Biggest Dodger Surprise: The Case for Clayton Kershaw

The little ace that keeps on ace-ing.

When Clayton Kershaw inked a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers in November of 2018, he spoke about the belief that he could regain some of his lost velocity.

I’m not counting that out. It very well could. I have some ideas on maybe what I can do to improve on that, because there’s a lot of guys who are older than me, there’s a lot of guys with more innings in the big leagues, that are still maintaining their velocity. There’s some things for me definitely to look into that; there’s some things for me to work on in the offseason. -Clayton Kershaw

Many felt if he could just regain some of his lost velocity, he could return to the elite level he was pitching at prior to his 2018 season. While Kershaw approached the offseason with that goal, it seems age has further regressed his velocity in 2019. The surprise with him this season though, is that despite the additional velocity dip, Kershaw has still pitched quite well.

Good, not “Vintage”, Kershaw

Though 15 games started Kershaw has made 12 of them quality starts and holds a 7-2 record. He is currently 4th best in the National League in BB/9 (1.455), 5th best in WHIP (1.051) and K/BB (5.688), and 7th best in ERA (3.09).  He is not by any means “vintage Kershaw”, but he has definitely been effective.

Last season his average fastball velocity dipped from 93.1 mph the previous season to 91.4 mph.  Despite the hope that he’d regain that velocity, it has so far dipped further to 90.5 mph. Beyond his tenacity, the reason he’s been successful to this point has been his execution.

Execution is Key

According to Baseball Reference, he owns a .302 batting average against (BAA) in “high leverage” situations, not very good. Fortunately, he’s only had 55 plate appearances that qualify for that designation. For the most part he doesn’t fall beyond “medium leverage” situations where he holds opponents to a .197 BAA.

His “Clutch Stats” in 2019 are pretty impressive as well. When Kershaw has been behind in the score, his opponents are slashing just .171/.211/.265 against him. Additionally, when his back is really against the wall, 2 outs RISP, he has just a .179 BAA.

Final Thoughts

Clayton Kershaw has surprised us by not gaining his velocity back, in fact, he’s surprised us and lost more of it. Regardless, the 2019 All- Star remains top 10 in the NL in WHIP, BB/9, K/BB, and ERA.

His success continues because of what his manager and teammates say about him, “He grinds” and “He wills his way to a win”. Really though, it boils down to his ability to execute when he needs to the most. The slider may not be working on a particular day, but he can somehow make it work when he needs to get out of jam. Kershaw continues to be good because he wills it so.

Written by Jason McClure

Technically a Dodgers bandwagon fan. At 5 years old, I decided they were my favorite team after hearing they won the World Series on my mom’s car radio in 1988. My father (technically my stepfather) watered that seed, teaching me the game and introducing me to the beauty of Dodger Stadium. We got to know each other and bonded over games. Even when we couldn’t get along during my teenage years, we could come together over Vin Scully’s voice and a game. Dodger baseball is, and will always be, so much more than just a game.


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