There is no doubt in any one’s mind that Clayton Kershaw is something special. A few years back the Dodgers wouldn’t deal him for Johan Santana and people were already talking about a Cy Young award before this season started. When a 21 year old posts a 9.74 K/9, 1.23 WHIP and 2.79 ERA in his second season, who wouldn’t get excited? On average, he was the 19th SP taken in drafts and went around pick 90. Expectations were huge, I even heard about co-managers who were forcing head honchos into paying extravagant prices for Clayton. Even BFun got caught up in the whirlwind and selected him 77th overall in the Y! Friends and Family draft. While the hype was likely justified, they were warnings signs.
4.79 BB/9: Only Ian Snell, Fausto Carmona, Manny Parra, Jonathan Sanchez and Kyle Davies had a worse BB/9 in 2009.
4.1% HR/FB%: Best in the league. Most pitchers do not have the ability to keep their HR/FB% below league average (near 11%). Clayton posted a 11.6% HR/FB% in 2008.
These nerd stats wouldn’t give Harold Reynolds any pause in selecting Kershaw, but they were enough for MDS. Kershaw didn’t end up on any of my teams. It’s not that I was avoiding the guy or anything, it’s just that other managers loved him more than me. They either reached for him or paid the extra dollar. I am no fan of any pitcher who allows that many free bases. Clayton will need that BABIP to stay below average for that 1.23 WHIP to repeat itself. He posted a .274 BABIP last year compared to the .303 league average. It was .325 in 2008, so you can either say he made a huge leap or he was a little lucky. The data set is pretty small, so that is a judgement call. 11 SP bested Kershaw’s .274 BABIP in 2009 and the majority of them are on everyone’s Regression lists: Jair Jurrjens (I’m still laughing), J.A. Happ, Bronson Arroyo, Ross Ohlendorf, Randy Wolf, Jarrod Washburn. If Kershaw continues handing out free passes and those HR Allowed start catching up, watch out!
It’s only been two starts, but Kershaw is not looking good. He walked 6 batters in 4.2 Innings vs Pittsburgh and walked 5 batters in 5.1 Innings vs Arizona. That’s a grand total of 11 walks in 10 IP. He’s already thrown 219 Pitches and only 118 of them were for strikes. Don’t expect a large number of Quality Starts, 6 Innings might be asking for a lot from this guy. It’s too early for Kershaw owners to panic, but if he doesn’t get his stuff together and that HR/FB% normalizes, it’s not going to be pretty. I expect this to be a roller coaster ride for everyone involved. He will be a huge wild card in H2H playoffs. Maybe you can buy low at some point, but I’m guessing not in most circles.
Is MDS too big of a stat nerd? Do you fear the walks or do you get a chubby from the upside? No middle ground here, choose a side. Voting is anonymous, defend your honor in the comments if you must.