Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Clayton Kershaw (Page 1 of 35)

Clayton Kershaw and the art
of choosing joy over blame

Life offers many lanes going the same direction.  

If you don’t know it by now, I value the journey more than the destination. Don’t get me wrong — the destination can be amazing, and not reaching it can be so frustrating. Failure to go the distance can sour me on my own journey if I’m not careful.

My novel is Exhibit A. Not only am I so proud of my writing, but it was such a great experience — at times, as I’ve probably said here, my best friend. And yet, it’s been a year-plus since it’s been on the market, and I can’t get it sold. I’ve had editors praise it while saying it’s not marketable. Maybe that’s just their way of being nice. Maybe they’re just lazy, since I think it is easily marketed. Either way, I have to remind my self that the process — the moments of writing that thrilled me (especially when I transcended a roadblock) — that all was the best part. 

This is a very long way for me to make a short comment about Clayton Kershaw’s seven perfect innings today. 

I have passed the point where I think a World Series title is the be-all, end-all of Major League Baseball. Obviously, the Dodgers’ title satisfied a big longing 18 months ago. Now, I would have rather seen Kershaw go for the perfect game rather then pull him out for the sake of October. For me, Kershaw perfection would generate more pure joy, like that finding that perfect plot point, thrilling beyond measure.  

That doesn’t mean that the Dodgers committed a crime by pulling him from the game. Pursuit of the playoffs and a championship is a truly worthy goal. Taking steps to protect a 34-year-old lefty with a record of injuries, so that we can see him on the mound as much as possible going forward, is also a truly worthy goal. 

Something good doesn’t mean the other thing is bad. Ice cream comes in many good flavors. I like burgers and I like baby back ribs. We don’t have to choose between one preference and another. Both are there for us as we travel the boulevards of life. We can see the horizon from both lanes. 

Either way, seven perfect innings on a cold April afternoon for a legend ain’t bad. 

Let’s not assign blame on a happy day. The last thing that makes sense on a day like today is to fight about it. 

Today was a moment to treasure. As Vin Scully would surely remind us, be glad that it happened. And let the rest go. 

Comparing major injuries
for the Giants and Dodgers

San Francisco first baseman Brandon Belt, who has suffered a fractured left thumb while attempting to bunt (against the shift, apparently) on Sunday for the Giants. Belt will miss at least the remainder of the regular season, and his return date during the playoffs is so far undetermined. 

This is obviously a major injury for San Francisco — for their resurgent lineup in 2021, Belt leads the team with a 159 OPS+ and has 29 homers in only 97 games. (He missed almost two months because of a right knee injury earlier this year.) The Giants are already without one-time Dodger acqusition Darin Ruf, who has a 141 OPS+ in 114 games. 

The news made me curious to compare major injuries between the Giants and the Dodgers this season. As a resource, I used these pages for San Francisco and Los Angeles available at Fangraphs. 

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Clayton Kershaw to return to the Dodgers, A.J. Ellis predicts

The last time Clayton Kershaw was approaching free agency, in 2018, I wrote a number of times (summed up here) about the likelihood that he would remain with the Dodgers. Because of his unique history in Los Angeles, there was no other team that could sign him for which he could offer more value. 

Kershaw will be a free agent again in two months, but the question hasn’t come up as much, because of the 33-year-old’s more advanced age and injury issues. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that as long as he wants to pitch, it continues to make the most sense for him to stay with the Dodgers. While he shouldn’t command the same salary of his last contract, no contender is better equipped to pay him the dollars he will end up earning.

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Previewing the 2021 Dodgers: Pitchers

Having glanced a snapshot of the position players on the Opening Day roster for the Dodgers, let’s now turn to the pitchers. 

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Fun, funny and funky facts about Kershaw at Coors

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw will look to put his 10.22 Spring Training ERA behind him by … pitching in the friendly confines of Coors Field for Opening Day on Thursday. Here’s a random set of data points about the 33-year-old’s experiences there, thanks to the database from our friends at Baseball-Reference.com

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Brothers in Arms excerpt: Clayton Kershaw and the World Series

Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers

Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition comes to a conclusion with a focus on Clayton Kershaw at the end of the 2017 season. The book was published in 2018, without any knowledge of what was to be revealed about that 2017 World Series. 

Below, I’m reprinting the final 1,000 words of the book, just to serve as a reminder of where we stood at that time and to help underscore what it meant for Kershaw to get his World Series title. 

