I’ve been doing this series since January (Pedro Martinez at the ’99 All-Star Game was the first). Every week. Lots of fun breakdowns and all manner of pitching nerdery, and yet somehow I have never covered Clayton Kershaw. You know, three-time Cy Young winner. MVP. Definite Hall of Famer.
Never covered. Sigh. It’s a stain on my career.
That ends today.
I can remember a young Kersh tantalizing prospect watchers way back when, and boy oh boy did he ever deliver on that promise. Kershaw’s peak is basically otherworldly. You’d feel weird having this kind of run in MLB: The Show. (Are my sliders out of whack? Am I accidentally playing on Easy?).
Check this. From 2011-14, Kershaw threw 895 innings to a 2.11 ERA. He struck out 948 and walked just 200. That’s … wow. That’s unreal. Tons of punchouts, barely any walks, incredible ERA over nearly 900 innings thrown. That’s an all-time peak. Promise delivered.
And the thing with Kershaw is, he’s a painter. Kershaw had ridiculous stuff, but he wasn’t a Roger Clemens or Max Scherzer type, beating you into submission with high velocities. Kershaw could dial up the heat, no doubt, but he dominated more with pinpoint control and breathtaking movement. Kershaw at his peak was a marvel. His curveball, in particular, was a work of art.
Age never loses, and Kershaw isn’t the pitcher he once was, but dude, that’s a long slope down to the bottom. He’s still great; 117 innings, 146 ERA+ in 2019. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Let’s take a look at his recent work in the third inning against the Washington Nationals.