Stay Healthy, Please: The Clayton Kershaw Thread

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I don’t think we’ll get anywhere, but I’ll give this another go.

But it's a 'season' that has lasted 12 years (so far) and he literally is not the same kind of pitcher now as he was at the beginning. So, not a season.
― a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius)

Tried to get my head around this and couldn’t. We’re comparing two sets of numbers: Clayton Kershaw, regular-season pitcher, vs. Clayton Kershaw, postseason pitcher. The particulars of how and when they were compiled seem beside the point to me, because it’s the same guy and the same time-frame. Anytime you make a general statement about a guy’s career, you’re talking about that player at many different stages of that career. But you don’t start chopping up the career into smaller segments for the purpose of...I don’t know what the purpose would be. “Willie Mays was a great baseball player”--that’s a general statement that encompasses the 1951 Willie Mays, the MVP of ’54 and ’65, and the barely-hanging-on gate attraction of 1973. The statement stands, though--you don’t need to clarify it any more than that, just like I don’t see any need to start micro-analyzing the statement “Clayton Kershaw has been a mediocre postseason pitcher” (and don’t really get why you’re so invested in doing so).

As for the "pressing" theory, when he threw 8 scoreless against ATL last year in the DS last year, why didn't he press that night?

As I wrote in the same post, I don’t know what’s behind Kershaw’s postseason troubles--the pressing theory is just that, a theory that makes sense to me. It wouldn’t preclude the occasional good or even great outing, though.

clemenza, Friday, 11 October 2019 13:21 (one month ago) link

Kershaw does have some pretty amazing company on one list:

Worst ERA when facing elimination (Min. 20 IP):

Tim Wakefield - 6.75
Clayton Kershaw - 5.77
Roger Clemens - 5.28
Pedro Martinez - 5.17

(Not sure how many innings you're talking about with Clemens and Martinez--I'm guessing Kershaw's logged a few more.)

https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/clayton-kershaw-postseason-timeline-breaking-down-playoff-struggles-of-the-dodgers-ace-after-game-5-meltdown/

clemenza, Friday, 11 October 2019 13:30 (one month ago) link

chokers all!

“Clayton Kershaw has been a mediocre postseason pitcher”

Overall, that is a true statement, and I don't think anyone is saying otherwise.

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Friday, 11 October 2019 16:25 (one month ago) link

and Willie Mays had his best postseason at age 40

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mayswi01.shtml#all_batting_postseason

so hang on for redemption, Clayton.

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Friday, 11 October 2019 16:29 (one month ago) link

Conversely, I've never once used words like "choker" or "character" as an explanation for any of this--you kind of implied that that's where I was coming from last year, and it's simply not true.

I posted something similar yesterday; assuming he's around for another five or six seasons, I think Kershaw will eventually have a postseason similar to Price's last year (which I loved).

clemenza, Friday, 11 October 2019 16:46 (one month ago) link

no clem, I'm caricaturing the sound of the mob (ie the worst online Dodgers fans). sorry if you thought otherwise.

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Friday, 11 October 2019 16:47 (one month ago) link

Kershaw 2.0 is definitely a different player than Kershaw 1.0, his curveball is flatter and hangs a bit more in the strike zone. His new pitch (slurvy-slider) doesn't have enough zip, and his fastball is uh...

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/eVm29BOKLxu15gyfIWQfX2B-7EY=/0x0:706x449/1720x0/filters:focal(0x0:706x449):format(webp):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/16341430/image1__29_.png

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 11 October 2019 17:43 (one month ago) link

someone somewhere was noting that his fastball and slider are now only 3mph apart -- throwing a harder fastball seems unlikely, but perhaps slowing down the slider would do enough to upset timing

mookieproof, Friday, 11 October 2019 18:44 (one month ago) link

(xpost) Fair enough.

I read that he's held in such high esteem by his teammates, they were going above and beyond when it came to consoling him.

clemenza, Friday, 11 October 2019 19:09 (one month ago) link

Interesting piece for a couple of days ago:

http://blogs.fangraphs.com/clayton-kershaw-and-the-unfairness-of-narratives/

It falls about halfway on things we've been kicking around here: important metrics that are almost the same for him in the regular- and post-season (strikeout and walk rate), one that's much worse (HR).

It does give credence to the idea that it may be tied in with "the little voice in the back of your head":

That’s the math of the situation; it can’t change the feeling, though, the little voice in the back of your head that says “Hey, are you ready for this?” every time Kershaw pitches in October. And if the voice is in your head, you can be sure it’s in Kershaw’s too, every time he gives up a home run or a chain of singles. Is this all luck? Could it possibly be luck? How can it keep happening to me? Am I tipping my pitches? Pressing too hard? Not pressing hard enough?

Saying that someone might be pressing is, to me, just the flip side of saying clutch-hitting doesn't exist. (Which I agree with, although I'd allow that there are probably very isolated cases of players who do consistently perform well under pressure--an argument for somewhere else.) Sabermetrics doesn't buy clutch-hitting because a) the evidence isn't there, and b) why would it be?--you'd have to believe that athletes have some magical ability to change their abilities at key moments. But I also believe that athletes don't have magical abilities to not fall prey to something very human: that doubt creeps in when you don't succeed a few times in the same situation. It doesn't mean that you don't occasionally succeed--get a big hit, pitch a good game--just that the doubt lingers if you also keep back-stepping, and continues to linger until you definitively close that door, like Price did last year. I don't think Kershaw has done that yet. But I think he will at some point.

clemenza, Sunday, 13 October 2019 18:15 (four weeks ago) link

Believing in clutchness doesn't have to be tied in to a belief that someone can do it over an extended period of time. Someone can be clutch on a given day, where they do something they might not have done on another day because they were in a different frame of mind or they told themselves definitively, "I am going to do this now and I am not going to take no for an answer." I think that kind of stuff happens all the time.

timellison, Sunday, 13 October 2019 23:06 (four weeks ago) link


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