Clayton Kershaw missed the first month of the 2014 season due to a teres major injury and had a modest 3-2 record with a 3.57 ERA after returning in May. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace then proceeded to rattle off 11 consecutive wins in his next 13 starts.
Kershaw finished with a third career Cy Young Award and first National League MVP Award. Naturally, already lofty expectations for the left-hander rose to even greater heights. Pitching under such demands, Kershaw has had mixed results in 2015.
Yes, he leads the Majors with 66 strikeouts heading into play Saturday with a 2.72 FIP, but he also has a 4.24 ERA, 89 ERA+ and has managed to throw seven innings just twice in eight starts, which is something he did with regularity last season.
Kershaw’s biggest fault to this point has been the fact that he isn’t the 2014 version of Clayton Kershaw. However, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is not among those who look at the 27 year old and wonder what’s wrong.
“We feel like he’s throwing the ball well,” Mattingly said prior to Kershaw’s start Friday. “Again, it’s not up to his standards, but I don’t feel like there’s a big corner to turn. I don’t even know what it would be.”
Mattingly went on to wrap up his thoughts by putting the notion of Kershaw struggling into perspective saying, “If Clayton is our problem then we’re in pretty good shape.”
Kershaw went on to throw 6.2 innings, and exited with two runners on and the Dodgers leading comfortably, 6-1. Paco Rodriguez came on in relief and allowed a single to load the bases, followed by a bases-clearing double — adding two more earned runs to Kershaw’s final line.
It wasn’t a vintage outing by the reigning NL MVP by any means, but it was the sharpest Kershaw has looked in recent starts and he said as much in his postgame interview.
When asked if Kershaw resembled the form he displayed last season, Mattingly said it’s an unfair comparison. “I learned a while back you can’t compare one year to the next,” he said.
“This year is this year, and he’s going to be fine. We can’t keep comparing to last year or the year before.” Mattingly went on to add, “He’s been throwing the ball good. There were a couple games where he had one inning here or one pitch there that changed things.”
Being that Mattingly played in an era where sabermetrics weren’t en vogue, he unsurprisingly put some stock into wins for a pitcher, which is now a commonly dismissed statistic. “I know they devalue the win now,” he said. “But to me, usually guys that get a lot of wins are pitching late in the games and keeping themselves late in the game so that all the other numbers match up.”
“To get to 100 at this age means he’s been giving himself a lot of chances to get wins.” When posed a similar question, Kershaw joked he was currently on the fence and would take a stance after looking back on his 2015 record.
Clayton Kershaw Discusses 100th Career Win