What Should Dodgers Expect from Clayton Kershaw in 2020?

kersh

There’s probably no other player on the Dodgers‘ active roster scrutinized more than lefty starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw. When he was at the peak of his game just a few years ago, many folks rivaled his success with the legendary Sandy Koufax; but now that he is on the backside of his impressive career, there are actually some fans who feel he’s not even worthy of a rotation slot.

Aside from his rookie season in 2008, most of Kersh’s 2019 regular season numbers were among the worst of his career, specifically his 3.03 ERA and 3.86 FIP. However, it goes without saying that many rival teams around the league would be happy if their ace produced those kinds of numbers. That’s a great example of how much fans of the Dodgers have been spoiled for decades by superior starting pitching.

Of course, Kershaw has been hampered by the monkey on his back as far as throwing in the playoffs goes. During the regular season, he has a lifetime record of 169-74 with a ridiculous 2.44 ERA, yet during his postseason career, he has tallied a 9-11 mark with a not-so-impressive 4.43 ERA. Obviously, some of those figures involve the scandalous numbers of the Red Sox and Astros that Kersh will forever have on his personal ledger, but his five earned runs in just 6-1/3 frames during the 2019 NLDS are still quite revealing.

It goes without saying that Kershaw has passed the reigns of the “ace” pitcher to 23-year-old righty Walker Buehler. Despite the No. 2 label, the projections by many outlets still have Clayton producing All-Star caliber numbers for the upcoming campaign. According to the Steamer figures on Fangraphs, CK will post a 14-9 record with a 3.55 ERA, a 3.68 FIP and a 4.4 fWAR over 32 appearances and 202 innings pitched. Coincidentally, Baseball Reference has Kershaw tallying a 12-6 record with a 3.24 ERA over 164 innings of work.

Heading into the new campaign blind, I’d probably agree that the aforementioned predictions are as good as any, but something inside me seems to think that the now 31-year-old Kershaw might have a trick or two up his sleeve in order to succeed in 2020. Perhaps he has been putting in extra time this winter when it comes to pinpointing his command, or maybe he has optimized the spin on his deadly slider to produce better results. Despite the apparent decline in velocity on his four-seam, maybe Kershaw will finally discover a way to come somewhere close to the success he once experienced in his heyday.

Instead of avoiding reporters after his squad’s season-ending loss to the Nationals in the 2020 NLDS, Kershaw decided to speak, seemingly revealing the attitude with which he might take the field during the upcoming season.

“Every year is no fun. This year, the abruptness, the way it happened. It’s no fun. It’s not. It continues not to be,” Kershaw told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com after being eliminated by the Nationals. “But you have two options: you can either crawl into a hole, or you can move on and try to get better for the next year. I don’t want to crawl into a hole yet, so I’m going to try to get better for next year.”

My personal guess is that he will indeed get better. And, although he is viewed as the No. 2 starter in the rotation from a theoretical perspective, I’d be willing to wager skipper Dave Roberts still gives Kershaw the ball against the Giants on Opening Day.

 

19 thoughts on “What Should Dodgers Expect from Clayton Kershaw in 2020?

  1. I’ll bet his era will be under 3.00 this year. He’ll need better command of his fastball to do
    It tho. And I think the baseballs won’t be flying like last year. If only he could develop a changeup like Ryu to throw to righties!

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    1. Sorry to see that. I think he showed some promise but since he has no remaining options I guess it was unlikely that he would make the opening day roster. At least now he has a chance to hook on somewhere else before ST.

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  2. Kershaw will still outsmart a lot of hitters, he will continue to struggle with the gopher ball, he still has something left in the tank. He will most likely suffer sometime of injury that will make him sit down for a month or two. Hopefully he learns to take a little edge off himself during the playoffs and perform a little bit better in the post season.

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    1. In 2018 for Houston his line was .276/354/.533/.888 with 12 HR and 42 RBI in 210 AB. Those are very nice numbers. We don’t have Freese any longer so I think they want to at least see if White can help fill that hole. Now that they’re working with him to control his weight, I have no problem in keeping him, at least through ST.

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  3. If he tears it up in ST he could earn a role…. but wouldn’t it have to be at someone’s expense? We already have 2 utility players AND outfield backups. How many bench players do the Dodgers need? I’d rather that spot go to pitching.

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    1. Chances are the rules will be that they can only carry 13 pitchers so it’s a matter of whether he’d be more valuable than another position player. He’d have to perform very well in ST to take that 26th spot but they might as well wait to see what they have and then decide.

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      1. Valid point. Only 13 pitchers, 14 in September, how can we possibly get by with only 8 relievers. Well, with the new end of inning rule it should be easy to have 6 starters and 7 relievers. Starters need to go 6-7 and if they get an extra days rest that should be no problem.

        Steamer don’t much care for Nelson. Hope Friedman sees something fangraphs doesn’t.

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      1. Really?

        I’m looking at the stats right now. He was pretty good in ‘16. .897 OPS. In’ ‘17, the year before Cora got there, he slashed .264/.344/.459. In ‘18, first year with Cora? .346/.438/.640. If you know what’s coming it’s a lot easier to hit it. It will be interesting to see if Betts OPS’s over 1.000 again, or goes back down to the .800’s.

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  4. It will sure be interesting to see if any of the old-time managers get another crack at a job with three vacancies now.
    Dusty, Buck, Bochy, Scioscia all out there and with the possible exception of Bochy probably all would be happy to do it again. None of those guys are big stats fans but they can certainly all control a clubhouse.
    By the way, there is no truth to the rumor that Lasorda is interviewing for all three jobs.

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  5. I read the other day, that Boch wants a little time off, but the other three guys would be perfect for those jobs. They’re all high integrity guys. I don’t think any of the media, or fans would ever question whether one of those guys was cheating. That would take a big distraction away from the teams

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