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Is Kershaw ready to take the next step?

Mar 29, 2010, 12:54 AM EDT

kershaw-clayton-100328.jpgVicente Padilla has been named the Opening Day starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that right-thinking baseball fans expect that it will be Clayton Kershaw who assumes the mantle of ace. The early evidence certainly is pointing in that direction.

The 22-year-old left-hander dominated the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, striking out seven while allowing one run in six innings. And he did it without having command of his curveball, relying instead of his fastball, plus two recently added tricks up his sleeve: Mr. Slider and Mr. Changeup.

From Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:

According to a chart kept by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Kershaw threw seven of eight changeups for strikes and recorded three outs with the pitch. Seven of his nine sliders were thrown for strikes.

Relying on the two relatively new weapons in his arsenal, Kershaw was able to bide time until his curveball started dropping into strike zone.

Kershaw’s spring ERA sits at a nifty 1.69. And that comes on the heels of his 2010 campaign in which he was only 8-8, but with a 2.79 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 171 innings.

The potential has always been there, enticing and sometimes dazzling. Is this the year he takes the next step? The signs are certainly promising. Now, if he can just be a little more efficient …

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  1. JoeT - Mar 29, 2010 at 2:09 AM

    “If he could be a little bit more efficient”. He’s 22 years old and was amazing last year. If he picks up where he left off he will be one of the best pitchers in the game. If “he takes the next step”, he will be the best.

  2. Dan W - Mar 29, 2010 at 9:19 AM

    JoeT – He absolutly needs to be more efficient, and really that is the “next step” they are talking about it. When you look at his stats:
    K/9: 9.75
    HR/9: .37 (What?!)
    Opp Ba: .197
    You realize he is a great starting pitcher, but there is one last stat to count…
    BB/9: 4.79
    He needs to more efficient, the BB/9 is indicative of “poor” control. It not only adds more walks, but is indicative of the fact that he goes to deeper counts with batters. Deeper counts results in more pitches and decreases the amount of innings he throws.
    Especially being only 22, the Dodgers monitor his workload very carefully and what is holding him back is his control which unless it improves, he will continue to be pulled earlier in the games he needs to be. Its one of the reasons he only had 8 wins last year.

  3. JoeT - Mar 29, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    From your post it seems to me that you didnt watch him pitch but just went by his stats. My point is that he is great for a 22 year old, developing rapidly, and only had a few bad games last year. The writer of this article makes it seem as if Clayton is not living up to his potential. Get Real. For his age and experience he is well ahead of schedule. A young pitcher doesn’t need to be overworked early in his career. At his rate of growth he will improve rapidly. The Dodger’s bullpen is so good that few starting pitchers go much past six innings. That might mean fewer wins for the starting pitchers but more for the team.

  4. Bob Harkins - Mar 29, 2010 at 8:53 PM

    JoeT, I think you’re taking this all a little too negatively. Yes, I believe Kershaw has yet to live up to his potential, but that’s not a bad thing because his potential is so high. He can be one of the great ones, but I don’t think anyone would say he is there already. Randy Johnson didn’t become great until he harnessed his control and became more efficient. Kershaw can do the same. Indications this spring are that he is on his way, which has got to be scary for the rest of the NL.

  5. JoeT - Mar 30, 2010 at 2:26 AM

    There are very few players in any sport that have reached their peak at the age of 22. Perhaps you misread what I was trying to say and perhaps I misread what you were trying to say. Clayton is very advanced for his age and is progressing rapidly. Things such as giving up to many walks and going to deep in the pitch count are natural for a young, inexperienced pitcher. I do agree with your second article. If he doesn’t get injured he could be very good.

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