The Clayton Kershaw Postseason Pitching Problem

Clayton Kershaw is without a doubt one of the finest left-handed pitchers I have ever seen. I’ve had the priledge to see him pitch in-person, and even though he destroyed the Diamondbacks that day, I get to tell the future children I may or may not ever have that I got to see Kershaw pitch.

He has put up some of the most outrageous numbers over the course of his career and his numerous Cy Young awards have gone uncontested. No one else active in the MLB has even come close to deserving the accolades he has racked up in his seven year career with the Dodgers. His career ERA is 2.43 and his career WHIP is 1.03. That’s ridiculous.

However, Kershaw is a totally different pitcher when the calendar flips to October.

Last night, he actually pitched a very good game against the Mets, but got out-dueled by Jacob de Grom, a kid with epic hair who is making the MLB minimum salary. Kershaw, unfortunately, did not have his team’s offense behind him, but he still still pitched a great game. He gave up 4 hits, 3 runs, and one homer, but he also struck out 11 batters. Eleven. That’s nuts! The problem is that Kershaw really struggled against the left-handed hitters in the Mets’ line-up. As everyone knows, Southpaw pitchers are typically brutal on left-handed hitters, but for some reason, Kershaw actually has better numbers against right-handed hitters. In 2015, RHBs had a .192 BA/.239 OBP/.272 SLG and LHBs had a .203 BA/.231 OBP/.323 SLG. In other words, Kershaw owned everyone, but he had just a smidge more success with right-handed batters.

His postseason struggles are reflected in his stats:

2008: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO – 1.5 WHIP, 4.50 ERA

2009: 13.1 IP, 14 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 7 BB, 10 SO – 1.58 WHIP, 6.08 ERA

2013: 23 IP, 18 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 7 BB, 28 SO – 1.09 WHIP, 3.13 ERA

2014: 12.2 IP, 12 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 2 BB, 19 SO – 1.11 WHIP, 7.82 ERA

So what gives? How could a pitcher as prolific as Kershaw completely crap the bed come October?

To be honest, I’m not quite sure. It is possible it’s fatigue. After all, he’s been a beast all year, so something has to give, right? It’s well proven that some players just do not do well come October. My boo A-Rod, for example. In his magnificent career he’s averaged out to be a .297 hitter. In the postseason? His BA goes down to .259 and his strikeouts shoot up. Not everyone can be a Carlos Betran or Derek Jeter. I mean, they didn’t call them Senor Octobre and Mr. November for nothing. Not everyone can be a Panda Pablo Sandoval.

Can he handle the big stage and all the pressure? I am sure he can, after all, he plays for the team with the highest payroll in baseball. And, he plays in Los Angeles, the second-harshest media market (but I love the New York teams, so I could be a bit biased). He has nothing but pressure with every start, so I find the idea of him not responding well to the pressure a bit silly.

He has also had the misfortune of being out-dueled by other great pitchers. See, the thing about the postseason is that almost every team has a very good pitching staff. Kershaw has a lot of talent behind him defensively, too, and has had a very good offense supporting him. However, every single team in the postseason is going to challenge you and opponents are always better-than-average.

So what trips up Clayton Kershaw in October? I think it’s a combination of things. I don’t know that we can find one singular cause of his October woes. If we could, he would have corrected it by now. Perhaps it’s a combination of exhaustion, body wear and tear, good opposing pitching, and a touch of bad luck. I have a sneaky suspicion his time will come. Kershaw shines so much during the regular season that there is no way he won’t shine at some point in the postseason.

A HUGE thanks to ESPN for giving me all the stats I needed!

http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/stats/_/id/28963/clayton-kershaw

A Follow-Up on My Postseason Picks!

Every year during spring training, I pick what teams I think are going to make the postseason. Last year, I was actually correct about 75% of my picks, which was amazing!

This year?

Ehhhh…not so much.

I did not do as well with my picks this year, but to be fair, no one did. Every sports writer and blogger out there looks a bit silly because the teams we all picked to win are not present (for the most part). So, let’s see how well I did! Please don’t laugh…

AL East:

Spring training pickBoston Red Sox

Actual winnerToronto Blue Jays

Weeeeelllllll…..I really screwed the pooch on this one. I was tantalized with the Red Sox “alleged” slugging ability and how they were saying their “rotation” could contend with the rest of the division. Yeeeahhhh. That didn’t work out so well. I’m so embarrassed with my pick I can’t stand it.

AL Central:

Spring training pick: Detroit Tigers

Actual winner: Kansas City Royals

Again, I am deeply embarrassed by my pick, but not as embarrassed as I am for the pitiful baseball the Tigers played this year. To be fair (to myself), I DID preface my pick in spring training by say that I was not sure who could win the division. So, you know, I only take 75% of the blame for this crap-tastic pick.

AL West: 

Spring training pick: Seattle Mariners

Actual winner: Texas Rangers

God, I sucked so hard this year! But not as hard as the Mariners!! HA! But let’s be real: no one, not even the Rangers, saw themselves winning this division. NO ONE. And no one expected the Rangers, or the Astros for that matter, to be as good as they were and no one was expecting the M’s to be as bad as they were. I’m spreading collective blame around for this bad pick.

NL East:

Spring training pick: Washington Nationals

Actual winner: New York Mets

Ok, the Nats should have won this division. As good as the Mets were this year, it was the Nats’ division to lose. And boy oh boy did they lose it. The Nats were one of the most underwhelming and underperforming teams in all of baseball this year. I mean, you know your season went down the crapper when Jonathan Papelbon chokes out Bryce Harper…Not that anyone was really surprised Papelbon choked someone. Or that Bryce Harper got choked.

Whatever.

NL Central:

Spring training pick: St. Louis Cardinals

Actual winner: St. Louis Cardinals

I GOT ONE RIGHT YOU GUYS.

NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers

Actual winner: Los Angeles Dodgers

I GOT TWO RIGHT YOU GUYS. OMG.

AL Wild Cards: 

Spring training picks: Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals

Actual winners: Houston Astros and New York Yankees

Thankfully, my pinstriped boos made it to the postseason!!!! And, just like I thought would happen, they sh*t the bed once they got there. Now, in my defense, the Angels were one game away from making the postseason and the Royals are in the postseason. So, in all actuality, these picks are not bad at all. Or at least that’s how I’m consoling myself.

NL Wild Cards: 

Spring Training picks: Giants and Marlins

Actual winners: Chicago Cubs and Pittsburg Pirates

Oh, how foolish was I to think that the Giants could make it to the postseason in an odd-numbered year! And how foolish was I to think that the Marlins might actually be good! Welp, good try, Hannah. Good try.

Soooooo if we are counting, I went 2/8 this year. That is not good. I mean, technically in baseball that is good ’cause that means I’m batting .250, but still. I guess I can take solace in the fact that my .250 picking average is better than Stephen Drew’s batting average all year. If you need me, I will be mourning my Yankees and the fact that I don’t get to watch my boo-thang A-Rod play for another 4-5 months. He’ll still be my pretend boyfriend, though, so don’t feel too bad for me.