An Angels Fan Honest Opinion: In Defense of Clayton Kershaw

Updated: October 23, 2016

The game followed a familiar story line; Dodgers in an elimination game, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound. We’ve seen it before – five other times, to be exact. As the Dodgers ace and the best pitcher in baseball, he’s the one who takes the ball in the big games for the Dodgers.

Unfortunately, this game followed that familiar story line, as the Cubs dominated the game from beginning to end, 5-0 to send the Dodgers home early for the sixth time in Kershaw’s career. As the face of the team, its best player, and the man standing all alone on that mound in the team’s biggest moments, Kershaw shoulders the blame for much of those failures.

The truth is far more complicated than that, however. Kershaw has his fair amount of postseason failures, true, but he also has postseason successes, such as his seven shutout innings on the road in game two of this years’ NLCS. There is more to unearth here in analyzing Kershaw’s postseason resume to this point.

1.) A Victim of His Own Greatness – While Kershaw is consistently the best pitcher every season, he just does not pitch up to his own lofty standards often enough in the postseason. When you pitch as great as Kershaw has for as long as he has, it’s not enough that you merely pitch like a very good pitcher in the postseason.

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It doesn’t help Kershaw’s reputation that he’ll forever be compared to Madison Bumgarner, a pitcher who has taken his game to another level consistently in the postseason while taking his team all the way.

2.) Tough Situations – Every game, every inning, every batter, every pitch is a tense and tough situation in the postseason. There is always stress and pressure in October, and every little moment matters. The Dodgers, however, consistently call upon Kershaw to deliver in even more stressful situations than most, and his willingness to step up in those situations goes unnoticed on a stat sheet.

Kershaw pitches consistently on short rest, out of the bullpen in pressure packed situations, in almost every elimination game, and has often been his team’s only reliable pitcher in the postseason. With all the money the Dodgers have spent and all the players they’ve acquired, they still have not been able to truly build a reliable and deep pitching staff around Kershaw, including the bullpen.

When you’re the only reliable option and the hopes and dreams of your franchise are in your hands every time you take the mound, it’s a lot to put up with, and considering the fact that Kershaw is often placed in the toughest of tough situations, he has not pitched as poorly as the numbers may reflect.

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3.) The Bottom Line – There is no denying that Kershaw has not been able to pitch up to the standards he has set for himself in the postseason. He is the best pitcher in baseball and it is not unreasonable to expect him to pitch like it at the most important times for his team.

The blame for his teams’ numerous failures in October should not rest solely on Kershaw, however. His team has failed to support him in the pitching staff despite doling out historic amounts of money and consistently is forced to call upon him in less than optimal situations, like in relief and on three days rest, which places Kershaw behind the eight ball in an already tough situation.

Considering what Kershaw has been able to do for his team, it’s obvious the Dodgers would be nowhere close to the playoffs without Kershaw, let alone winning series. Kershaw happened to be on the mound in another elimination game loss for the Dodgers, but he does not deserve all the blame for his teams’ consistent failures.

– Written By An Angels Fan…

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