|Kershaw about to deliver final pitch of his no-hit outing in June, 2014 vs. Colorado (photo by Chris Carlson/AP)|
Thursday, July 31, 2014
A Player Worth Staying Awake For
As an East Coast resident now, the 2014 season has been a challenge for me, and I've mentioned it before. Those 10:05 pm start times are tough. I make the regular practice of setting my mini I-Pad to have the Dodger game on via MLB.com set up on my nightstand.
If I'm lucky, I'll make it into the 4th or 5th inning before nodding off, as I have a 5:30 am bus to catch that takes me into my workplace in the nation's capital. If a slow worker like Beckett is pitching, I usually won't see more than 3 innings. With Clayton Kershaw though, now that's another story.
I've found myself yawning a lot in work meetings on days following a Kershaw outing on several occasions. Sorry, but there's history in the making whenever he takes the mound, and who wants to miss that? We are watching a once in a lifetime type pitcher in Clayton. A guy like this comes around, well for some teams, they never do.
As Dodger fans we've been fortunate. There's a vast history of pitching greatness throughout the Los Angeles years of the franchise, but Kershaw is teetering on being their best in history. I think a valid argument could be made that he has reached that point already.
For the many of you that don't have the opportunity to watch the team in action, (another topic altogether that is disgustingly becoming the most disturbing story of this season), tonight Vin Scully put Kershaw's current run of success is historic proportion. In his last 61 starts, Kershaw is sporting a 1.76 ERA. That equals Koufax's best run in his career, one in which Sandy had a 1.78 ERA over a 61 start stretch during his amazing prime years.
Under no circumstances do I want to dwell on the negative, but as a follower of the game for 45 years or so, I've seen pitchers come and go, and I realize the fragile commodity that they can be. We've seen some amazing pitchers go down with injury. You've got to enjoy his mastery of the art of pitching while it's there. Cliff Lee's injury tonight reminds us of that.
Now I see no sign of there being anything physically wrong with Clayton, and we all pray that continues. But throwing that 5 .oz. sphere 93-95 MPH over and over again with the occasional curveball and slider is not something that is natural, and even the great ones only have so many pitches in their arm. We saw it with Sandy, Don, Orel, and Fernando. Everyone has their time. So consider it a true blessing that we get to watch the greatest left hander in this era go out there every five days, and he paints a Rembrandt-esque masterpiece on the field nearly each time.
Do you want proof? Look up Kershaw on baseball-reference.com. Take a look at what he has accomplished so far. You'll see that in his seven seasons in the game he has dominated in such vital statistics as strikeouts, ERA, WAR, fielding %, decisions, K's per 9IP, adjusted ERA, and more. You'll find that his comparable stats with hall of famers put him on pace to be enshrined with the immortals of the game. The "Similarity Score" section of the page ranks Kershaw with such hall of famers as Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, and future ones: Pedro Martinez, and Roger Clemens.
So now, in his 6th full season with L.A., Kershaw completes his 90th victory of his short career. A career that only lacks longevity, and at age 26, there are no signs that Clayton won't accomplish that as well. His fitness is top notch. He works on his craft year round. He is humble and teachable. He respects the game and reveres his time listening to such greats as Koufax and Newcombe. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt says there is no greater student of the game. He comes prepared and his in game focus is bend compare.
There are no signs of physical deterioration of Kershaw's skills. He's a smart pitcher that isn't dependent on blowing away hitters as he did in his first years in the league. Even in recent interviews he has mentioned that he'll need to add an effective change-up to his repertoire, because Clayton understands that as he ages, his physical tools will deteriorate. Always learning, always finding a way to improve. This is a player that is a perfectionist and one that is never satisfied, even when he is by far and away the best there is in the game.
And here's another thing about Kershaw that many of us will notice when the post season arrives. He was embarrassed by that post season loss in the NLCS last year. I guarantee you that Clayton will not allow that to happen again. This is a man on a mission that will come into post season play with a focus that we'll never have seen before. For that reason, 2014 I predict will be unforgettable for many of us Dodger fans, because Kershaw will put on a performance that we will not forget.
The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw contractually locked up through the 2020 season, when he'll be 32 years old. It's fun to predict where he'll be statistically by then, and I'll take that bait. Barring injury. I believe it's safe to say that Kershaw could have upwards of 200 victories by then and a few more Cy Young Awards on his shelf. As Dodger fans, we're all hoping that multiple World Series rings will be placed on his fingers as well. Meanwhile, it's best to simply sit back and enjoy this ride, because a pitcher like Kershaw is about as rare a find as there is in baseball, and he's ours. A Dodger. The greatest one in this generation.