Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs: Myth and reality

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Hi — welcome to our annual attempt to kill the myth that Clayton Kershaw always fails in the postseason.

Last year, Kershaw pitched 13 2/3 innings in the National League Division Series with a 2.63 ERA, losing a 3-1 decision in Game 1 before winning Game 4 by the same score on three days’ rest.

In eight playoff starts since 2013, Kershaw has six quality starts — including all three times he has pitched on three days’ rest — and allowed one earned run or less in four of the eight.

We covered this ground already this year, but this seems like the right time for a reminder. What follows is from our May 24 piece: Postseason Kershaw: Do you remember only the bad, or also the good?

Since becoming the ace of the Dodger staff, Kershaw has made eight playoff starts. In the process, Kershaw has …

  • allowed one earned run or less in half of them.
  • allowed three runs or less in all but two of them.
  • made three starts on three days’ rest, totaling 19 innings, with a 1.89 ERA and 23 strikeouts against four walks.

There are three major blemishes on Kershaw’s postseason record, and no one’s suggesting they should be ignored.

  • At age 21, after allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings in the 2009 NLDS, he pitched in the opening game of the ’09 National League Championship Series. He began with four shutout innings, before allowing five runs in the fifth.
  • There was the disaster start in Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS, when Kershaw was charged with seven runs on 10 hits in four innings.
  • In Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS, Kershaw went into the seventh inning against the Cardinals and shockingly surrendered a 6-2 lead.

Then, there are three playoff games in which Kershaw took the loss, but the story that day was really the Dodger offense.

  • In Game 2 of the 2013 NLDS, Kershaw allowed all of three baserunners, but one scored an unearned run on a passed ball and a sacrifice fly, and the Dodgers lost, 1-0.
  • Pitching shutout ball on three days’ rest into the seventh inning of the 2014 NLDS, Kershaw allowed two singles that barely eluded infielders, and then a home run. Though he had outpitched Shelby Miller in terms of baserunners allowed, Kershaw took a 3-2 loss.
  • In Game 1 of the 2015 NLDS, Kershaw was trailing 1-0 in the seventh inning when the strike zone betrayed him. He walked three batters, and then David Wright singled off reliever Pedro Baez for what proved to be the decisive runs in a 3-1 defeat.

This is not an apology for Kershaw’s postseason performance. This is just part of an ongoing effort to set the record straight, in a world in which …

  • the slaughter in his fourth playoff start of 2013 is always remembered, but a 0.47 ERA in the first three starts is quickly forgotten.
  • his 4.59 career playoff ERA (dating back to age 20) is always remembered, but the 2.25 ERA in the first six innings of his playoff starts since 2013 is quickly forgotten.
  • the seventh-inning Matt Adams’ homer in a do-or-die 2014 game is always remembered, but the seven innings of one-run ball in a do-or-die game in 2015 are quickly forgotten.

Kershaw has been great in the postseason. And he has been awful. And he has been in between. He has been good enough to win, without actually being a winner. His playoff work doesn’t fit a simple, all-or-nothing story.

You can say he hasn’t won the big one. But you can’t say he hasn’t won some big ones. He has been punished for his postseason sins (0-5 when he allows more than two runs), but never rescued when he deserved better. And he really has deserved better. …


Times for NLDS Games 1 and 2 announced


Adam Liberatore to have surgery, return in 2017


  1. Not worried about Clayton…..I know he is solid. It our offense that concerns me… is hit or miss lately. Hopefully this losing streak to SF ends and better hitting arrives in Washington.

  2. The offense has had the hit and miss problem the last few season and it never seems to change. Lets see what team shows up starting on Friday. The numbers with RISP are just horrible far to often this season.

  3. oldbrooklynfan

    The postseason is not the regular season and there is definitely much more pressure.

  4. it seems to me that all other teams have to do is run in ALL their left handed pitchers!! even mediocre leftys can beat the dodgers! little or no run support and Clayton will lose another one!! drives me N U T S !!!

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