Over the past five seasons Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has established himself as one of, if not the best pitcher in baseball. After a respectable 2010 season, Kershaw won his first Cy Young Award in 2011.
He went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and tallied 248 strikeouts. That same season Kershaw was named to the National League All-Star team. The southpaw rode that success into 2012, leading the Majors with a 2.53 ERA.
If not for a strong season from then New York Mets’ right-hander R.A. Dickey, Kershaw would have won a second consecutive Cy Young. To many, he was the deserved winner of the award. He instead finished second in voting and made another trip to the All-Star Game.
Kershaw bounced back to win the Cy Young in 2013 and 2014. He put together a historically great campaign in 2014 and was also named the NL MVP. With a knee-buckling curveball and sharp slider, facing Kershaw is no easy task.
However, one NL player said he doesn’t grow uncomfortable when facing Kershaw because of the southpaw’s control, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney:
Kershaw has hit 27 batters in 1,626 innings in his career, and he never has hit more than five in any season. “He’s obviously tough to hit,” said a fellow NL position player recently. “But it’s a comfortable at-bat.”
Another batter added the Dodgers’ ace tends to be on the attack and pounds the strike zone:
“He goes after you,” said another longtime hitter. “There’s no bulls—.”
Kershaw has never hit more than seven batters, which he did in 2010. Since then, his high is five (reached in 2012 and 2015). It should be noted Kershaw plunked St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday in 2014, seemingly in response to Cardinals pitchers hitting Hanley Ramirez earlier in the game, and Yasiel Puig the night prior.
Although he may not be the type to brush hitters back, Kershaw undeniably presents other sets of challenges. He compiled the first 300-strikeout season last year since 2002. Last season Kershaw was also tops in FIP (1.99), xFIP (2.09), SIERA (2.24), strikeout percentage (33.8 percent), strikeout-to-walk ratio (29.1 percent) and innings pitched (232.2).