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Should The Dodgers Slow Down With Clayton Kershaw?

Dodgers
LOS ANGELES, CA - February 19: Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw #22 during photo day at Camelback Ranch Stadium on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

One of the biggest stories of the Dodgers 2019 Spring Training has been the health of Clayton Kershaw. After an off-season of working on gaining some velocity, Kershaw has run into some shoulder issues that has caused some anxiousness among the team and the fans. On February 19, Dave Roberts announced that Kershaw would be the Opening Day starter for the 9th straight year. However, those plans are in jeopardy as CK soon started having his health issues.

Now, the big questions for the Dodgers start to creep in regarding Kershaw. How hurt is he? Will he be ready for Opening Day? Will he ever get back to being great? Can he contribute in 2019?  Dodgers Nation asked the question about slowing him down:

The Velocity Drop

According to Baseball Savant, Kershaw’s fastball dropped from an average of 92.8 MPH in 2017 to 90.8 MPH in 2018. How many times did we see him pitching at 88-89 MPH at some points in 2018? Amazingly, he still had a very good 2018 season, but not quite up to his standards. He spent time in the off-season trying to get some of that velocity back and the jury is out on whether he has recovered any of it.

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 17: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers lays down a sacrifice bunt against the Milwaukee Brewers during the fifth inning in Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Opening Day

To be honest, I could care less about who starts on Opening Day. And according to our poll, most fans don’t want Kershaw to rush back. Since they seem to be slow-rolling Walker Buehler as well, we could have Hyun-Jin Ryu or Rich Hill start on Opening Day. For either, it would probably be a great honor for them and the Dodgers will be just fine. I know Kershaw enjoys the honor of being the Opening Day starting pitcher, but that cannot be the goal as it is a long season and post-season.

Managing Kershaw’s Health

Like many athletes who are extremely competitive, Kershaw hates to not be on the field. He is a fantastic competitor and works as hard as anybody. Sometimes, athletes like that need to be managed as they need to be saved from themselves. None of us know what is truly wrong with Kershaw and he seems to be “trending up” according to Dave Roberts. The fans, according to our poll, want to see him take it easy and to be ready to contribute for the whole season. Let’s hope the doctors and trainers get their way in managing Kershaw.

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What If Kershaw Isn’t Ready

For the moment, the four other Dodgers in the rotation are Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda. Backing them up are Ross Stripling, Julio Urías, Dennis Santana, Caleb Ferguson and Brock Stewart. There is enough depth to absorb being without Kershaw for a while. I don’t see a need to panic, but if you recall, the Dodgers lost most of their starting pitching staff by May in 2018. Pitchers are extremely volatile and it will be interesting to watch whether Kershaw is ready or not.

Final Thoughts

In my book, Clayton Kershaw is an all-time great pitcher and a future Hall of Famer. I am glad he signed a three-year contract with the Dodgers and I hope he retires in LA. Most importantly, I want to see him come back and lead the Dodgers to a World Series victory. It is a long season and there will be injuries, surprises and roster moves that will make us all forget how the beginning of the season looked. Somehow, Clayton Kershaw will be a major factor in the success of the 2019 season. His final impact will probably be measured in ensuring he doesn’t rush things as he prepares for the season and deals with his health issues. Maybe he even finds some of the lost velocity by coming back in a healthy manner.

What are your thoughts regarding Clayton Kershaw and what you expect of him? Use the comment section below.

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Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

22 Comments

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  1. Tim I agree the Dodgers, as you reported, have alternatives to slide into the rotation. Stripling made the All Star team last year and Urias is throwing at 98 mph. No need to rush Kershaw lets give him time to address his shoulder and velocity issues.

    • tmaxter, as far as Stripling goes he may be better served out of the BP. I realize he just was worn out during the 2nd half lat year cause he had not gone that many innings before in previous years. Hopefully, what ever capacity he ends up, he will be better at keeping the baseball in the yard. HR’s allowed were a tell tale sign of fatigue. But correct on Urias and the fact that Dodgers do not need to rush CK back just to be the OD starter.

      • Paul yes completely agree with you, I would use Urias as first man up. Also my bad I should have included Ferguson as once he worked on his curve, thank you Sandy Koufax, he had great numbers. Stripling has the mental make up to pitch very well anytime anywhere an incredibly valuable talent.
        But point is there is no need to rush Kershaw, Over competitive people can be their own worst enemy…He needs to get his head straight and do what is best long term.

