Dodgers: Ranking Clayton Kershaw’s Opening Day 2020 Start

Where does Kershaw’s 2020 season debut against the Diamondbacks rank amongst his Opening Day starts?

Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw dazzled in his 2020 version of Opening Day on Sunday. Delayed by a back injury, it may not have been the Opening Day start he hoped for, but it was worth the wait.

Where does his Sunday showing against the Diamondbacks rank amongst an impressive Opening Day resumé?

The Gold Standard

Hard to imagine any pitcher topping Kershaw’s 2013 Opening Day magnum opus against the San Francisco Giants. A complete game shutout (remember those?) with zero walks, seven strikeouts, four hits, and 23 strikes looking – good for a 0.44 WHIP.

To top it all off, Kershaw hit the go-ahead home run in the bottom of eighth to break the stalemate. Few pitchers can say they single-handedly won an Opening Day start, but Kershaw sure can.

The Next Cut

Opening Day 2016 lacked the drama of Kershaw’s 2013 masterpiece, but one could argue Kershaw was just as good. The southpaw twirled seven innings of one hit ball, his only one hitter in an Opening Day start. He had 18 first pitch strikes against 23 batters and did not allow a walk. Kershaw also recorded his Opening Day career-high for strikes looking: 27. The Dodgers offense did the rest en route to a 15-0 win.

“He’s the best pitcher in baseball,” said Kemp, Kershaw’s former teammate. “He gives them a chance to win every game, and he pitched a hell of a game tonight. My hat’s off to him. I’ve seen it a lot, I’ve been on both sides.”

Kershaw’s 2017 gem against the San Diego Padres and his inaugural Opening Day start in 2011 against the Giants, also rate near the top. In both starts, he posted a sub-1.00 WHIPs and racked up at least eight strikeouts. He yielded six hits total in the two Dodger wins. The Padres game featured his highest strike percentage (72.6%) and his lowest WHIP (0.29).

August 2nd, 2020

Sunday’s start was the second shortest debut for Kershaw behind his ill-fated 2012 flu game (3 IP). However, he posted his third highest strike percentage (70.4%), fourth highest strike looking percentage (21.4%), fourth best WHIP (0.58) and fourth best game score (75). To further remind fans of years past, he even touched 93 MPH on his fastball.

If it were an Opening Day start, this writer would rank Kershaw’s Sunday right where the stats and the eye test tell you too: fourth. 2013 is in a class by itself followed by 2011 and 2016.

Simply seeing the 32-year old Kershaw dealing once again, 2,269 innings later, felt like an Opening Day win.

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  1. Cutting through all of the historical analysis, Kershaw looks good. I was most impressed by an obvious increase in velocity. He hit 93 mph easily, with an occasional 94 mph. Pitchers don’t often increase velocity late in their careers, and it’s even more impressive to see it in a delayed first start due to a back injury. I thought he me might try to go easy. Instead he threw harder than he has in the last three years.