The more things change, the more they stay the same. Last year it was the NLCS that had the Cardinals pushing the Dodgers to the brink of elimination, pushing Clayton Kershaw to win a do-or-die game in St. Louis. The same situation has come a round earlier in 2014, but once again the Dodgers turn to Kershaw in an elimination game in St. Louis.
After his epic meltdown in game one of the series, in which he wasted a five-run lead, much attention has been focused on Kershaw’s post-season record and his struggles therein. You’re going to hear a lot about his struggles versus St. Louis, a notion Russell Carleton dispelled quite handily earlier this morning. You’re going to hear a lot about his postseason record/stats as they relate to his regular season numbers:
— High Heat Stats MLB (@HighHeatStats) October 7, 2014
The problem with this is that it’s far too simple. The world isn’t black and white, and dividing it so rigidly poses issues. If we accept that the Cardinals do not own Clayton Kershaw (as Russell shows above), then we accept that his poor starts against them are mostly bad luck, with some bad pitches that were rightfully punished mixed in. What about the rest of his postseason figures though? If we go back to Kershaw’s stats prior to his Game 6 start against the Cardinals in the NLCS, here is what we get:
Games Played: 8
Games Started: 5
Innings Pitched: 34.1
Home Runs Allowed: 3
Slash Line Against: .193/.281/.319
That’s a pretty good pitcher, and one you’d want to have on your team and on the mound even after two disaster starts, that can at least partially be chalked up to poor luck. We’re used to Kershaw being as close to perfection as possible, so when things break down, we’re left scrambling for reasons. Sometimes things just break down though. Kershaw gave up seven runs to the Arizona Diamondbacks in his fourth start of the season, coming off of an injury. We wondered if we had already seen his best, and if the injury was going to make him merely good rather than great. After that he reeled of a 1.43 ERA in 23 starts, racking up 211 strikeouts in 176 innings.
Great pitchers have bad starts. Great pitchers rebound from those starts. We’ll find out tonight whether Kershaw is able to do so on three days rest. One fun fact (let’s not call it an omen): Kershaw’s last playoff start on three days rest took place Oct. 7, 2013, and he spun six innings of shutout baseball, striking out six and walking one.
All of this is to say, tonight we get to watch the best pitcher in the National League as voted on via the Internet Baseball Awards. Kershaw has a 2,000 point advantage over second place Adam Wainwright, who is in a battle with Johnny Cueto for the honor of runner up. Cueto trails by 75 points as it currently stands, despite appearing on 30 fewer ballots than Wainwright in general. How Kershaw has appeared on 356, but Wainwright and Cueto only 303 and 273 respectively is beyond me, but I guess Michael Wacha had to earn that solitary vote somehow. Kudos also go out to those who gave Yusmeiro Petit a third-place vote, Gio Gonzalez a second-place vote, and Wily Peralta a third-place vote. The highest ranking reliever was Aroldis Chapman, and he checks in at 10th place.
The rest of the NL Pitcher of the Year Award leaderboard is located below, as well as brief updates on the other races. Remember that these races can still be influenced, so if you want to shame the Cardinals for their October devil magic by pushing Cueto ahead of Wainwright, you can do so here.
NL Pitcher of the Year
NL Player of the Year
NL Rookie of the Year
NL Manager of the Year
AL Player of the Year
AL Pitcher of the Year
AL Rookie of the Year
AL Manager of the Year