February 24, 2010

Player Snapshot: Clayton Kershaw

I live in LA right now, and while stuck in the hideous traffic that inhabits this city I turned on sports radio to hear what was going on in the world, or at least stuff that I would care about. The topic for the day: What chance do the Dodgers have at winning a World Series this year? This of course led to the string of Dodger homers calling in and saying what every fan says about their team, "we got this in the bag" and the ever famous, "this is our year". But one comment that really struck me was one talking about Clayton Kershaw. The guy was talking about how missing on Halladay was ok, because they had Kershaw who was ready to become an ace of their rotation, despite being 21. I thought ok, I guess that makes sen... 21?! Now, I knew that Clayton was young, and I knew he had talent, but I mean the guy is exactly 1 year and 2 days older than me. This might have been more of an personal crisis as a player outside of the NBA was just about my age, but it still caught me off guard just how young Clayton really is. So I decided to sit down and break down my contemporary as to what his season might look like.
Last year, Kershaw's numbers were out of this world. 185 Ks, 2.79 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 8 Wins. Wait 8 wins? That can't be right. This guy made me do two double takes. Now that is a feat in itself. All of the stats behind this guy make it seem like he is the guy who will challenge Lincecum for Cy Young Awards for the rest of their careers, but 8 Wins? Ill touch on that in a bit, but let's take a look at some other stats of his from last year. He posted a great 2.03 K/BB ratio, which is big in the NL where every runner counts, and brought his HR/9 down from .92 to .37. That means if he threw 3 complete games, the other team might only see 1 homer. That's unheard of in the age of steroids. The only stat which will hurt him this year is the BABIP, which was already under the league average, in part due to a great defense behind him, but with the loss of Orlando Hudson and Manny sitting in left, I don't think he will be so "lucky". But that is only one stat. I mean the guy was a monster last year at age 20!
Alright, so about that whole wins thing. Now, on my lowly Padres I would understand a guy putting up those numbers and only winning 8 games (just look at Jake Peavy's early years), but Clayton's on a playoff team. It makes no sense. According to fangraph's pitch type analysis, the three pitches he threw most last year (fastball, curveball and slider), all increased his team's chance to win. He also added 2.94 to the probability the Dodgers would win. To put that in perspective, Javier Vazquez put up a 2.41 in that category and won 15 games all while playing for a team that won 9 less games than Kershaw's Dodgers.
Clayton might not have the hottest girlfriend on the team (damn you Matt Kemp!) and he might not be the most intimidating pitcher in the world since he looks like he could get pulled over for not looking old enough to drive, but the guy can flat out pitch. He's gonna put up huge stats, and the wins will come, I guarantee it. So go out and get him for your team, especially if its keeper. And if you ever see Kershaw walking around LA offer to buy him a beer since most bartenders probably won't serve him.

Projection: 15-6, 190Ks, 3.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP