Clayton Kershaw was electric this spring for the Dodgers. He gave up 0 earned runs over 21.1 IP and had a K/BB ratio of 23/4. He looked like the Kershaw that usually emerges in July, unhittable and in control of his arsenal.
6.2 scoreless innings for Kershaw. He gave up 1 hit to lead off the game.
— Alanna Rizzo (@alannarizzo) March 23, 2018
Now, spring training statistics are rarely a reliable sample for predicting regular season performance. For example, in the springs of 2013 and 2014 (his last two Cy Young years), Kershaw looked like anything but the greatest pitcher of this generation. He combined for a 5.97 ERA over those to springs, giving up 50 hits over 42 innings.
It’s hard to see the downside of your star pitcher remaining unblemished throughout the pre-season. Out of 100 players that pitched at least 14.2 innings this spring, Kershaw is the only one to have not given up a single run.
While it has been reported that Kershaw’s fastball velocity was slightly lower than normal, manager Dave Roberts didn’t seem concerned. He told reporters that he expected his normal velocity to return by Opening Day. In any case, a slower fastball didn’t slow down his domination of spring batters.
His spring performance only serves to build anticipation for Opening Day. Kershaw is making his eighth consecutive opening day start but never after such a dominant spring. While I am not ready to predict that his scoreless streak will continue through the All-Star break, I am comfortable suggesting that this season will be special for Kershaw (in the context of his already incredible career, of course).
With past injury in mind, Kershaw has stated that he adjusted his conditioning program this offseason. He hopes to keep his back healthy and avoid time on the DL. It is also to be seen how the Dodgers World Series run will affect the former Cy Young winner’s stamina come late summer.
Whatever those variables may determine further down the road, it is clear that Kershaw is ready to dominate right now. It is hard to identify anyone on the Dodgers’ roster that cares more about winning than Clayton Kershaw. Fans should rest assured that by the time the ball leaves his hand for the first time on Thursday, Kershaw will be locked in, ready to make every pitch count.
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