Following his 3-year extension in the offseason, Clayton Kershaw expressed belief that he could regain lost velocity and that he would be working on it in the offseason. Dave Roberts however, has maintained that Kershaw can continue to be elite without it. So far in 2019, Roberts has been right.
Although his velocity seems to be about the same as it was in 2018, Kershaw is showing he is still in the conversation with the best. Through 3 starts, he is 1-0, has a 2.25 ERA and is holding opponents to just a .162 batting average. Additionally, he has 21 strikeouts through 20 innings pitched and his WHIP is just .75. While these stats are based on a small sample size and he probably needs 5-8 more starts before being eligible to be listed as a leader in any of these categories, his current performance would rank him 9th in NL ERA and 2nd in both WHIP and opponent batting average.
Kershaw’s Keys To Success So Far
So far, Kershaw has proven to be very effective without the velocity he sought to reclaim this off season. Some of that effectiveness is the improved execution of his slider, some of it is the placement of his fastball, but it’s his tenacity that’s made him so effective thus far. Kershaw is not only slide-tackling baserunners out at first, but he’s attacking them at the plate as well. Of the 73 batters he’s faced, he has managed to get a first pitch strike on 42 of them.
Ultimately, this has lead to 16 of his 21 strikeouts this season. The utilization of his slider and fastball are complimenting each other, often indistinguishable at the release. Despite the lower velocity, Kershaw is growing more confident as he evolves into a Greg Maddux-esqe pitcher who relies on finesse, command, and experience.
Clayton Kershaw, 90mph Fastball and 87mph Slider, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/yGO2xQNEKP
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 16, 2019
Some have been quick to say that he has “fallen-off”, that he’s “mortal” now, no longer “best in the game”. I say, the “best” learn to reinvent themselves, to not quit when the body can’t keep up like it used to.
Clayton Kershaw is showing us that he hasn’t been the best for so long simply because of his skill, but rather, because of his work ethic, his willingness to evolve… his heart.
Kershaw and the Dodgers enter Petco Park tonight to open a 3-game series against Manny “No Johnny Hustle” Machado and the San Diego Padres.
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