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Entries in Clayton Kershaw (13)


Clayton Kershaw after a Dodgers loss

The estimable Jon Paul Morosi is a National MLB Writer for and when he talks, I listen (you should too).

Recently, on MLB Network, JP was involved in a discussion about Clayton Kershaw's consideration as an MVP candidate.

One of the negatives that Morosi brought up was that the Dodgers are only 7-5 in Kershaw's starts following an L.A. loss. He was mentioning that Justin Verlander's numbers were much better when he was the AL CYA and MVP winner in 2011 which justified his dual selection.

I don't think the Dodgers can complain about Kershaw's performance after a loss.

Kershaw's Numbers After a Dodgers Loss

Kershaw is 5-2
Clayton Kershaw 7 5 2 53.0 10 35 8 51 1.70 0.811 .185 .221 .302

Kershaw vs. Wainwright: Battle of Wicked Curves

Expect to see lots of jelly-legged hitters when Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright take the mound tonight in St. Louis. Kershaw's curveball has been dubbed "Public Enemy Number One" by Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, who knows a thing or two about breakers after watching Sandy Koufax flummox hitters for years. Wainwright's breaker, meanwhile still makes 2006 NLCS Game Seven victim and current teammate Carlos Beltran break out in a cold sweat.

Wainwright has struck out the second-most hitters with his curve (77) among MLB starters, while Kershaw (53) places fourth. To honor all those victims of Uncle Charlie, here are three reasons why both Kershaw and Wainwright's breaking balls are so nasty.


  • The Dodgers lefty gets a whiff about 38% of the time that hitters swing at his curveball, crushing the 28% MLB average and trailing only A.J. Burnett (42%), Madison Bumgarner (42%), Stephen Strasburg (39%), Jordan Zimmermann (39%) and Mike Minor (39%) among National League starters throwing the pitch at least 250 times.
  • When hitters do manage to make contact, they're chopping Kershaw's curve into the grass. His ground ball rate with the pitch (56%) is comfortably above the 51% big league average, which helps explain how Kershaw has yet to be taken deep on a curveball this season.
  • Kershaw rarely leaves his curve on a tee for hitters, throwing just 19% of them to the horizontal middle of the strike zone. The MLB average for starters, by contrast, is 26%.

Pitch location of Kershaw's curveball


  • While Wainwright gets a fair number of swings and misses with his curve (33% miss rate), he excels at getting hitters to expand their strike against the pitch. Wainwright has baited batters into chasing his curveball off the plate 38% of the time, tying him with Jose Fernandez for third-highest among starters. Minor (42%) and Burnett (39%) rank first and second, respectively.  

Hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Wainwright's curveball

MLB average swing rate by pitch location vs. curveballs

  • Wainwright buries his curve at hitters' knees, tossing the pitch to the lower third of the strike zone 63% of the time (the MLB average is about 56%). By keeping his curve down, Wainwright has also generated plenty of grounders (53%) and kept the ball in the park (two homers allowed on curveballs in 2013).
  • Part of the reason why Wainwright stays low with his curveball is that the pitch falls off the table like few others in the game. Wainwright's curve drops an average of 9.5 inches compared to a pitch thrown without spin, about four inches more than the big league average and more than all starters save for Barry Zito and Chris Tillman.

Greinke, Kershaw Get Ks in Different Ways

Now that Zack Greinke has joined the Dodgers, signing the richest contract in history for a right-handed starting pitcher, he'll team up with another ace who may well set the money record for southpaws in Clayton Kershaw. They give L.A. a pair of elite strikeout artists, as Greinke ranks 14th in K/9 among starters over the past three seasons and Kershaw places fifth. But they rack up those Ks in far different ways. Greinke lets batters get themselves out on pitches off the plate, while Kershaw challenges them to touch his sinister stuff.

Here's a look at where Greinke and Kershaw got their strikeouts during the 2012 season:

Location of Greinke's strikeouts, 2012

Greinke goes out of the zone when he's looking for a strikeout, throwing just 37% of his pitches over the plate with two strikes. That's well below the 41.4% MLB average for starters in two-strike counts. Going out of the zone so often, Greinke got about 57% of his strikeouts on chase pitches, compared to the 54.5% average for starters. In fact, the only starter to register more Ks on out-of-zone pitches last year was Felix Hernandez.

Location of Kershaw's strikeouts, 2012

By contrast, Kershaw's approach can be summed up as: "Here it is, I dare you to hit it." He placed 43.2% of his two-strike pitches within the strike zone. While Greinke induced lots of strikeouts on chase pitches, Kershaw got less than half of his Ks (49.3%) on out-of-zone offerings. Kershaw had the fourth-most strikeouts on in-zone pitches last year, trailing just R.A. Dickey, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Kershaw is more confrontational than Greinke when it comes to throwing inside, too: About 47% of the lefty's Ks came on inner-half pitches, compared to 28% for Greinke (39.5% average for starters).

According to Baseball-Reference, the only Dodgers duos to register 200+ Ks in the same season are Stan Williams and Sandy Koufax (1961), Koufax and Don Drysdale (1962-65), Koufax and Don Sutton (1966), Sutton and Bill Singer (1969), and Kevin Brown and Chan Ho Park (2000). With Greinke going away and off the plate and Kershaw bullying hitters with inside, in-zone pitches, look for another pair to be added to that club in 2013.

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