At this point, it’s undisputed Dodgers’ fans, and I hate to say it, but it’s the truth. Clayton Kershaw gives up home runs.
It’s Kershaw’s major flaw. Say what you will about his second-half resurgence and about how this low-Velo Kersh has resurrected his career thanks to pure guile and nasty cutters and curves. No matter how you slice it, Kershaw’s home run problem hurts.
The three solo shots that led to a 5–1 loss to the New York Yankees on Sunday night stung. Aaron Judge’s third of the series stung. They all stung. For starters, that’s how opposing fans feel after each and every one of the Dodgers’ National League-leading 227 home runs. Hitting homers is fun, but watching them fly while on the field along with a chorus of fretful murmurs feels exactly how you’d imagine. It stings.
But Kershaw hasn’t always had this homerun affliction. It had never been a real tangible issue for Kershaw until the 2017 season. And even then, the average fan would not have been aware of much based on his season-long stat line (18-4 record with a 2.31 ERA). It wasn’t until the 2017 postseason that Kershaw’s home run problem became a national story, a narrative so tantalizing, Joe Buck even had the chance to discuss it in the World Series.
In the 2017 postseason, Kershaw allowed a postseason career-high 8 home runs, more than double his previous postseason career-high. And if one had been paying attention in the regular season, they would have likely noticed the general uptick in home runs allowed, as he surrendered more than 20 regular season homers for the first time in his career that season.
Last season, the overall numbers worsened even as the home runs allowed total fell back down closer to his prime levels. And even then, 9 of the 2018 home runs came in the second half. Now, in 2019, the home run scare is back. After the three solo shots allowed Sunday night, Kershaw has allowed 18 home runs.
Why? How? Hasn’t he been better than ever in 2019, or at least better than he has been since the back injuries started sidelining him, or since the velocity went down a few noticeable ticks?