It was always going to be Clayton Kershaw, not that it means that Walker Buehler isn’t worthy. After Dodgers manager Dave Roberts officially named Kershaw to his record-extending ninth opening day start on Monday, words were spilled all over the internet about whether it was the right call.
Moreover, the wonder was if it was just, in fact, out of “charity” that the Dodger veteran was selected over the 25-year-old Buehler.
It turns out, the two pitchers and their manager discussed this at length.
#Dodgers Kershaw said it was 3-way discussion with Buehler, Roberts: "We kind of all got together and I said I don't want a charity Opening Day. If you want me to do it, great. But if you want Walker to do it, great too. Walker was great about it. I'm thankful that I get to do it
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) March 9, 2020
It’s cool. I feel like I say it every year, but I don’t take it lightly. It is an honor. It is just one game, but it is an honor to get the start. Opening Day is a special day in baseball and to get to be part of it is really cool.
2019 was an outlier for the 31-year-old ace. He opened the season on the injured list and wasn’t the opening day starter for the first time since 2010.
It was hard a little bit. You want to be a part of it. It was also kind of fun to take in an opening day — especially how well it went. I think we hit seven or eight homers. So it was really fun doing that. But, yeah, it was a little sad. I got over it quickly. But it was a little sad, for sure.
While Walker Buehler is obviously ready for the call at any time — and can handle the pressure of a big game with the best of them — Kershaw is no slouch when it comes to opening day nods. From 2011-2018, Kershaw posted a 5-1 record with a 1.05 ERA, and 59 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched on the season’s first game.
In fact, he’s no slouch at all. Last year the long-time ace became the Dodgers’ franchise leader in pitching wins for a left-handed pitcher, surpassing Sandy Koufax. The guy is an all-time legend in the game of baseball…
But the opening day nod wasn’t necessarily purely based on past accolades.
Enter to Win a Gavin Lux Signed Ball!
Clayton has tossed 4.2 impressive innings of scoreless ball this spring in Cactus League play. Additionally, he added 3.1 scoreless in a backfield start on Monday afternoon at Camelback Ranch. After an offseason spent being mostly healthy for the first time in some time, the lefty has been working to mix in an analytical approach to pitching he picked up after a visit to Driveline Baseball.
While he was not bad in 2019 (16-5, 3.03 ERA, 178.1 IP, 28 GS, 3.5 bWAR), he continued a slow fall from league-wide dominance. On the other hand, Walker Buehler continued his ascent to stardom and firmly entrenched himself as one of the elite young arms in the game (14-4, 3.26 ERA, 182.1 IP, 30 GS, 2.2 bWAR).
However, Walker hasn’t been as sharp early this spring as evidenced by his small sample sized 4.15 ERA in 2 games (2 runs in 4.1 IP).
Using this point, you could presume that Kershaw has outperformed the younger Buehler and, in fact, earn the opening day based on merit alone. But make no mistakes, Clayton Kershaw earned this start for being “2014 NL MVP, 3-time Cy Young award winner” Clayton Kershaw. And that’s perfectly fine.