Through the first two months of the regular season Clayton Kershaw couldn’t escape questions as to what was wrong with him. Coming off a year in which he won the National League MVP and Cy Young Awards, Kershaw was 3-3 with a 3.86 ERA through May.
On the surface, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace was struggling. But he was also racking up strikeouts at a prolific rate and his xFIP and FIP suggested he’d been the victim of some bad luck.
Kershaw wound up righting the ship, finishing 16-7 with a Major-League best 301 strikeouts, 232.2 innings pitched, 1.99 FIP, 2.09 xFIP, and led all pitchers with an 8.6 WAR.
He lost Game 1 of the NL Division Series, then bounced back on short rest to keep the Dodgers alive in Game 4; even overcoming his troubled seventh-inning postseason history.
However, with the Dodgers needing one more win to advance to the NL Championship Series, Kershaw was in the dugout as Zack Greinke started the winner-take-all-game. The Dodgers came up short, bringing their season to an abrupt end.
The day following the elimination loss, Kershaw shared his feelings on closing the books on the 2015 campaign with SportsNet LA’s Alanna Rizzo:
“It always ends so fast. Donnie talked about it too, you never really expect it to end. And then when it does, it just takes a long time to process. Kind of a depressing day having to come out and clean your locker. You spend eight months with these guys and you try to remember that. But then you don’t see them for four months either, and that’s the other weird part of it. It was a fun season, some positives obviously came out of it.”
As for what Kershaw specifically will remember from this season, he spoke fondly of relationships he developed with other pitchers:
“Every year is different with the guys. This year I had a lot of fun. I got to know
some new pitchers with Brett [Anderson, [Brandon] McCarhty, and [Hyun-Jin] Ryu. Even though Ryu’s been here a while, it seemed like he turned a corner this year with his work ethic and things like that. I’m looking forward to next year, we have a lot of guys coming back. Getting to watch Zack this whole year has been amazing. I consider him a pretty good friend now.”
Brandon McCarthy is expected to return around the 2016 All-Star break after undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery at the end of April. Hyun-Jin Ryu, who went under the knife in May to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, should be back on the mound by Spring Training.
Meanwhile, Brett Anderson will become a free agent and is a candidate to receive the qualifying offer from the Dodgers. Zack Greinke is expected to opt out of his deal, with visions of signing a final long-term contract of his career.