Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kershaw and Koufax...Another Look at the Two Great Dodger Lefties

To me it was anticlimactic.  We all knew it was likely to happen.  We knew that the voters for the Cy Young Award weren’t San Diego Padre bloggers that refused to vote for anything Dodger.  We knew that he out pitched his competition and was the most deserving of the honor.  Kershaw’s 2011 season was the best for a Dodger starter since 1988. When Clayton took the mound, a win was as predictable as the setting sun.
Clayton Kershaw is about as special as you’ll ever get in a pitcher.  Logan White was spot on with this pick, and the 2006 draft had some amazing talent in it: Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Ian Kennedy, Max Scherzer off the top of my head.
That’s one Rookie of the Year (Longoria), Three Cy Youngs (Lincecum and Kershaw), many All Star appeareances, three Gold Gloves (Longoria, Kershaw), and numerous league leaders in such categories as wins, ERA, winning %, strikeouts and more.
I can’t argue that White should have picked Lincecum over Kershaw.  Based on what we will see in the future from those two, I’d go with Clayton.  Based on head to head matchups...my nod goes to Clayton too. 
Numerous comparisons to Koufax are inevitable and they are surfacing on many blog sites.  Those comparisons have valid reasoning but I see a few differences that are noticeable.

The Dodger "K" Men compare their claws.  Koufax fingers are an inch longer that those of  Kershaw
First, there are decided differences with physical tools.  Specifically, their hands.  There are those that have nicknamed Kershaw the “Claw.”  At least baseball-reference.com mentions that.  However, the true “Claw” out there was Koufax.  Sandy’s hands are enormous in size.  That natural physical tool played a role in Koufax’s physicality on the mound, I have no doubt.  Pitching coaches will say that pitchers with larger hands and long fingers have an advantage because their fingers are in contact with the ball longer and they are able to generate more spin on nearly all pitches.  Pitching grips come easier and maneuverability is more fluid.  This isn’t to say that pitchers with small or average size hands are doomed, not at all, but those with large hands definitely have an advantage.  Sandy has some enormous paws.
Second, velocity and repertoire.  Kershaw’s velocity is fine, but it isn’t “blow them away” stuff.  Clayton has more pitches in his arsenal and is able to mix his slider, curve, change and fastball to fool hitters.  Koufax had that nasty curve and an infamous hissing 100 MPH fastball.  That fastball also was effective in that it gave hitters the optical illusion that it was rising.  If Sandy’s curve wasn’t effective, he’d just blow hitters away, such as in the 7th game of the 1965 World Series.  They knew he was just throwing the fastball, and they still couldn’t hit it.  If Kershaw only had a fastball working on the mound, he doesn’t have the physical ability to throw it past hitters time after time.
Now those two points shouldn’t concern Dodger fans regarding Kershaw’s future.   Kershaw will continue to be effective.  In fact, that second point about Kershaw having a greater arsenal of pitches is an advantage he had over Koufax.  Additionally, he has reached epic levels of success at a much younger age, particularly in his ability to harness his control, a problem Clayton had early in his career.  Kershaw’s change up still has room for improvement.  His slider has replaced his curve as his out pitch.  The ability of Kershaw to mix his arsenal of 4 pitches that are quite effective has hitters continually off balance.
What made Koufax so impressive was his off the charts velocity and intimidation factor.  Deep down, I see Clayton as more finesse and Sandy as a power pitcher with a nasty curve.  Both are great pitchers and Clayton will probably take home a lot more hardware before his promising career comes to an end.

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