Clayton Kershaw is turning back the clock this year after 2021 saw the longtime Los Angeles Dodgers ace have his season end due to an elbow injury. It was a disappointing ending to Kershaw’s worst statistical season since he was a rookie in 2008.
While Kershaw was still effective in 2021, posting a top-35 ERA (3.55) among pitchers with at least 120 innings and a FIP (3.00) that ranked 10th, he was not at the dominant level seen for much of his career.
Through 30 innings across five starts this season, Kershaw has posted a 1.80 ERA and 2.21 FIP while also throwing seven perfect innings in his 2022 debut.
The 34-year-old is overall happy with his start to the season, but he feels he still has things to improve on, specifically by finding consistency with his best pitch, the slider, via SportsNet LA:
“I feel good about it. I feel like my last couple games the slider has been inconsistent, so going to work on that between these starts and try to get that going again. For the most part the results are there, so I’ll take that, for sure.”
The horizontal and vertical break on Kershaw’s slider has remained fairly consistent through each start, but his swing and miss rate on the pitch has peaked at 60% and bottomed out near 13%.
He has also had some inconsistencies getting hitters to chase the pitch, with a season-low of 26% to a season-high of 57%.
This has led to his slider posting strikeout percentages of 69% in Kershaw’s first start and all the way down to 7% in his last outing. The weighted on-base average allowed ranging from .121 (Kevin Gausman level production) to .407 (Ronald Acuña Jr. level).
After his last start, Kershaw said he was lucky to pitch seven shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs because of the hard-hit balls coming off their bats.
Kershaw did have his highest hard-hit percentage allowed that game, checking in at 43%, and his swing and miss rate was the second-lowest of the season at just 17%. But overall his hard-hit rate is the lowest mark he’s posted since 2017 and hitters are chasing his pitches more than any season since 2014.
Kershaw appreciates potential opportunity to spend career with Dodgers
The Dodgers entered the past offseason with a priority of re-signing Kershaw. However, the Texas Rangers presented an intriguing opportunity for the southpaw to play for his hometown team.
Due to the three-month-long MLB lockout, the Dodgers faced uncertainty on whether or not they would be able to retain their franchise icon. But once the lockout was lifted, they moved quickly to get a deal done with the three-time Cy Young Award winner.
Kershaw was selected by the Dodgers with the seventh overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft and made his debut two years later. Since then, he has spent his entire career with L.A.
While it wasn’t the ultimate deciding factor, Kershaw does appreciate the potential opportunity to spend his entire career with only the Dodgers.
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