Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw seems to already be in midseason form as he threw five shutout innings while giving up two hits and striking out three Sunday afternoon against the Colorado Rockies in what was his third Spring Training start.
Overall this spring, Kershaw has given up just one earned run in 10 innings pitched, and he’s struck out 10 compared to just three walks.
The left-handed ace was noticeably sharp last spring, as he went 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA and had 22 strikeouts in 22.1 innings pitched over six Cactus League starts.
That didn’t immediately carry over into the regular season, though as Kershaw wasn’t his usual self through April and May, and during a stretch in June.
Although Spring Training stats — good and bad — are often disregarded and said to carry little importance, Kershaw doesn’t subscribe to the theory.
According to ESPN’s Doug Padilla, Kershaw said recently he’s focused on retiring batters and improving throughout Spring Training:
“I mean, the whole goal of being down here is getting hitters out so you know where you stack up,” he said. “That’s how you get better. You don’t bet better by working on your mechanics, you get better by getting hitters out.”
Kershaw finished last season with a 16-7 record, 2.13 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. He led the Majors in several advanced metrics including, FIP (1.99), xFIP (2.09), SIERA (2.24), strikeout percentage (33.8 percent) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (29.1 percent).
Kershaw also led the Majors with 232.2 innings pitched and compiled the first 300-strikeout season since 2002.
The former three-time Cy Young award winner and National League MVP in 2014 will be relied on more so this season than years past, as he’s no longer joined in the rotation by Zack Greinke.
Additionally, Brett Anderson’s arthroscopic back surgery for a bulging disk and Hyun-Jin Ryu not on track to be ready by Opening Day has left the rotation without the depth that the front office worked to assemble during the offseason.