I hate to burst your bubble, but Clayton Kershaw has not pitched like Clayton Kershaw this season. In fact, with a record of 1-2 and an ERA of 4.26, Kershaw has looked downright ordinary rather than the superhero we’ve come to expect. The best starter on the Dodgers so far? That would be Zack Greinke, who is 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA. And Greinke would actually be 6-0 if it weren’t for a blown save by his bullpen on Monday against the Marlins. So what’s happened this year to the reigning Cy Young and MVP of the National League?
We at Off Base predicted that Kershaw would not put up unbelievable numbers this season as we considered what the Cardinals exposed last October and the eventual adjustments by the rest of the league. I saw in my crystal ball more Cy Young votes for Greinke whereas Zac P. predicted an ERA above 3.50 this season for Kershaw. Adjustments may be part of the issue, as hitters have begun to recognize Kershaw’s curveball. But I suspect something else is going on, something that hasn’t happened in any other year of Kershaw’s career: Kershaw is learning to be a daddy.
Cali Ann Kershaw was born on January 23, 2015. Cali was Kershaw’s first, and as experienced as Kershaw is at pitching, fatherhood is a new frontier that a 95 mph fastball won’t help. Parenting is a skill that takes time, patience and a lot of sleepless nights. Having a baby not even 4 months old is quite a test for the 27 year old, and I can imagine it is quite draining.
And Kershaw is showing some fatigue and lack of concentration. Kershaw, a complete game specialist, has looked awfully human this season. In his first seven starts, he’s made it through the seventh inning only twice – and both of those games the Dodgers lost. And it’s not as if Kershaw has thrown a lot of pitches per game, throwing 100 pitches or more just twice. Although strikeouts are up through his first seven starts, his walks have increased as well. He also has thrown more home runs and given up more overall hits.
As one looks for patterns in a player’s career using statistics, one easily forgets that players are not robots matching up with all the algorithms. Baseball players are human beings that eat, sleep and have families to worry about. Playing baseball is Kershaw’s job, and with any job, life’s distractions, good and bad, can get in the way. Kershaw is a smart pitcher, but a lack of focus can be attributed to his off-field priorities. Not going deep into games, that can be explained by all those sleepless nights.
Now word on the street is that Greinke has a baby due this year. As spectacular as he’s played, it wouldn’t surprise me if Greinke had a less than stellar second half. Yes, the hitters may eventually adjust and begin to make Greinke look a little more human. But a new baby should remind all of us that Greinke, like Kershaw, was human to begin with.
Featured Image: Via talk-sports.net