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Since coming into the National League as a twenty-year-old in 2008, Clayton Kershaw has dominated his opponents. The three-time Cy Young Award winner is poised to have his best season.
After complaining about having an abbreviated offseason since the Los Angeles Dodgers went to the World Series, which had seven thrilling games, Kershaw didn’t allow a run during spring training. He spent the offseason trying to strengthen his troublesome back, which has landed him on the disabled list for a significant amount of time during the last two years and probably cost him two more Cy Young Awards.
Despite not allowing a run in 21.1 innings in the Cactus League, Kershaw isn’t thrilled with his unbelievable performance. During spring training, most pitchers with secure spots on their teams’ Opening Day rosters work on things that gave them trouble in the previous season, and Kershaw was no different.
On the first day of spring training, manager Dave Roberts named Kershaw to start his eighth consecutive Opening Day. Every baseball fan was excited about the match-up between Kershaw with his five ERA titles facing the San Francisco Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner who won the World Series MVP in 2014. The game is exclusively televised on ESPN.
A line drive ruined this dream matchup. Bumgarner’s fractured hand will keep him out of the action until June at the earliest, and he might sit out until the All-Star break.
Although manager Bruce Bochy named the 27-year-old left-handed Ty Blach who has had success against the Dodgers during his young Major-League career, the opener doesn’t have the same excitement surrounding it without Bumgarner.
Without throwing another pitch in the Major Leagues, Kershaw is a future Hall of Famer. At 30, he is the best pitcher during his generation.
What does make Kershaw great?
He has magnificent control. When he debuted for the Dodgers on May 25, 2008 against the Saint Louis Cardinals and for two years after that, Kershaw attempted to strike out everyone and had difficulty keeping his pitch counts manageable. His high pitch counts caused Dodger manager Joe Torre to remove the youngster from the game early, aiming to protect Kershaw’s valuable left arm from injury. This frustrated Kershaw, a highly competitive individual, so he worked on locating his pitches in the strike zone. Now if he issues a walk, it almost gets headlines.
The comparisons between Kershaw and Dodger legend Sandy Koufax have been flying around since Kershaw appeared in his first Major-League exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox. Kershaw has great velocity and an unbelievable large 12-to-6 curveball that freezes most Major-League hitters. These are the same pitches that Koufax had when he threw four no-hitters, including a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs in September 1965, but when Koufax pitched, the mound was ten inches higher than it is now.
Whereas Koufax mostly relied on a fastball and the greatest curveball of all time, Kershaw has developed a devastating slider to go with his fastball that both can rise and sink in the strike zone. An arthritic elbow forced Koufax to retire at 30. Unless Kershaw’s back keeps flaring up, he isn’t retiring anytime soon.
Though Kershaw hasn’t won every Cy Young Award since 2011, the year when he became dominant, undoubtedly, he is the most dominant left-handed starter in the Major Leagues. He pitched one no-hitter in June 2014 against the Colorado Rockies, but every time he takes the mound, Kershaw has the possibility of throwing either a no-hitter or a perfect game.
The 2018 season should be great for Kershaw.