In the first World Series game for the Dodgers since 1988 and the hottest World Series game on record (first-pitch temperature: 103 degrees), against the top offense he had ever faced in the playoffs, Kershaw presented his biggest nationwide audience with his most dominant playoff start, throwing seven innings of one-run ball against the Astros in which he allowed three hits and no walks while striking out 11—the first World Series pitcher of any stripe to fan at least 11 with no walks since Newcombe in 1949. This was Kershaw incarnate, the one everybody had expected all along. After Los Angeles and Houston went on to split the first four games of the Series, Kershaw returned to the mound in Houston for Game 5, and with the Dodgers scoring three runs in the first inning and another in the top of the fourth, there before Kershaw stood the most pristine opportunity to seal his legacy.

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Return of the Clayton Kershaw Playoff Chart

Click the chart below to enlarge. 

Green: Ace-level starts
Orange: Two earned runs or fewer in first six innings
Yellow: Mixed bags
Red: Disasters
Light gold: Relief appearances

I created the Clayton Kershaw Postseason Chart two years ago to communicate how Kershaw has been both great and terrible and everywhere in between during the postseason.

The Dodgers’ brief window in the 2019 playoffs didn’t change the narrative. In his first start, he pitched well enough to win but didn’t. Then he had a disastrous relief outing, his first such nightmare out of the bullpen in a decade.

Kershaw has made 25 career playoff starts. Here’s how they break down:

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Sheltered, Part 6: There used to be a ballclub right here

Dodger Stadium, September 2015 (Photo: Jon Weisman)

I remember the Dodgers.

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Thoughts I shouldn’t be having on a coronavirus Monday

Remnants of a tree, Calabasas, February 1. One person I showed this photo to asked, “Who is that?”

In some ways, there’s nothing better than being awake in the middle of the night. It’s only a shame you have to pay the price later in the day. 

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. It wasn’t because of these thoughts, but as the next hour passed, it seemed like as good a time as any to get them out of my system. 

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Dodgers’ winter of discontent gives way to auspicious spring

It feels like 10 years since I last saw a Dodger game. 

It feels like we’ve lived through an entire era of baseball in the four months and three days the Dodgers last walked off the field, heads bowed. It feels like we’ve aged a generation. 

As I hibernated with other activities, I watched Dodger fans descend in to a deep well of anger and despair. The winter of our discontent barely seems adequate to describe it. Behind center field, offseason construction tore a hole in Dodger Stadium, delivered directly from Metaphors ‘R’ Us.  

The bitterness of the Dodgers’ shocking Game 5 loss in the National League Division Series lingered like a slow-acting toxin, blackening the rose petals of fandom.

The unrequited pursuit of big-name talent, Gerrit Cole in particular, generated a sense of Kafkaesque imprisonment, blinding the reality that none of the Dodgers’ top rivals except the Yankees had improved their rosters. Then again, if the Yankees become the team to beat, isn’t that anguish enough?

Then the earth trembled, the ground beneath our feet cracked open and the void opened. 

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The return of October’s great and terrible Clayton Kershaw

Click the chart below to enlarge. 


Please welcome back the Clayton Kershaw Postseason Chart, which I introduced a year ago to illustrate how Kershaw has been both great and terrible in the postseason.

Not only terrible. Great and terrible. 

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Best of the 2010s:
The All-Decade Dodgers

Raymond Gorospe/MLB.com

We have nearly reached the end of the ’10s, and though selections of the Dodgers’ all-decade team should probably wait until after the 2019 World Series, these few days of relative calm before the storm of the postseason seemed like a good time to reveal them. Nothing is likely to affect these choices between now and then (although I’m fascinated by the idea that something could). 

Most challenging was having to deal with five legitimate candidates for the four openings at outfield/first base. Catcher was nearly a toss-up, and second base yielded its own surprise. 

Here we go … 

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Clayton Kershaw is killing it
as the game goes on

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

How has Clayton Kershaw managed to complete at least six innings in all 22 of his starts this year? He has given Dave Roberts no reason to take him out early. 

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Visiting the Hall of Fame
Part 2: On to Los Angeles

As I mentioned a couple days ago, on July 14 I made my second visit to Cooperstown, and first as an adult. I took tons of pictures, and couldn’t help wanting to share some with you. Today, here is a set of shots focusing on the Dodgers, dating from their move to Los Angeles. 

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Classic Kershaw

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I was 40 years old when Clayton Kershaw first pitched for the Dodgers. He was 20. Brand, spanking new. Back then, he was a perfect toy for my midlife Dodger fan crisis.

Now, there are newer, flashier cars, and he doesn’t run quite like he used to, but he’ll always be my favorite. Classic.

We’re a generation apart, but I feel like we’re growing old together. And I think there’s going to come a day when I look back and think of him as the greatest pitcher of my youth.

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