Clayton Kershaw is in his 15th season with the Los Angeles Dodgers and still resides as one of baseball’s best pitchers when healthy, but avoiding the injured list has limited him the past few seasons.
Last year, the 34-year-old twice went on the IL due to left forearm inflammation, which also ended his season and kept him out of pitching in the playoffs. Kershaw has also previously dealt with back problems, shoulder soreness and biceps tendinitis.
From 2010-2015, Kershaw threw 225 or more innings four times and finished with 198.1 and 204.1 the other two seasons. He has been called upon on to pitch on short rest in the postseason multiple times, adding even more strain to his workload.
That level of over-reliance on Kershaw promoted one former Dodgers employee to feel guilty about how the organization used him, via the L.A. Times:
“We really ran him into the ground,” the remorseful ex-employee said.
Kershaw has thrown 2,477.2 innings over 383 games (380 starts) thus far in his career, including another 189 in the postseason over 37 games. Among active pitchers, only four have thrown more innings than Kershaw, and all of them are three to five years older and have more seasons pitched professionally.
During the 2019 season, Kershaw averaged a career-worst 90.4 mph on his fastball and yielded a career-high 28 home runs in what was an otherwise solid campaign.
Disappointed by the results, Kershaw was among a handful of Dodgers who visited Driveline Baseball that offseason. He immediately noticed a difference in 2020 Spring Training, calling his health “night and day” from the previous year. He also was able to add a few ticks back on his fastball with his improved mechanics, topping out at 93 mph.
Kershaw revealed that he didn’t return to Driveline following the 2020 season but he remained in touch with some of the trainers for continued guidance.
Last season, he posted the highest ERA of his career since his rookie year, but it was still a top-35 ERA among pitchers with at least 120 innings, and Kershaw’s FIP ranked 10th.
The southpaw finished the 2021 season with a 3.55 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 3.4 WAR, 10.65 strikeouts per nine and 1.55 walks per nine in 22 starts.
Kershaw becomes Dodgers strikeout king
Since beginning his 2022 season in dominant fashion, Kershaw has continued to pitch well and his latest outing entailed passing Don Sutton on the Dodgers’ all-time strikeouts list.
Vin Scully, Daron Sutton, Skip Schumaker and A.J. Ellis were among those to record congratulatory messages for Kershaw.
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