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Entries in Clayton Kershaw (14)

Monday
Dec102012

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.

Tuesday
Sep202011

Kershaw and his evolving slider

Check out the evolution of the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw from a fastball/curveball pitcher to a fastball/slider pitcher.

 2008

In 22 games (21 starts) in 2008, Kershaw was 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA and a 1.495 WHIP.

Kershaw in 2008 had a .264 batting average against

Kershaw threw 1891 pitches in 2008

Fastball - 68.0% (1286 pitches) - .291

Change Up - 4.5% (85) - .167

Curveball - 21.6% (408) - .153

Slider - 0.3% (6) .500

Cutter - 0.1% (1) .000

2009

In 31 games (30 starts) in 2009, Kershaw was 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.228 WHIP.

Kershaw in 2009 had a .206 batting average against

He threw 3259 pitches in 2009

Fastball - 66.5% (2168 pitches) - .216

Change Up - 4.0% (130) - .355

Curveball – 16.8% (546) - .126

Slider – 6.9% (225) .143

Cutter - 0.6% (20) .000

2010

In 32 games (32 starts) in 2010, Kershaw was 13-10 with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.179 WHIP.

Kershaw in 2010 had a .214 batting average against

He threw 3390 pitches in 2010

Fastball – 70.5% (2390 pitches) - .243

Change Up – 1.3% (45) - .250

Curveball – 6.8% (229) - .290

Slider – 19.5% (662) .108

Cutter - 0.5% (16) .000

2011

In 32 games (32 starts) in 2011, Kershaw is 20-5 with a 2.27 ERA and a 0.987 WHIP.

Kershaw in 2011 has a .208 batting average against

He has thrown 3375 pitches in 2011

Fastball – 65.3% (2205 pitches) - .272

Change Up – 3.6% (122) - .059

Curveball – 5.2% (176) - .146

Slider – 24.1% (813) .117

Cutter – not thrown

The change in Kershaw has been both significant and successful. 

Friday
Jul222011

Clayton Kershaw's Platoon-Proof Slider

Is the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw the best starting pitcher in baseball? If not, he's in the discussion. The 23-year-old left-hander has taken yet another step forward this season, increasing his strikeout rate, issuing fewer free passes and posting a 2.39 fielding independent ERA (FIP) that's bested by that of only Roy Halladay. Kershaw is enjoying his best season yet by shutting down right-handed hitters, and he's doing it with a wicked, platoon-proof slider.

Kershaw has long been death on fellow lefties, but his numbers against opposite-handed hitters have improved dramatically

Kershaw versus right-handed hitters:

2008: 1.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio, .269 batting average/.349 on-base percentage/.393 slugging percentage

2009: 1.41 K/BB ratio, .208/.325/.291

2010: 2.13 K/BB ratio, .218/.301/.298

2011: 4.52 K/BB ratio, .221/.271/.316

Basically, Kershaw is turning every righty hitter that he faces into the 2011 version of Alex Rios. Those righties are hitting his fastball pretty well, with a .314/.368/.432 line against the pitch that's well above the .273/.351/.431 average for righty batters versus lefty fastballs. But Kershaw's slider is another story.

Kershaw is using his slider against righ-handers 22 percent of the time this year, compared to 19 percent in 2010, five percent in 2009 and less than one percent in 2008. Righties just plain can't make contact with the pitch.

First, here's the average contact rate for right-handed hitters against left-handed sliders:

Now, here's the contact rate for righties against Kershaw's slider:

Right-handers have missed 41 percent of the time that they have pulled the trigger on a Kershaw slider, compared to the 28 percent average for righty hitters versus lefty sliders.

What makes Kershaw's slider so remarkable is that it's a killer pitch against batters swinging from both sides of the plate. Overall, sliders have one of the largest platoon splits of any pitch, with opposite-handed hitters faring much better against the offering. In 2011, left-handed pitchers have a .183/.212/.258 line against left-handed hitters when throwing a slider. Right-handed batters have a .207/.255/.326 slash against lefty sliders. But Kershaw's slider? Lefties are hitting .130/.167/.196, and righties have an even worse .087/.120/.173 line.

Most pitchers can't shut down opposite-handed batters with the slider, but Kershaw seems to be the exception to the rule. His increased use of that hard breaker and subsequent improvement against right-handers puts Kershaw in the same class as the Halladays, Lees and Lincecums of the world.