If you were looking for even more proof that Clayton Kershaw is a freak of nature as a starting pitcher in this league, look no further than a recent ESPN article that said he had two of the 25 best pitches, among starting pitchers, in baseball last season.
Kershaw throws three main pitches – a four-seam fastball, a slider, and a curveball. He also throws a change-up, but he’s really toned down his usage of that pitch over the years. Two of these pitches showed up on the list, though.
How ridiculous is Clayton Kershaw? He picked up the slider in spring training one year, and now it’s the third-best pitch in baseball. It’s probably set up by his excellent fastball (23rd on this list) and big curveball, and of course it’s helped by his pinpoint command. Still, what a weapon Kershaw has in that slider.
Kershaw’s slider ranks 3rd (4.8 Z-Score), and his fastball ranks 23rd (3.1 Z-Score).
The insane thing is that the dominant lefty records a 26 percent swinging strike rate on his slider alone. Only Carlos Carrasco’s slider (27 percent) and Danny Salazar’s change-up (27 percent) recorded a higher swinging strike rate among those Top 25 pitches.
In a world where a dominant pitch can be relied heavily upon to get you out of a jam, Kershaw features two: fastball and slider. When you mix it in with a really good curveball, you can see why he’s become so darn elite and been able to stay that way.
If you go off FanGraphs’ pitch value leaderboard for the year, you’d see that Kershaw had the #1 fastball, #9 slider, and #2 curveball. We’re talking about a pitcher featuring three iterations of a top ten specific pitch. Yeah, he’s good.