Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Game #128 - Toronto Blue Jays (52-75) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (82-44)

Clayton Kershaw has gone 6 innings in each of his 21 starts in 2019
Around this time last year, talk in Dodger-land revolved around the health of ace Clayton Kershaw. He had missed at least a month of game action in each of the last 3 seasons, with various shoulder and back issues. In 2018, his ERA was the highest of his career (2.73), supported by peripherals (FIP and xFIP of 3.19) and the lowest strikeout rate of his career (8.65 K/9). His struggles can more or less be tied to a loss in velocity on his heater. Brooks Baseball shows that he lost 3 MPH on his four-seamer from his dominant run as the best pitcher in baseball. That velocity has yet to come back, and it probably never will.

Fast forward to spring of 2019, and concerns still lingered. He had to be shut down with shoulder inflammation upon his arrival in camp, an issue that seemingly bothers every pitcher at some point in their career. Kershaw admitted to being anxious about the shoulder in camp in an article from Bill Plunkett of The Orange-County Register. Injuries and diminished velocity hit Kershaw, as he was shut down for most of the spring and did not start the year until late April. Concerns grew around the industry, and pundits were quick to write Kershaw off. Reports of his demise appear to have been a bit premature, as Kershaw is enjoying a healthy 2019 in what has been his most effective since 2016.

Part of his resurgence has come from attacking hitters with a first strike fastball and a modified slider, chronicled in a great piece written by Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer. In his last couple starts it has been vintage Kershaw, with 9 or more strikeouts in 4 of his last 6 six starts. Even with his fastball peaking at 92 MPH - he is able to generate whiffs with his slider, while locating the curve and four-seamer with as much precision as ever. This version of Kershaw could be his most impressive yet - in a year with a juiced baseball, and more home-runs than ever - he has managed to keep the ball in the park. His 0.99 HR/9 and 13% HR/FB rate could point to negative regression, though I think it is a case of a veteran pitcher learning to adapt his arsenal to his skill set and get batters out. I fear that his velocity may never return, though this season has proved he can still be a valuable pitcher while averaging 90 MPH.

In other Dodger news, they are still unsure what the plan is for top prospect Gavin Lux. He has been absolutely raking in AAA this year, though the PCL numbers are a tad inflated. He is currently hitting .415 in AAA, and could slot in nicely at second base in September. If he gets the opportunity, he could hit his way onto the postseason roster and slot in at second base. Chris Taylor is set to return soon from a broken forearm, which could cloud the picture. After a lack of moves at the deadline (the big splash being LOOGY Adam Kolarek from the Rays) it makes sense to add him and Dustin May into the picture as a way of adding from within the organization.

In Jays news, it appears Vladdy will suit up at 3rd and bat third. A little surprised by this, as it seems like an easy time to give him an extra day or two off just to be careful with his workload. I checked Brandon Drury's career splits vsLHP and vsRHP and there wasn't much of a seperation (85 wRC+ vs LHP and 89 vs RHP).

Urena is called up..

Chavez Ravine wouldn't be a bad spot to be. Seriously debated going for the series.
Obligatory Nate Pearson in Buffalo clip


This is your game threat: 'Greatest Pitcher of our Generation' edition.