in the back of their minds are his decreased velocity and his history of postseason failures. Clayton will look to change both of those in 2019, but another thing he will need to do is minimize the damage done by left-handed hitters.
When that nightmare highlight reel of playoff home runs given up by Kershaw plays, two of the biggest home runs were off the bats of the left-handed Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter. This past postseason, Kershaw even gave up a home run to a left-handed pitcher in the National League Championship Series.
This past season, left-handed batters slugged .412 against Kershaw compared to a .353 slugging percentage allowed to right-handed hitters. In 2017, lefties slugged even better against him with a .459 slugging percentage compared to the .331 slugging percentage he allowed to right-handed hitters.
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For his entire career, the split in his slugging percentage allowed is only seven points so this has become more of a problem as his velocity has dipped. Kershaw’s curveball and slider have been enough to keep right-handed batters in better check but against lefties, he has hung a few sliders during big moments of the postseason.
The Athletic’s Pedro Moura reported that Kershaw is working on improving his slider to better attack lefties so hopefully Kershaw can keep the damage done by left-handed hitters to a minimum in 2019. Especially with his fastball velocity unlikely to ever dip back into the mid 90’s, Clayton is going to need to find different ways to attack lefties and keep them from doing damage.
The 2019 season is going to be a big one for Clayton Kershaw and unlike any other season he has ever pitched in. After signing a lucrative extension, for the first time since his rookie season, he might feel the need to perform even better and justify the Dodgers’ investment into extending his Dodger tenure.
If there is one thing I wouldn’t do it is to bet against Kershaw and it wouldn’t be surprising if he adds a new wrinkle to his arsenal in 2019 and continues to be one of the elite starting pitchers in the game.