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Entries in Clayton Kershaw (14)


The Three Strikeouts of Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw started the season with 17 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched.  He's maintain a high strikeout rate throughout his career, as he uses three main pitches to knock out batters:



Clayton Kershaw with two strikes, career.
Pitches 1549 494 383
Plate Appearances 734 194 198
Strikeouts 273 110 126
K Pct. 37.2 56.7 63.6


While Kershaw's fastball results in a high number of Ks, his curve ball and slider are much more efficient at delivering the punch out.  Part of that comes from the change in movement.  Kershaw's fastball does not drop as much as expected:

Clayton Kershaw, career fastball movement with two strikes.His curve and slider both drop quite a bit:

Clayton Kershaw, career movement on the curve and slider.The curve drops a little more and stays show less lateral movement.  The three pitches show a great separation in speed as well.  In the following graph, you can see the speed, as well as why each of the pitches is effective (click graph for a larger image):

Clayton Kershaw, batters swinging with two strikes.The fastball doesn't fool batters.  When they swing at Clayton's fastball, they can see it's a strike, and they make contact often.  Often enough, however, they don't make contact and go down swinging.

The slider comes in around 81 miles per hour.  Like the fastball, batter do a good job of recognizing the pitch as a strike, but with the good movement, they make contact much less often.  The slider is his swing and miss pitch.

The curve ball is the pitch that fools batters in multiple dimensions.  They swing a lot less at the curve, and when they do it's less likely to be a strike in the first place.  With fewer swings, the curve can be dropped over for a called strike three.  While batters make more contact against the curve than against the slider, they make less contact than against the fastball.  When batter are swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, even making contact will often result in something good for the defense.

With three pitches capable of getting a batter, Kershaw keeps hitters guessing.  Three different speeds and three different movements means lots of strikeouts, and less pressure on the Dodgers defense.


L.A. Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw: Early Season Pitch Breakdown

Clayton Kershaw's slider is arguably his best pitch.  Fangraphs has it at 22.3 runs above average over the course of his career.  He's off to a good start with the pitch this season, as batters have managed one hit on 27 swings.  He's also struck out nine batters on sliders and they've put up a 48.1% contact rate overall against them.

Kershaw's fastball has given him a little trouble this season.  In his last start in Colorado, Kershaw allowed two home runs on fastballs, and both were pitches up in the zone. 

Clayton Kershaw's Fastball
(Click to enlarge)

It looks like Kershaw's fastball is coming in a little flatter than in previous seasons. The HRs to Chris Ianetta and Troy Tulowitzki were located in the upper middle portion of the zone and had BrkX readings of under -1.0. Batters have put up an expected wOBA of .323 so far against Kershaw's fastball, compared to his previous three season expected wOBA of .291. But with only two starts worth of fastballs to compare, it's obviously much too early to draw any significant conclusions from the data.

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