Clayton Kershaw’s three remarkable months revisited
By Cary Osborne
It’s been 76 days since Clayton Kershaw last pitched in a Major League game.
Kershaw missed 12 starts due to a mild disc herniation in his low back. Today, he hits the reset button with his first start since June 26, when he labored through six innings in Pittsburgh having allowed four earned runs (all in the second inning) while dealing with pain.
But in those first three months of the season, so much happened that even with all that time that has passed, Kershaw’s 16 starts still stand out as one of baseball’s most remarkable stories of 2016.
Kershaw had one of the best first halves in Dodger franchise history and easily one of the best of any pitcher in the last 25 years. Just to refresh your memory …
- His 16.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best mark in a first half by any pitcher since at least 1913 (as far as Baseball Reference goes back for the record) and Kershaw was on his way to threatening Phil Hughes’ all-time record of 11.6 from 2014.
- Kershaw’s 0.727 WHIP is also tops for a first half, ahead of all-time greats Grover Cleveland Alexander (0.747 in 1915), Pedro Martinez (0.774 in 2000) and Greg Maddux (0.776 in 1995). His opponents’ on-base percentage of .205 is also now the standard for pitchers in a first half.
- Only four left-handed pitchers in baseball history have walked nine batters or less with a minimum of 100 innings pitched in a first half — Kershaw, Slim Sallee (nine in 1918), Cliff Lee (six in 2010) and David Wells (six in 2003).
- Jon Weisman had this nugget: When Kershaw recorded his 100th strikeout in 2016, he set the MLB record for doing it with the least amount of walks — six.
- Kershaw had a run where he struck out 34 batters without issuing a walk that covered his three starts from April 26 to May 7.
- From April 15 to May 29, he struck out 91 batters and walked three.
- From April 21 to May 15, Kershaw had six games with at least 10 strikeouts. It set a Dodger record, and it was the 12th time in big league history a pitcher has had at least six games with 10 Ks.
- In May, he went 6-0 with a 0.91 ERA, striking out 65 batters in 49 2/3 innings.
- According to Baseball Reference, of pitchers with a minimum of 90 innings in the first half, Kershaw’s 1.79 ERA is the 10th-best since 1992. (He’s also ninth-best with his 1.78 from 2014).
We can go on and on.
However, at least at the outset of his return, we can’t expect him to be this Kershaw, as Ken Gurnick captured in his story for MLB.com on Thursday. Gurnick spoke to Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who said: “To be off two months and not be in a competitive situation, everybody has to be conscious that he’s not in midseason form.”
The fact that Kershaw came back is remarkable enough. But we know Kershaw, and he might have another story to write in September and maybe beyond.