        • tmaxter, as far as Stripling goes, one poster mentioned that perhaps Stripling should not be coached to pitch up in the zone, as he does not have that kind of velocity to afford to do so and it was questioned as to why they were wanting him to be up in the zone to begin with. As far as Ferguson goes, he could be real valuable should he continue to progress as he did last year given the chance. My whole point on the pitching is that with DS considered a pitcher friendly park to most, that the Dodgers should not see 8 other NL teams with lower number of total HR’s allowed like what took place last year. Believe it or not, and I had to check, but in 2018 the Dodger pitching allowed MORE HR’S at home than they did on the road! Pitching surrendered 95 HR’s in 81 regular season games plus an extra home game while only 84 of them on the road…go figure.

          • Interesting stat Paul thanks, and to your point the Dodgers won more games on the Road than at Home. Which has not been the Norm in most years for the Dodgers or any team…I noticed last year the ball was carrying more especially at night. The light moisture/fog that has always been there every evening was absent or not as dense. It used to take a blast to go out at night and last year it did not.

            The stats you shared show Dodger pitching simply allowed more dingers. The high fast ball is a great weapon and strike out but if you do not get it high enough or tight enough it generally goes a long way. All the Dodger pitchers have been coached to throw that high heater.

  2. Kershaw has gotten hurt consistently over the years, and every year the Dodgers prove they can win without him… The one thing the Dodgers have right now is a surplus of starting pitching… therefore why rush his comeback from injury?? It’s a long season and we need him for a playoff and world series push, who cares if he misses opening day.. give him the proper treatment and rest and we’ll see him sometime in May

  3. Kershaw has thrown a ton of pitches. Neither Stripling nor Stewart are the answer. Cheapa** Friedman needs to pony up for Keuchel.

  4. Probably its just me but the Dodgers love drama. This off-season they traded or some people have said “dumped contracts” of Kemp, Puig, etc. to the Reds for Homer Bailey’s bad contract, release him. There was speculation the Dodgers created financial cushion to add someone such as Harper, Realmuto or make a trade for Kluber or Bauer then fizzle. Then at the last moment after all the potential free-agent targets are taken by other teams, they reenter the pursuit of Harper, everyone knowing that they didn’t want to offer Harper a 10-yr contract or so. Now we get to Kershaw’s ailing shoulder which IMO will start him on the Injured-List to begin the 2019 season. You say Buehler will be the Opening Day starter, but no-so-fast. Urias, they want to “limit his innings.” Drama I tell ya.

    • You are correct about that drama part, Robin. The Dodgers SHOULD HAVE sent CK back to LA for and MRI and or other testing instead of waiting around only to find themselves in this current situation with CK.

  5. What I find troubling is that when camp began it appeared that Kershaw’s off-season conditioning regimen to address the velocity issues had been effective. We heard from his bullpen catchers that his fastball had plenty of late movement (the desired end result regardless of velocity) and his slider had good bite. There was every reason to be encouraged that Kersh, dedicated competitor that he is, had regained at least a little of his old form. But, the fact is, he’s feeling sore and caution is being exercised and rightfully so. As fans, it’s our nature to wring our hands, tear at our garments and gnash our teeth when we hear that the greatest Dodger pitcher of the last fifty years may be showing signs of decline, but maybe we should reel in our emotions and let Clayton, the coaching and medical staffs decide the best course of action. I don’t hear those in the know warning of gloom and doom. The giveaway is that no MRI has been ordered. I’ll take that as a good sign.

  6. he should be shut down until he can pass a complete physical…….good pitcher in the past but like koufax, when it goes, it goes……he is showing all of those signs……wish him the best…….

  7. Kershaw has been a great Dodger and hope he finishes his career as a Dodger. I agree, go slow and let him come back at his own pace.

    That said, even though you say the Dodgers have plenty of pitching, the adage is always “you never have enough pitching”. I never cared about trading for Realmuto or signing Harper (neither were needed), but I did believe the Dodgers should have traded for Kluber. I’ve been a Dodger fan for 60 years and always believe there is no such thing as having enough pitching.

    • I was never convinced that Kluber was really available. I do agree, you can never have enough pitching. Another article coming out soon that addresses that a bit.

  8. Several valid comments above. To me, whatever gets us back to the WS – anything less than that this year is another lost season – with a healthy Kershaw is what he and the team should do. Hope they all make the right decisions.

  9. To: Pauldodgerfan1965. Thanks for clarifying that, haven’t heard asking price. My only point was never have too much quality pitching. That wins ball games. Again, thanks for clarification.

  10. I think Kershaw thinks he’s got a little Superman in him. He’s always throwing hard. I’ve seen too many people get hurt always throwing hard when they warm up and normal throws. I know they say it’s in their blood but we know that’s bolonie. if you tend to get hurt almost every year you gotta slow down.

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