Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw continued his Cy Young-caliber 2011 campaign last night, tossing a complete-game shutout against the Detroit Tigers. Manager Jim Leyland sent out an all-right-handed lineup against Kershaw, and the 23-year-old responded by allowing two hits and one walk while tying a season high with 11 strikeouts.
Kershaw registered nine of his 11 K's with his slider. He located that wicked low-80s breaking ball at hitters' knees or handcuffed them on the inside corner:
Kershaw's slider location against the Tigers on June 20, 2011
Detroit swung and missed at 10 of the 21 sliders that Kershaw broke off.
While he was once known for a knee-buckling curveball that Dodgers announcer Vin Scully dubbed "Public Enemy Number One," Kershaw has essentially scrapped his curve while going to his slider more and more frequently. Kershaw has thrown his slider a little more than 23 percent of the time this season, compared to about five percent for the curve.
Opponents are hitting .106/.140/.163 against Kershaw's slider this season. Batters have swung and missed at the pitch nearly 42 percent of the time, the sixth-highest rate among MLB starting pitchers.
The slider is a pitch that tends to have a large platoon split. But, as Kershaw showed against the Tigers, he isn't afraid to use the slider against righties. Kershaw has used his slider at a nearly equal rate against lefties and righties, and right-hander hitters are actually faring worse against the offering (.088/.116/.132 in 2011). Maybe it's time to start calling Kershaw's slider "Public Enemy Number One."