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Entries in Los Angeles Dodgers (49)


Pitcher of the Day: Kershaw Declaws Tigers

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."



Andre Ethier's Hit Streak

Andre Ethier's (LAD) hit streak sits at 30.  As David Pinto noted a couple of weeks back, Ethier has been getting hits on balls on the outside of the zone.  This has been a change from his hitting pattern over the previous three years:

Andre Ethier
(Click to enlarge)

Prior to this year, Ethier had been generating a good deal of power on pitches down and in.  That zone has gone cold for him this season, while he's been able to hit pitches low and away much better.

As you would expect from someone riding a 30-game hit streak, Ethier has a very high BABIP of .444 this season, 131 points higher than his previous three year average.  Part of this is due to the increase in line drives he's been hitting during the streak.  Compared to his numbers from 2008-2010, Ethier's LD% is up 7% since his hit streak began.  Even more important, his line drive BABIP is up 192 points. 

Ethier has also been a bit luckier than usual on his groundballs.  Throughout his streak, they have resulted in hits about 36% of the time.  From 2008-2010, he had a groundball batting average of .255.

Ethier faces the New York Mets tonight at Citi Field as he attempts to tie Willie Davis for the Dodgers all-time hit streak honor.  While Ethier's in play average will likely regress at some point this season, the real question is whether it will regress enough over the next 26 or so games to break his hit streak.



Ethier's Adjustment?

Andre Ethier (LAN) extended his hitting streak to 24 games Wednesday afternoon.  A .279 career hitter, Andre's batting average stands at .380 in 2011.  The pattern that pitchers used against him doesn't seem to be working this year.

During the previous three seasons, Ethier did his best hitting on balls inside:

Andre Ethier, in play average, 2008-2011.So pitchers worked him away:

Andre Ethier, pitch frequency, 2008-2010. They continue to work him away in 2011:

Andre Ethier, pitch frequency, 2011.What's changed is Andre is poking those outside pitches for hits:

Andre Ethier, in play average, 2011.So is this real, or just an early season fluke?  Andre hasn't really changed his approach.  He's not swinging more at outside pitches, except those in the upper outside corner.  He's squaring up those pitches better, however.  In the past, 19% of balls he put in play on outside pitches resulted in line drives.  This season, 35% of those pitches turn into line drives.  That seems like an unsustainable rate, but for now, the old way of pitching to the Dodgers outfielder just isn't working.