The scouting director who took Kershaw talks about the unusual circumstances that led to the Dodgers drafting a future ace.
Three Cy Youngs in four years, the other a second-place finish. A sub-3 ERA in six straight seasons, sub-2 in the past couple. Five consecutive 200-plus strikeout seasons, and (for a pitcher) exceptional health. This is what you want when picking a pitcher first overall in the draft.
But Kershaw wasn’t first overall. He wasn’t even the first pitcher picked. We all know baseball’s draft is a crapshoot in general, and predicting outcomes for pitchers—and especially high school pitchers—is even harder. But still, it’s jarring to recall that in 2006 Kershaw was the sixth pitcher selected.
Two of the best young lefties in the game faced off. Doug broke it down.
In summer 2012, when Clayton Kershaw had just one Cy Young award and Madison Bumgarner had just one World Series ring, Doug Thorburn anticipated what has become a tremendous rivalry--if not to them, certainly to us. Two exceptional lefties in one of sports' best team-against-team rivalries, each under contract to his team through the end of this decade, each accomplished in a way no other current pitcher can claim. Thorburn's breakdown helps appreciate the similarities, the differences, and what sets each pitcher apart from his peers. This originally ran on Aug. 24, 2012.
Clayton Kershaw dominated the rival Giants last season, going 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA and a 49:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six starts and 42 innings, including a perfect four-for-four in head-to-head battles with San Francisco ace Tim Lincecum. Kershaw has held the Giants to a sub-2.00 ERA again in 2012, though he had come up on the short end of the decision in two of his three starts against them to Monday's match-up with Madison Bumgarner. It was the first meeting for two young southpaws who will likely be dueling out west for years to come.
In early 2007, David Laurila interviewed Clayton Kershaw. At the time, Kershaw had thrown just 56 pro innings, most of them for the Dodgers' complex team. Nobody knew at the time that in just 13 months Kershaw would be staring down Albert Pujols in the first inning of a very strong major-league debut. This interview originally ran on May 6, 2007.
A 19-year-old left-hander, Clayton Kershaw is the top-rated prospect in the Dodgers organization. The first high school player taken in last year's draft and the seventh pick overall, Kershaw relies on a mid-nineties fastball with excellent command, an above-average curveball and a circle change. A native of Dallas, he has an advanced pitching approach for someone beginning just his first full professional season. Kershaw debuted in the Gulf Coast League last year, posting an ERA of 1.95 while holding opposing batters to a .201 average. He is starting this season with the Low-A Great Lakes Loons, managed by former Tigers great Lance Parrish. At the time David Laurila sat down with Kershaw, he was off to a good start, going 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA while striking out 28 in 19 innings through April 29.
Because we don't believe in our power to jinx things, we bravely ask where Kershaw would rank all-time if he retired today.
Time will tell whether Clayton Kershaw can add to his collection of Cy Young Awards or not, but it’s a safe bet that the best pitcher in baseball has plenty of all-star games, playoff appearances, and magazine covers ahead of him. All pitchers are injury risks, of course, but Kershaw’s age, build, and track record of health suggests that he’s among the sport’s most dependable arms. He will probably have a long career.
It's a treacherous path one travels from teenaged prospect to Cy Young winner to Hall of Famer, further than the journey from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, or from Highland Park to Los Angeles, or even from Culiacan, Mexico to Los Angeles. To be a left-handed pitcher in the fabled Dodgers organization, the path is more treacherous still, thanks to the landmines of expectations that history has laid down.
PECOTA expects Kershaw to be great once again, but what do the extreme projections, both good and bad ends, foresee?
Clayton Kershaw is, according to the PECOTA projections, supposed to be the best pitcher in baseball this year. This is hardly a surprise. He was the best pitcher in baseball last year. By ERA+, he’s also been the best pitcher in baseball over the last two years, the last three years, the last four years, the last five years, the last six years, the last seven years, and with enough innings to qualify, the seven-year veteran has been the best pitcher in baseball over the last eight years.
The projection is something pretty familiar for Kershaw: A 2.23 ERA, 237 strikeouts in 224 innings, a 19-9 win-loss record—numbers that would give him another Cy Young Award should he be in the running against pretty much anybody other than 2014 Kershaw. The 5.8 WARP would fit right in within 0.3 wins of each of his three best seasons and a small regression from last year’s performance.
The new Nate Freiman, the improved Clayton Kershaw, the red-hot Jose Altuve, and more from the weekend, plus what to watch today.
The Weekend Takeaway
When the A’s boarded their flight to New York last Sunday, they’d lost back-to-back games just once since the end of May. But after the Mets served them their second losing streak of the month with a 10-1 beating in the first contest of a nine-game road trip, it seemed that Bob Melvin’s squad might take a small stumble as it reached the halfway mark of the regular season on the Atlantic seaboard.
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Clayton Kershaw's no-hitter had the second-highest Game Score ever. Is that as significant as it sounds?
In the wake of 26-year-old Clayton Kershaw’s dazzling no-hitter last Wednesday, a 26-year-old statistic got its own moment in the sun. When Bill James introduced Game Score in the 1988 Baseball Abstract, he called it “a kind of garbage stat that I present not because it helps us understand anything in particular but because it is fun to play around with.” Unlike Micro Machines and Dolly Surprise, Game Score remains one of our favorite toys in 2014, so it’s safe to say that James undersold it. Despite (or maybe because of) its lack of sophistication, it’s still one of the most intuitive methods we have to convey how effective a given outing is. Thus, it wasn’t long after Kershaw sealed the deal with his 15th strikeout that the internet noticed that his Game Score of 102 was the second-highest ever for an outing of no more than nine innings, behind only Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout start in 1998, which got a Game Score of 105. (Remove the innings restriction, and Vern Law’s 18-inning effort in 1955 takes the cake.)
Jake Arrieta's breakout season continues, two games last beyond the 13th inning, plus more from a wild Tuesday and what to watch today.
The Tuesday Takeaway Jake Arrieta entered Tuesday coming off a trio of superb outings over which he allowed just one run and 10 hits with a shiny 27-to-2 K:BB ratio in 20 innings of work. The 28-year-old right-hander continued his breakout campaign by flirting with perfection and twirling seven outstanding innings against the Reds.
The best of times for Clayton Kershaw coincide with the worst of times for Justin Verlander.
Just 15 months ago, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander were neck-and-neck in any discussion of the top pitchers in the game. The Motor City right-hander owned the American League, and the west coast southpaw ruled over the senior circuit, with each having finished first and second in their respective Cy Young races from 2011–12. They entered the 2013 campaign as the unquestioned aces of competitive clubs, poised to stage another season as kings of the mound, but their careers have taken dramatically different trajectories since then.