Clayton Kershaw’s early-season numbers are scarily average. Is the reigning MVP simply in a slump, or is the Best Pitcher in Baseball actually broken?
That was a strange headline to write, especially after I waxed poetic about Kershaw just a few months ago over at TodaysKnuckleball.com.
But the question is valid; what is wrong with the reigning NL Cy Young and MVP Award winner?
Through seven starts in 2015, Kershaw’s numbers are startlingly pedestrian: 1-2, 4.26 ERA, 56 K, 11 BB, 1.26 WHIP, 88 ERA+ and five HR (more than half of his total allowed in all of 2014).
The stat line above looks a lot like a number-four starter’s, not one belonging to the best pitcher in baseball. So, again, is Kershaw broken?
Caveat number-one: It’s May 13th. Baseball’s regular season ends on October 4th. We’re looking at just less than 30 more starts for Kershaw. There is plenty of time for him to reel off oh, I don’t know, 28 straight quality starts.
Still, these are numbers we’re not accustomed to seeing. And if you’ve watched him in action, you’d notice that it’s not a matter of bad luck. Kershaw has struggled to put batters away when he gets two strikes on him, his slider lacks its usual bite and he’s been prone to giving up one big inning in each outing.
In his last start against Colorado, Kershaw allowed five earned runs in one inning, and left the game after issuing a season-high four walks. Sure, some of the hits were of the flare or seeing-eye varieties, but it’s clear that Kershaw’s control isn’t all there right now.
He has said as much, too. After that game, Kershaw berated himself while praising the team’s success, insinuating that the team will be “really good” when he starts performing up to his high standard.
We know that Kershaw prides himself on tireless preparation and study of the day’s opponent. We also know that a three-time Cy Young winner is going to have an extensive study done on him by each opposing team, not to mention a large target on his back. Everybody wants to beat the best.
So, who prevails? Has the opposition finally figured Kershaw out? Or is the southpaw just in an early-season slump?
Based on Kershaw’s past dominance, his young age, and aforementioned preparation obsession, it’s fair to assume that he will bounce back from a sub par start. Pitchers with exceptional ability like Kershaw always find a way to fix their flaws. Whether it be adjusting his mechanics to get that slider to slide more, pinpointing his control, or limiting damage with runners on base, Kershaw will more than likely make the changes and be back to his dominant ways soon.
And truth be told, he’s not that far off. If Kershaw can eliminate the pitches he’s been leaving up in the zone (especially when ahead in the count), focus on getting some tilt back on his slider, and counterbalance adjustments hitters have been making to his pitch patterns, he’ll be fixed in no time.
Kershaw may be struggling now, but talk to me again in a month or two. Barring an injury, he should be right back where we’re used to seeing him: the top of every statistical leaderboard.
And boy, oh boy, will the Dodgers ever be good when that happens.
Need to be talked off the ledge over Kershaw’s poor start? Tweet me @Jamblinman.