Clayton Kershaw has faced some hairy situations and close shaves and okay you get it, this article is about his beard.
There are a lot of angles to cover when you devote an entire day of articles to one person. You’ve got your analytics and your scouting, your infographics and your macro view of micro aspects. Those are all great and good and necessary. What is none of those things is what you’re about to consume. It’s just a classic coming-of-age story.
This is the story of Clayton Kershaw running a two-plus year experiment on his face while we all just pretended not to notice. Well, one man is through pretending. Wake up, sheeple. It's time to pay attention.
Clayton Kershaw is known for his unrelenting training schedule. In past interviews, he admits that he has difficulty taking off two weeks after a season to let his body heal. Kershaw notes that he feels much worse at the end of a training-free break, so he will only let himself stay idle for a week. His reasoning is that his workouts are already a month or more behind minor-league players—whose season ends in early September—as well as those pitchers on the 20 teams that failed to make the playoffs. He's already behind most players, in fact. Therefore, he must not wait any longer; he begins his throwing, lifting, and running offseason regimen almost immediately.
Kershaw’s approach to training also appears reflected in his spring training workload as he returns to his in-season schedule. In any given year, the spring training innings leaders generally consist of those pitchers, like Kershaw, who by personal preference want the work and the routine; and those individuals for whom teams desire a longer look at, or pitchers who are trying to stretch themselves out for a new role. Last year, Alfredo Simon was a good example of the latter. The Reds decided to try Simon as a starting pitcher after he had pitched for several seasons exclusively as a reliever. The club scheduled him for more innings to establish a new routine for him, as well as to evaluate him as he turned over spring training batting orders.
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.