Forbidden Love: Clayton Kershaw
Forbidden Love is a Cubs DNA series where our staff waxes poetic about a player on a team other than the Cubs. Maybe even one you think they should hate. In this installment, Staci thinks it's time to talk about how she doesn't hate Los Angeles Dodgers future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw at all, and that he deserves some gosh darn respect.
Dear reader, I have no love for the Dodgers. Like you might be, I'm sick to death of hearing about them nonstop, and having every sports media outlet crown them before the season even starts every year only to watch them fumble at the goal line to some other team somewhere along the way. (Although I'm not sure if we can count 2017 OR 2018 because, you know, CHEATERS!) Of course it's happening again this season because OMG MOOKIE BETTS!!!!11!!!11!!1!1, but I'm still picking the Rays to win the World Series. We'll see how that goes.
HOWEVER, let's talk about Clayton Kershaw, shall we? We all know about The Narrative. Kershaw is bad in the postseason. He chokes. He blows it for the Dodgers every year. I'm not immune to it, you're probably not immune to it, and every year in the playoffs we see memes and jokes like this one my good friend breaks out when it inevitably happens:
And there's good reason The Narrative exists! Statistically, postseason Kershaw is markedly worse than regular season Kershaw.
I mean, woof. You know who has a career ERA around 4.36? Matt Albers. You don't want Matt Albers starting the Big Game for you in the playoffs, amirite? But hold on a sec... let's dive a little deeper. See, the problem is that the Dodgers know how they should be using Kershaw in the postseason. To wit:
Remember last week, when Kevin Cash pulled Charlie Morton after 66 pitches and everyone lost their minds, but the Rays won the pennant and went on to the World Series? There was a reason for that--statistically, Morton struggles the third time through the order. Like, dramatically so. Batters' OPS almost .300 higher against him when seeing him a third time. Kevin Cash did the right thing by the analytics, particularly with two outs and two runners on, and it worked. If Dave Roberts and the Dodgers would just listen to what the data is trying to tell them with regards to Clayton Kershaw, instead of being stubborn and trying to ride him like he's a 25 year old Madison Bumgarner, maybe they'd get the results they're looking for. No relief appearances! No innings after the 5th unless they have a big lead, and then pull him at the first sign of trouble! Be smart, people! Stop making this happen!
Besides, along with all the Clayton Kershaw is a First Ballot Hall of Famer and Generational Talent stuff, he also seems like a really good dude off the field. I mean, he's adorable with his kids!
He pulled a Max Scherzer/Mike Mussina on Dave Roberts and Mark Prior (against the Brewers, which made it even better!), but was, like, super polite about it!
And since you all know by now that I love to highlight people's charity endeavors, Kershaw also has his own foundation to help at-risk children worldwide called Kershaw's Challenge. His work earned him the Roberto Clemente award way back in 2012, just two years after starting his foundation.
Oh, and did I mention he's a pretty good pitcher? Kershaw has a lifetime 2.43 ERA, and his 2.75 career FIP suggests this is no fluke. His biggest opponent now are his nagging back issues, which seem to sideline him for some part of every season. Still, I think it's time to give the guy credit beyond his postseason issues and admit that maybe he's earned more respect than what we tend to give him, regardless of how this World Series turns out.