Clayton Kershaw is the best regular season pitcher of this generation. There is an argument that he could be the best pitcher of all-time — in the regular season. However, every October, Dodger fans see the same thing. It’s a pattern. Clayton Kershaw is not good in the postseason.
In the 2019 NLDS against the Washington Nationals, this disheartening pattern continued. Kershaw came on with a two-run lead and struck out Adam Eaton in a key spot. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decided to leave him in the game and it proved to be a fatal mistake. He surrendered back to back home runs to both of the Nationals’ biggest stars, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto.
In a recent column by Eno Sarris of The Athletic, Sarris takes a deeper look into the statistical reasoning behind why Clayton Kershaw tends to falter in October.
— The Athletic LA (@TheAthleticLA) October 19, 2019
Kershaw On the Surface
Clayton Kershaw holds a 2.44 ERA lifetime in the regular season, but a 4.43 ERA in the postseason. He also seems to get progressively worse as the lights get brighter with a 3.99 ERA in the NLDS, 4.61 ERA in the NLCS, and a 5.40 ERA in the World Series.
Kershaw has also provided negative Win Probability Added (WPA) marks the deeper it gets into October — 0.41 WPA in the NLDS, -0.25 WPA in the NLCS, and a -0.21 WPA in the World Series.
We now have a 158 1/3 inning sample size of Clayton Kershaw being this way in October and there is definitely enough evidence to say that it is not a fluke. It is a pattern.
Home Run Rate
Clayton Kershaw’s home runs allowed per nine innings (HR/9) rate: 0.7. Clayton Kershaw’s home runs allowed per nine innings (HR/9) rate: 1.4. Big difference and not a good one.
Clayton Kershaw has been forced to make starts in the postseason on short rest a grand total of ten times. That’s amongst the most in MLB history. He hasn’t been the same in those starts. The Dodgers overusing him and having him pitch past the seventh inning in games was a huge part of the reason for awhile.
Clayton Kershaw has always been a gamer. He brings it to the table every time. But does he in the postseason? We know he wants to win a World Series as much as anyone, but why has he not been a part of delivering one to the city of Los Angeles. We will never know, but there is something there.
From Don Mattingly to Dave Roberts, Clayton Kershaw has consistently been put in spots that he has had no business being in. The Dodgers have no issue trotting Kershaw out to the mound in key spots despite a heavy amount of evidence to prove why they shouldn’t.
We all hope and pray Kershaw figures it out soon, for the sake of the Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles. It’s now 32 years without a World Series title and the time is now for him to figure it out. The Dodgers need him to be who he is from April to September.