Ok, so you’re still not convinced? Something is wrong with Kershaw, right? He’s broken and the Kershaw we once knew will never return, correct?
Let’s go deeper into the stats.
Right now, Kershaw has the highest strikeouts per nine innings in his career and the second lowest walks per nine innings in his career.
Kershaw’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is at a ridiculous .348 right now. The highest he’s ever had in his career came in his rookie year and that was .320. The average BABIP for a pitcher is around .300, meaning that Kershaw is nearly 50 points above that. He’s never finished a season higher than .275 since his rookie year. Once the numbers regress to a normal level, Kershaw’s overall numbers should continue to improve.
The one area that Kershaw is struggling with this season is the amount of hard-hit balls and home runs. His hard-hit percentage currently sits at 35.1 percent, which would be the highest of his career by 5.7 percent. Kershaw has struggled a bit with command in the zone, leaving pitches higher than he’d like and that’s led to the increase in hard-hit balls. As a result of the spike in hard-hit balls, Kershaw has allowed five home runs in his six starts. He allowed just two in his first six starts last season and just nine all of last season.
Once Kershaw finds command of his pitches, expect the hard-hit ball percentage and home runs to drop.
Now, what would Kershaw’s numbers look like if everything begins to average out? Well, there’s a stat for that. FIP is fielding independent pitching and it shows a pitcher’s ERA with league average BABIP and league average timing.
Kershaw’s FIP this year is 2.80, meaning that if everything averaged out then his ERA would be around that. This would still be nearly a run worse than his ERA last season, but would likely calm the many that believe Kershaw is a different pitcher.
You might still have doubts about Kershaw, so here’s another stat for you that takes it even deeper. While FIP does league average on BABIP, xFIP does the same but adds in the league average for home run fly ball percentage. Kershaw’s xFIP for 2015 is 1.88, meaning that would be his ERA if his BABIP and HR:FB ratio dropped to league averages. That number is very similar to his 1.77 ERA from 2014.
What do all these stats mean?
In essence, it means that Dodger fans can relax. While Kershaw is allowing a higher hard-hit ball percentage that has led to a few more home runs, the numbers should regress to their usual levels over the course of a season and by the end of the season, Kershaw should be a contender, if not favorite, for his fourth Cy Young award.
Of course, like with everything, this isn’t a guaranteed thing; however, the numbers never lie and in terms of Kershaw’s numbers, everything is going to be fine.
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