Clayton Kershaw has not looked like himself since returning from the 15-day injured list, but his start against the Miami Marlins was particularly rough.
Kershaw’s fastball velocity did not get over 90 mph and the average was the worst of his career. It was more indications he continues to be bothered by left shoulder trouble, but Kershaw repeatedly stated that was not the case.
The Dodgers initially pushed his next outing back to the series opener against the San Diego Padres before bumping that to the first game of the Seattle Mariners before ultimately deciding on Saturday.
Manager Dave Roberts explained the decision stemmed from how to best line up Kershaw in the rotation for the remainder of the regular season, and it was not driven by health.
As for Kershaw’s fastball velocity being down in his September 5 start at loanDepot Park, Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior acknowledged it was not expected by any means, per Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“I think that was surprising to all of us,” Prior said. “The Arizona game (Kershaw’s Aug. 29 start), he was effective for five innings and pitched well but probably not up to the standards that he’s set for himself and he knows that. But the velocity was something that kind of came out of nowhere. Or at least was unexpected for everybody.”
Kershaw’s health has been a concern nearly every season as his career has moved into its twilight, and all eyes are on fastball velocity every time he has taken the mound this season. Kershaw has logged 2,698.1 innings logged in his future Hall of Fame career.
When taking into account the 11 years he and the Dodgers have reached the playoffs, that amounts to an additional 194 innings.
With Julio Urías almost certainly done for the season (and beyond), Walker Buehler recently announcing he would not be returning in 2023, the loss of Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and multiple injuries in the bullpen, Kershaw being healthy for October is a necessity for the Dodgers.
When discussing Kershaw’s health and velocity this week, Roberts expressed confidence the 10 days between starts would help in addressing mechanics that in turn should lead to more zip on his fastball.
Clayton Kershaw still effective despite injuries and age
Despite Kershaw missing time due to left shoulder inflammation and recent struggles, he has largely been effective when pitching in 2023. He’s 12-4 while posting a 2.61 ERA and 1.06 WHIP to go along with 123 strikeouts over 117 innings in 21 games started.
Kershaw’s 167 ERA+ puts him 67 points over league-average.
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